Daily Dribble: 1/30
I was definitely surprised at the amount of hits to the site yesterday in regards to the BracketBusters announcement. Sure, some of these are nice games, but I don't necessarily get the hubbub over one game in mid-February as opposed to any other game in February. I guess its the ESPN hype-machine at work?
One of the odd things about this year's event is that almost all the good teams were slated for home games. Assuming home teams have the advantage anyways, this ends up making a lot of these games probable one-sided affairs.
Lets knock off games that mean nothing first: Albany at Boise State, Fullerton at Wright State, ODU at Toledo, Autin Peay at Akron, Kent State at George Mason. I'll also include Ohio at New Mexico State, since the Aggies are about a 100% lock to win so its useless. These 6 games might as well not exist. You'll notice the MAC is involved in 4 of those games. Unfortunately for ESPN's selection process, the MAC is a rather boring 1-bid league this year.
Next you have Northern Iowa at Nevada and Holy Cross at Hofstra. These games would be interesting.. had they been on neutral courts or in the reverse venues. But I don't see the homes teams losing these games.. betting lines shouldn't be that close. The same can probably be said for Appalachian State at Wichita State. The Mountaineers have had a great run and are in the 50-70 range in most rankings.. but they simply won't win this game at Wichita. Won't happen.. so can't say its that interesting.
Then you have Utah State at Oral Roberts. This game would be a lot better if Utah State was just a tad bit better. But the fact is the Aggies have no chance of making the tournament. So although this is a game where the road team might win, and where the competition should be high.. it doesn't really have any impact on the postseason.
This leaves four potentially worthwhile games. Bradley at VCU, Drexel at Creighton, Winthrop at Missouri State, and SIU at Butler.
First off, SIU at Butler is a GREAT game. Both of these teams are basically locks to make the dance.. but it can have major seeding implications. Further, the MVC is still without a ranked team.. and an SIU could push them into the Top 25.
Bradley/VCU and Winthrop/Mo State are intriguing for their tournament implications. Bradley probably won't make it despite a solid RPI and a solid Sagarin rating.. but VCU is still in the running. Basically I count this game as interesting because although VCU will be a healthy home favorite, a loss by the Rams could kill their bubble hopes. The same is true for Mo State. Winthrop is good, better than most people think, and they will give the Bears a run for their money in Springfield. A few weeks ago, due to a nice record and that win over Wisconsin, it seemed like MSU was a tournament lock. But the Bears (6-5 now) are slowly drifting towards .500 or worse in conference play. I like the MVC and you like the MVC.. but the committee will not even consider a .500 MVC for the tourney. Even slightly above .500 wont be enough unless they handle Winthrop at home.
All in all, there's a few worthwhile games in this mix. But there's equally important games in the mid-majors any given weeknight. For example: Wichita State at Northern Iowa tonight. Luckily, this one's on ESPN2 tonight and it should be a good one. Or how bout VCU at Hofstra on Wednesday? There's a big game for ya.. puts most of these BracketBusters events to shame.
Speaking of Hofstra, they did get shocked by Delaware last night. This is 4-18 Delaware we're talking about. 1-9 in the CAA Delaware.. And they beat a team that had won 16 of 18 games. The Pride are now 2 games back from VCU after the loss.. but they should be the favorite heading into Wednesday night.
That pretty much ended up being the only upset of the night. The only other big game was #7 Pitt getting an impressive road win at Villanova. The Wildcats are a definite bubble team right now, but 3-5 in conference play isn't helping the cause. Luckily for Nova, their league schedule eases up in the next few weeks. They have a home game against Louisville next (can this be labeled must win?), then a road game at Seton Hall, and back home to host Cincinnati. All three are winnable.. and they basically need all three. The key will basically be Scottie Reynolds. The freshman PG had been hot the past few weeks, but he just simply didn't have it last night. If the Cats don't get 15-20 out of Reynolds, its hard for Sumpter and Nardi to carry the scoring lone by themselves.
Some noteworthy games tonight. #19 Notre Dame at Syracuse. The Orange need this win in the worst way. Wichita State at UNI, which I mentioned above. Maryland at FSU is huge too. A loss by the Terps could drop this once top-25 team to a disastrous 2-5 ACC record. You won't find a more competitive game than Michigan State at Illinois. Finally, new Top 25 member UNLV (in the Coaches Poll anyways) heads to Colorado State. State is 14-5 and has been solid at home, so a Rebels loss wouldn't be that surprising.
I wish the Super Bowl would just be over with so a) I can stop listening to the hype.. and b) all the focus can be on college hoops.