Tuesday, February 03, 2009

BracketBusters match-ups released

It's all out in front of you, Edwin Ubiles.

Kyle's got the full list. Immediate reaction:

Siena, and TV viewers, are your big winners. Gee, think anyone'll be interested in that Butler at Davidson match-up? Combine the Stephen Curry megawattage with Butler's long-term pedigree of quality and that's got to be the biggest match-up in BracketBusters history right there. Crank up the Nielsen boxes!

So it's nice for that reason, but pairing those two teams also means that Siena gets the next-best thing at home: Northen Iowa, current runaway leaders of the Bizarro Valley and a certified scalp for the Saints' at-large resume. If the Saints can knock off the Panthers and continue to ride roughshod over the MAAC, they should have the goods to make the MAAC a potential two-bid league for the first time since Manhattan went at-large in 1995. It's all there for the taking, Saints.

How much credit can Utah St. get? On paper, the Aggies likewise got a big boost to their at-large hopes by being handed a potential road victory over a St. Mary's team that was ranked in the polls' top-20 as recently as last week. In the real world, however, St. Mary's has spent their last three halves looked utterly adrift without Patty Mills, who's not going to be back in time of this game. So it becomes almost a lose-lose proposition for Stew Morrill's bunch: win, and it doesn't really count because the Gaels didn't have Mills. Lose to the same group of players who got skunked up in Portland last weekend, and it becomes a huge black eye. If USU wins and Mills returns in time for a WCC tourney run and a subsequent boost to Utah St.'s computer numbers-slash-record vs. Tournament teams, then the Aggies will be able look back on this year's BrackBusters experience with fondness. Otherwise, they're going to look at what Siena got or what they could have faced had Mills stayed healthy, and curse the fates.

Also boned: the CAA. Their chances were never, ever going to be good, but there was one scenario in which Northeastern wedged their way into at least the at-large discussion: a major-conference bubble collapse, a one-loss CAA record, Providence continuing to light up the Big East ... and a big BracketBusters win. Instead, of the three teams the Colonial front-runners will end up visiting--Nevada, Creighton, and Wright St.--NU got handed the least sexy of the three. Wright St.'s a solid team that's played really well of late and (along with UW-Green Bay) will be a serious threat to steal the Horizon auto-bid. But they're not going to do a thing for Northeastern's at-large resume. Sorry, Huskies. (I will say this: both George Mason at Creighton and VCU at Nevada are phenomenal games I can't wait to watch. They just won't have any bearing on the longshot hopes for a bid.) UPDATE: Not surprisingly, the indispensable Michael Litos has some (righteously angry) thoughts on the Colonial's BracketBusters hosing at Regarding the Underdog.

Two other TV games I'm so watching: Boise at Portland St.--the Vikings were my preseason No. 1 "15-over-2/14-over-3 shocker" candidate, but after a two-loss road trip to Montana it looks now like they won't even be the favorites for the Big Sky's auto-bid; it would be very reassuring to see them flash some of the magic that took down Gonzaga earlier this year. Illinois St. at Niagara--just to see exactly what the hell is up with the Redbirds, who were the clearcut No. 2 team behind the Drake miracle team in last year's Valley, returned everybody, went undefeated in their Charmin-soft nonconference slate ... and have since been just another random UNI chaser, indistinguishable from Evansville or Bradley or equally-disappointing Creighton. What's going on?

Non-TV games I would watch if I could: North Dakota St. at UW-Milwaukee--how you can send Ben Woodside and Co. to take on one of the rising teams in the risingest conference in mid-majordom and not put them on television is past me. Missouri St. at Tennesee-Martin--Dude, Lester Hudson. Come on. Cleveland St. at Wichita St.--Gregg Marshall's Shockers are finally showing signs of life and the Syracuse-slaying Vikings are dangerous, if nothing else. Should be a good one.

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