Bracket Busters: Teams you want to see in February, but Hate to see in March

21 Jan

February 3, 2010

Since 2003 ESPN has put together a bracket buster weekend in mid February to showcase mid-major teams that could have an impact in the NCAA Tournament. The first installment saw 18 teams competing and was so successful that by 2006 the field had over 100 teams taking part in the event. Even with the expansion of Bracket Busters, the concept has remained the same: show people in February, teams that other coaches will hate to see in March. With the matchups announced for this year, it’s time to take a look at some of the marquee confrontations.
Old Dominion of the Colonial Athletic Association goes on the road to face Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley. Northern Iowa is a team who has been ranked in the top 25 the last few weeks and has wins over Boston College and at Iowa State on their non-conference resume. The Panthers look pretty safe for an at-large bid if they happen to slip up in the always crazy MVC Tournament, a bracket buster win would be another feather in their cap. Old Dominion on the other hand is fighting with George Mason and Northeastern atop the CAA, and although they have a marquee road win at Georgetown, they have yet to beat their conference adversaries. A road Buster victory would help their at-large chances for sure.
Another matchup pitts a sure-fire tournament team in Butler playing host to the team with the nation’s longest winning streak (13) in Siena. Butler has been a top 25 team all season long and has little to fret when it comes to its place in the NCAA tournament. The tournament-tested Saints however lack that eye-popping win to set them apart in an at-large pool should they need it come March. A win at Hinkle Filedhouse over a ranked and equally tested Butler would certainly help their case.
The next matchup I want to look at is a little off the beaten path, a game between two teams that will only make the tournament by winning their conference tournaments, but intriguing nonetheless. A game that matches up a team who has wins at Arkansas and Maryland over the last two seasons in the Mid-Eastern Athletic’s Morgan State Bears and a team that is 11-0 in conference and 20-3 overall, losses at California (5 pts), at Louisiana Tech (6 pts) and at Wake Forest (11 pts) in the Ohio Valley’s Murray State Racers. The guard-laden Racers have five (nearly 6) players averaging double figures and has the potential to surprise a team or two come March. This should be a good matchup between a perennial scary mid major and one that is flying a little under the national radar in my opinion.
The final game I want to look at puts the Southern Conference’s College of Charleston coached by Bobby Cremins against the CAA’s George Mason headed by Jim Larranaga. The Patriots are once again atop the CAA trying to fend off Old Dominion and Northeastern for the right to work their magic in March again. The Cougars find themselves in a very similar situation trying to stay ahead of Wofford and Western Carolina to represent the Southern Conference in the NCAA tournament, the only difference being Charleston does have that overtime win over North Carolina to hang its hat on. This should be a good game between two evenly matched teams and two of the nation’s most revered coaches. Bracket Busters is a fun weekend for fans as it gives them a little insight into who to pick for those key first round upsets and who has the chance to advance to the tournament’s second weekend. But for a lot of coaches across the country it gives them an idea of which teams they don’t want to see pop up in their pods come Selection Sunday.

College Hoops Haven

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