When the match ups for Bracket Buster Weekend were first revealed on January 31st there was a lot of intrigue and potential in the match ups. Fast forward about 2 weeks and all of that luster has faded faster than a gold ring that turns your finger green.
Two weeks ago there were six teams who were undefeated in conference play, including the lone undefeated team in the country, Murray State and looking to boost their post-season resumes even more. In addition to Murray, Long Beach State, St. Mary’s, Nevada, Oral Roberts and Texas-Arlington all had unblemished records at the time.
Two weeks later, the only undefeated teams heading into the weekend are the Big West’s Long Beach State (12-0) and the Southland’s Texas-Arlington (11-0). Murray State fell at home to Tennessee State, Nevada loses at home to Idaho, St. Mary’s lost on the road at rival Gonzaga and Oral Roberts took a beating at 2nd place South Dakota State.
What does it all mean?
Well, it means that teams like Murray State, Nevada and Oral Roberts probably no longer have the luxury of not winning their conference tournaments in order to secure an NCAA bid. Now these teams join teams like Creighton and Iona who need wins in their games to re-solidify their teams in the eyes of the selection committee.
The Long Beach State at Creighton on Saturday is almost a must-win for the home standing Blue Jays after losing three straight games, including a 21-point loss to Wichita State who is now in the driver’s seat in the Missouri Valley.
Long Beach State, who hasn’t lost since Christmas and haven’t been afraid to play anyone this season, will be looking at this as a must win themselves. Knowing that the Big West has never been thought of as a multi-bid league, Dan Monson’s 49ers will want every eye opening performance they can get before the Big West Tournament.
Another game that has been filed into the “much needed” category is the Nevada/Iona match up. Now, neither team was in a comfortable at-large position, but the winner of this game would have been at least in the discussion should they not win their conference tournament. That may still be the case for Nevada who would be 27-5 with a current RPI of 57.
Iona on the other hand, may not even be the top seed in its own conference tournament as they are currently in a tie with Loyola (MD) with whom they’ve split the season series.
This match-up is more about positive momentum heading into your conference tournament than it is about seeding or at-large pools.
With all of these games losing some meaning, there is one game that may now have added importance and that is Murray State’s home game on Saturday with St. Mary’s.
Murray State finally falls from the ranks of the unbeaten and the talk immediately turns to, what happens if the Racers lose to St. Mary’s and then not win the Ohio Valley?
Could the Racers go from last of the undefeateds to missing out on the NCAA Tournament altogether? Such a scenario would leave Murray State at worst 27-3 with a current RPI of 55 as they await Selection Sunday.
Not only is St. Mary’s the best opponent the Racers have left, they are the best team Murray has faced since they beat then #11 Memphis on Dec. 11th. The OVC’s best may not have to win this game, but they certainly have to have a very good showing in the highest profile game in the Bracket Buster’s series.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on the games this weekend, on the contrary I think the individual tete-a-tetes within each game will be fascinating to watch. Unfortunately some of the games won’t have as many March ramifications as they could have.