Bracket Buster Projections and Analysis

Bracket Buster Projections and Analysis
Jan 26, 2007, 12:21 am
-For the first time since the inception of the Bracket Buster, it appears that more of the better teams are playing on the road rather than at home. Winning on the road will impress the committee more, but in a lot of cases teams want to play at home because it’s rare that they ever get a home game on national television. As far as making the tournament goes, it’s better to win on the road, and less damaging to lose on the road.

-NOTABLE TEAMS HOSTING GAMES: Butler, Creighton, Fresno State, Hofstra, Marist, Missouri State, Nevada, New Mexico State, VCU, and Wichita State.

-NOTABLE TEAMS PLAYING ON THE ROAD: Akron, Appalachian State, Bradley, Cal State Fullerton, Drexel, Northern Iowa, Ohio, Old Dominion, Southern Illinois, Utah State and Winthrop.

Some of the teams I’ve listed aren’t in a likely position to get an at-large even if they win their Bracket Buster game, but are notable because they are the better teams in their conferences and are the likely candidates to win their conference tournaments, and due to their high win totals will have a positive impact on their opponent’s RPI.

When it comes to the Missouri Valley participating in this, it seems like every conference game they play is a virtual Bracket Buster game. In fact, winning in conference play does more for them than winning in the Bracket Buster because the caliber of competition is as good or better, and it counts in the conference standings, which play a large part in determining who gets in and who doesn’t. They still provide some quality competition for the other participants, though, so it’s good that they are a part of it.

As you can see, there are some great potential match-ups. To be honest, I don’t know how the pairings work exactly. Since the event is televised on ESPN and has eBay as a corporate sponsor, I wouldn’t be surprised if their personal preferences had something to do with it. The idea is to match the best teams playing on the road with the best host teams. If I were in charge, these are some match-ups I’d like to see:

-SOUTHERN ILLINOIS AT BUTLER. These appear to be the two best teams in the event, and both are solid NCAA Tournament teams. Southern Illinois is in first place in the Missouri Valley with five of their remaining eight conference games at home. Butler is competing for a spot in the pod system. Both teams appear to be safe, but it is another chance for a quality win. Southern Illinois’ conference is tougher than Butler’s so they will have more chances at decent wins, but this is the last chance Butler has to add another good win to their resume.

-NORTHERN IOWA AT NEVADA. Like the first match-up I listed, both of these teams appear to be solid NCAA Tournament teams and will end up there regardless of the outcome of this game unless there is some sort of unexpected collapse. Nevada doesn’t have many good wins, so this is a rare chance for them to pick one up. Northern Iowa has some good wins in conference, but a road win against a nationally ranked team wouldn’t hurt them either. Both teams appear to be in the #7-#10 seed range right now. Nevada could end up better than that if they win this game, and continue to win out this season, but that is much easier said than done.

-DREXEL AT CREIGHTON. Drexel has some good road wins already, but they do have two conference losses and picking up another quality road win would do wonders for them. Creighton has some good wins in conference, but have been inconsistent and underachieved out of conference somewhat, so a win here would help them out as well. I get the feeling that both of these teams are closer to the bubble than they’d like to be. Creighton gets more chances at quality opponents due to the conference they’re in, but they’re still in a position to where their margin of error isn’t all that big. Drexel probably needs it simply because they don’t face any solid tournament caliber teams in conference play.

-WINTHROP AT MISSOURI STATE. This would be a great game if the two were to be paired up. Winthrop is a team that is much better than their RPI and overall resume. They had a second half lead against North Carolina and took Wisconsin to overtime. Out of their four losses, three came on the road against top ten teams. Missouri State also took Wisconsin to overtime, but won. They have been inconsistent in conference play, but I believe that’s more indicative of how much parity there is in the MVC than anything else. Even if Winthrop wins this game, and wins out until the conference championship game, I don’t think it will be enough to get an at-large bid, but it is possible. It would be a quality road win, and they’d have no bad losses at all on their resume other than the loss that came in the conference tournament.

-BRADLEY AT NEW MEXICO STATE. New Mexico State would probably like a better opponent than this considering how weak their schedule is and how few quality wins they have, but Bradley does appear to be pretty close to the bubble and a win for either team in this game would be something the committee strongly considered if both teams end up on the bubble.

-UTAH STATE AT VCU. VCU would probably like a better opponent than this, but the best one remaining on the list is Appalachian State, and those two teams have already faced each other. Utah State is a respectable 14-5 with an RPI in the 60s, but right now they don’t look like the win that would impress the committee all that much, especially if they end up playing at home. Still, it’s an important game for VCU for the same reason all of their remaining games are important. They’re 17-3 and in first place in their conference. If they can win this game, and finish first in their conference they should be very safe for an at-large bid. Utah State’s record should give VCU’s RPI a nice nudge, which is something they really need. Their current RPI is just 59 despite their 17-3 record.

-The rest of the teams you can pretty much mix and match, and get some pretty good games. They aren’t likely to be at-large caliber teams, but in a lot of cases they are the best candidate from their conferences to win the conference tournament. Appalachian State and Cal State Fullerton have some pretty talented players. Appy State loves to run the floor, and if they are matched with a team like Hofstra, you’ll get to see some pretty good guard play in that game.

Akron is one of the better teams most people haven’t seen, and I personally would like to see them get a quality opponent who is a solid tournament team, but based on what teams have been matched up in the past I don’t think they’ll get that opportunity. They are one of the better teams in the Mid American Conference, and could probably hang in with either Butler or Nevada if given the chance. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to pull off a win against a team like Creighton, or some other teams that are close to the bubble. Based on their current RPI and profile, I just don’t think they’ll get a very strong opponent, which is unfortunate because they are a good team.

Marist isn’t in first place in the Metro Atlantic right now, but I still believe they are the best team. They had some pretty decent wins out of conference in the Old Spice Classic and hung in there with Arkansas. They are 15-5 on the year and are a good candidate to win the automatic bid out of the MAAC. You look at teams like Ohio and Old Dominion, and those are good games between #13-#14 caliber seeded teams if they were to be paired against each other. It’s also worth noting that if these teams do make the tournament, the Bracket Buster game could impact the type of seed they get. Being a #13 seed is much better than being a #15 or a #16. It could make a big difference when it comes to their chances of pulling an upset.

-There are 102 teams playing in this, but the ones I haven’t listed aren’t going to matter much when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. As you know, these match-ups are the first game in a home and home series. All the visiting teams will host the home teams at some point next season, but it won’t be part of next year’s Bracket Buster.

There are a lot of teams that aren’t in this that I think would benefit if they’d participated. The Atlantic Ten could really use the opportunity to rack up some decent OOC wins late in the year. I believe the Mountain West would benefit if they participated as well. Being a Xavier fan, I know in the case of the Atlantic Ten they shy away from this event because they consider it to be too “Mid-Major.” I really don’t see the sense in that, though. It’s much better to be considered a Mid-Major who’s in the NCAA Tournament than a Major who is in the NIT. I see nothing wrong with playing a quality team outside your conference late in the year on national television. The teams that are on the bubble who participate in this event, and win their games will have an advantage over the bubble teams coming out of the Atlantic Ten or Mountain West.


-Having talked these teams up, Winthrop barely won on the road against High Point. They scraped by with just a one point win. Butler also needed overtime to knock off Loyola, IL.

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