BRACKET BUSTER GAMES: Listed in alphabetical order via the home team:
-SOUTHERN ILLINOIS AT BUTLER (***Pod System Implications***). This isnt just a Bracket Buster game, this is a Pod Buster game. Both these teams can earn a #4 seed or better, and be placed in a good geographic location. Butler would love to get into either Lexington or Columbus, and, although it will be difficult, Southern Illinois would love to be in Chicago and this game would really help their case. It also features two great guards in A.J. Graves
(Butler) and Jamaal Tatum
(Southern Illinois). Neither team is in any danger of missing the NCAAs, so from that aspect it isnt like some of the other Buster games, but neither team will have another chance at a win this good for the rest of the year, so its very important from that aspect.
-DREXEL AT CREIGHTON. At the time these games were announced Drexel looked to be a team who would be in the at-large mix, and it is still possible theyll get a big look, but they must win this game and win out. Theyre coming off a damaging loss to William & Mary, which dropped them down into fourth place. Its a big game for Creighton as well, but its not as important to them as most conference games because many of them are as good or better than Drexel. Creighton also appears to be a solid NCAA team, whereas even if Drexel wins out they still need to keep their fingers crossed.
-HOLY CROSS AT HOFSTRA. Holy Cross isnt in a position to get an at-large, but they are one of the favorites to win the Patriot League Tournament and get in via the automatic bid. The committee looks closely at all of those teams when it comes to seeding, and a road win against Hofstra could be a big difference in getting them a #13, which is much more manageable than a #14 or #15. Hofstra most likely needs to win their conference tournament to get in as well, but like Holy Cross this game will impact their seeding if they do make it.
-NORTHERN IOWA AT NEVADA. Northern Iowa has gone into such a slump that they are pretty much completely out of the at-large picture even if they win out. Nevada is a solid NCAA Tournament team, but unfortuntately this win wont do much to help their cause. Its a shame for Nevada that Northern Iowa has played so poorly since the match-ups were announced.
-OHIO AT NEW MEXICO STATE. New Mexico States schedule was weak, and losing two of their last three road games really killed their at-large chances, but they can still make the NCAAs via the automatic bid, and since they have the WAC Tournament on their home floor they are still in the mix. Like a lot of teams in the Buster, winning this game could help get them a #12 or #13 after winning their conference tournament rather than a poorer seed. Ohio needs to win their conference tournament as well, but the MAC is so competitive that they probably have as good a chance as anyone.
-UTAH STATE AT ORAL ROBERTS. Both teams need to win their conference tournaments to get in, but Oral Roberts is the hands down favorite to win the MidCon. They look like the best team and the tournament is in their home city. Still, they already have a big win against Kansas, and another win in this game could get them as high as the #13 line, which makes a first round upset much more likely.
-OLD DOMINION AT TOLEDO. Old Dominion is right on the bubble in terms of an at-large, but this win wont do a whole lot to help their case. Still, its game they need to win because, like any other bubble team, they pretty much need to win them all, especially considering the lack of high quality opponents. Had the match-ups been put together last week, I guarantee you Old Dominion would be on their way out to Nevada. That would have been a much better game for both teams. It would have been a hugely important game as far as the committee was concerned.
-BRADLEY AT VCU. VCU is right on the bubble, and probably needs to win out and win a few in the conference tournament in order to get in, but it can still be done. Bradley could still get an at-large, but right now their case is a little weaker than VCUs, but if they win this game and win out, theyll have won five straight to end the season and have some chances to pick up more quality wins in the conference tournament. Both these teams can still do it, but winning this game is pretty much a must for both teams if they want to be in the mix for an at-large. Both teams play in very competitive conferences, so it will be very difficult for either one to win their tournaments, which is another reason this one is so big.
-APPALACHIAN STATE AT WICHITA STATE. Appalachian State, like Davidson, is one of the best teams in the Southern Conference and is one of the favorites to win the tournament. They also have some pretty good wins this season against the likes of Virginia, Vanderbilt and VCU, so winning out should at least get them in the discussion if they fail to win the conference tournament. Wichita State, despite having played better lately, does not appear to be in the mix. Theyre coming off a loss to Drake that they really couldnt afford, but they could still be a key player in the conference tournament.
-CAL STATE FULLERTON AT WRIGHT STATE. Neither can get in without the automatic bid, but both teams are among the favorites to win it. Despite being in the same conference with Butler, Wright State did beat them in their last game and are tied atop the conference standings. If the tiebreakers line up, Wright State could get the tournament on their floor, which would give them a huge advantage. If they win out, they could be looking at a very good seed such as a #12 or possibly a #11, because theyd be on a huge win streak and have two quality wins against Butler. CS Fullerton is one of the three best teams in the Big West, and if they can finish in the top two they bye into the semifinals. A win like this will help their seed if they earn the automatic bid.
-LOUISVILLE AT MARQUETTE (Big East). Louisville is coming off a huge road win at Pittsburgh, which did wonders to boost the value of their resume. If they could pull off another road win in this one, they could have gone from being outside of the mix, to looking like a solid NCAA Tournament team in just under a weeks time. Its a big game for Marquette as well who is trying to make the pod system and be geographically placed in Chicago for the first/second round. They lost their last game rather handily to Georgetown and will be looking to rebound. This series has given us some very exciting battles, and that dates back to when both teams were in C-USA. We could see another great one today.
-FLORIDA AT VANDERBILT (SEC). This should be a fun one. Vanderbilt stuck with Florida when the two met earlier this year, but Florida ended up pulling it out. Nevertheless, the fans should be up for this one in a big way, and a win would really help improve and pretty much solidify Vanderbilts resume. Florida, on the other hand, is as strong a candidate for a #1 seed as anyone, and theyve proven they can play against good teams on the road. Last week they knocked off Kentucky at Kentucky, but this will once again be a very difficult test. A loss doesnt knock the Gators out of #1 seed contention, but a win gets them yet another big step closer to it.
-GEORGETOWN AT VILLANOVA (Big East). Villanova won the first meeting between these two, in what was one of their better wins of the season so far. Georgetown has been playing their best basketball of the season recently having won eight straight games. As well as theyve been playing, this would be their biggest win of the season so far seeing as how its on the road against a very good RPI team. Theyre also in a tie for first place in the Big East with Pittsburgh, so its a big game as far as keeping pace with them. Just one game seperates the third place team from the eigth place team, so this is a pivotal game for Villanova as far as that aspect goes as well. It would also be a quality win for them, which would improve their resume.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTED GAMES: Listed in alphabetical order via the home team:
-COLORADO STATE AT AIR FORCE (Mountain West). Air Force is in a very heated conference race, and where they end up could have an impact on their seeding in the NCAAs. In addition to that, they dont want a loss like this on their profile since theyre in contention for a spot in the pod system. Colorado State has lost five of their last six, but these are in-state rivals and that could even the playing field somewhat.
-KENTUCKY AT ALABAMA (SEC). Alabama came very close to pulling off a big upset at Florida that would have gone a long way in solidifying themselves as an at-large team. The loss didnt hurt them, but theyre still much closer to the bubble than theyd like to be. A win against a pretty good Kentucky team would go a long way toward helping them as well. Kentucky is still contending for a spot in the pod system, but theyve lost two straight games, and even though theyre the road team, a solid pod team should be able to beat a bubble team. Its a big game for both teams. Kentucky is trying to get a #4 seed or better, which would affect their geographic placement, and Alabama is still trying to secure a spot in the field.
-UCLA AT ARIZONA (Pac Ten). Arizona is coming off a somewhat heartbreaking loss to a very good USC team, which ended a three game win streak. They have another big game today against a UCLA team that is competiting for a #1 seed. UCLA got a scare from a very sub par Arizona State team the other night, but part of that may have been that they were overlooking them. Chances are they arent going to overlook the Wildcats, so this one should be a battle.
-MISSISSIPPI AT ARKANSAS (SEC). Ole Miss has played their way into first place in the division, and is actually playing their way toward an NCAA berth if they can keep it up. This would be another big road win if they can pull it off. Arkansas, on the other hand, is playing their way out of the mix. Theyre still on the bubble, but have quite a bit of work to do, including winning games such as this. Theyre just 3-7 in their last ten games and need to string together some wins between now and the end.
-TEXAS AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve). Baylor has lost seven of their last eight, and doesnt seem to be much of a match for Texas, who is coming off a big win against Oklahoma State. They dont want to follow that up with a loss to Baylor. Texas appears to be a solid tournament team, but they need to string together some wins down the stretch to secure themselves a better seed.
-NORTH CAROLINA AT BOSTON COLLEGE (ACC). Both of these teams are coming off losses. BC had a dissapointing loss to Duke in a game where they fell pretty far behind, but were able to fight their way back into it, and UNC is coming off a big upset loss at home. Both team still look like NCAA Tourney teams, but North Carolinas grip on a #1 seed is slipping. A road win at BC would help resussitating it, though. Both teams are part of a four way tie for first place in the ACC right now, and the winner of the league will be in place to get an excellent seed, so there is quite a bit at stake for BC in this one as well.
-AUBURN AT GEORGIA (SEC). Georgia needs a strong finish, especially with the injury to Mike Mercer
, in order to sustain themselves as a strong NCAA Tournament candidate. They definitely need to take care of business in this one at home against Auburn.
-MEMPHIS AT GONZAGA. This is a very big game for both teams. Gonzaga really needs a big win in the abscense of Josh Heytvelt
to verify some of the big wins that they had with him. Memphis needs a big win in order to offset the fact that they play in a weak conference, and help them get a good seed in the pod system, so there is quite a bit at stake for both teams. Gonzaga isnt even in first place in their conference standings anymore, and they really need something to fall back on if that holds up and they fail to win the conference tournament. Memphis needs to win out to make the pod system, and Gonzaga really needs to step up to secure them a place in the NCAAs.
-NEBRASKA AT KANSAS (Big Twelve). Kansas is a very tough team who appears to be a solid #2 seed right now. Theyre in a tie for first place in the conference with Texas A&M, so every game is pivotal if they want to finish atop the standings. Doing so would help their seed, although it is noteworthy that TAMU won against at Kansas during the regular season. They need to take care of business today against Nebraska.
-IOWA STATE AT KANSAS STATE (Big Twelve). Kansas State still appears to be pretty solid in terms of earning a bid, but they have lost two of their last three and really need to take care of business against an Iowa State team that isnt in the tournament mix right now.
-INDIANA AT MICHIGAN (Big Ten). One of the glaring problems with Indianas resume is that they have struggled on the road. Theyre still a solid NCAA team, but if they cant get some road wins between now and the end it will hurt their seed. Theyre coming off a road loss against rival Purdue, and this would be a great way for them to rebound. Michigan is still on the outside looking in, and has struggled on the road themselves. They really need to finish strong if they want to be considered, so this is a big game for them when it comes to playing their way into the mix. As it stand now theyve lost five of their last six games.
-IOWA AT MICHIGAN STATE (Big Ten). Michigan State is coming off a win over rival Michigan, which ended a four game losing streak, but they still have some work to do in order to secure a bid. Iowa has played pretty well at times this year, but not on the road. Michigan State needs to take care of business in this game and finish strong down the stretch in order to be in the mix for an at-large.
-TEXAS A&M AT OKLAHOMA (Big Twelve). Oklahoma had a four game winning streak snapped in a somewhat surprising loss at Iowa State. They are still in a position to finish strong and play their way into the mix, but they really need some big wins. A win today would really help their cause of trying to get into the at-large picture. As for Texas A&M, theyre coming off a very exciting loss to Texas Tech, but are still tied for first place in the league and appear to be a solid #2 seed at the time being. A win today would be another nice road win against a team whos been playing well, and that would be yet another nice win on their resume.
-MISSOURI AT OKLAHOMA STATE (Big Twelve). Since conference play began, Oklahoma State has been a much different team at home than on the road. Theyve looked like one of the toughest teams in the country to beat at home, but cant even seem to take care against sub-par teams on the road. Missouri hasnt played all that well lately, and shouldnt be much of a match for Okie State. Oklahoma States seed will likely suffer due to their poor road play, but they still appear to be a solid team and a win today sustains that.
-CORNELL AT PENN (Ivy League). A win for Cornell pulls them even with Penn for first place in the Ivy League Standings. On the flip side, a win for Penn gives them a two game lead, and with the end of the season drawing near, thats a pretty big lead. Thats important because there is no conference tournament, and the regular season champion gets the automatic bid.
-WASHINGTON AT PITTSBURGH. Washington has been playing much better lately, but theyve been at home for a good deal of that stretch and still have quite a bit of work to do in order to be considered for an at-large. Theyre also coming off of a loss against rival Washington State. Pitt is coming off a rather surprising home loss to an up and coming Louisville team, but is still a very solid pod system team and is looking at a #2/#3 seed and a good placement in Buffalo. A win today would be another decent win on their profile. A win for Washington would do wonders as far as getting a statement win goes, and taking a big step toward being in a position to get an at-large.
-SAN DIEGO AT SANTA CLARA (West Coast). Santa Clara has won 11 out of 12, and with an RPI of 77, a 7-3 road record, and a quality win at Stanford they could be getting a hell of a look for an at-large bid if they win out, but fail to win the conference tournament. They really need to take care of business today, though, because one loss could be too many, and even if they win out that may not be enough. Theyre red hot and they beat San Diego rather decisively the last time the two teams met. Every game is big between now and the end because if they do win the automatic bid, they could be looking at a very good seed.
-TENNESSEE AT SOUTH CAROLINA (SEC). Tennessee has played really well the last couple of weeks and won four of their last five. Theyre a solid NCAA Tournament team right now and will remain that way barring any sort of collapse. South Carolina is just 2-10 in their last twelve and is a team Tennessee should be expected to beat even if theyre the road team.
-DE PAUL AT SOUTH FLORIDA (Big East). All four of De Pauls final regular season games are winnable, and if they can win them all they will be in the mix for at-large consideration. This is a big game for South Florida as well because theyre simply trying to make the Big East Conference Tournament.
-OREGON AT STANFORD (Pac Ten). Both of these teams are solid tournament teams, but both have been slipping somewhat and could use a quality win in conference to help sustain and improve their resumes. Stanford is just one game out of third place, and Oregon is just one game behind Stanford, so this game will have a big impact on the conference standings, which is one of the ways the committee evaluates the teams. It would also be a quality win for either team. Oregon probably needs it worse than Stanford. Stanford has lost three of their last five, but Oregon has really been sliding having lost five of their last seven, and could really use this one.
-CONNECTICUT AT SYRACUSE (Big East). Syracuse lost the first meeting between these two, and as a team that is squarely on the bubble they really need wins right now. Connecticut needs some wins just to secure themselves a spot in the Big East Tournament, much less the NCAA Tournament. If Syracuse wants to be strongly considered for an at-large, they really need to feel a huge sense of urgency coming into this one, and must win.
-COLORADO AT TEXAS TECH (Big Twelve). Texas Tech just ended a five game losing streak in a big way by winning on the road against Texas A&M. They need to keep it up because five consecutive losses is quite a few to offset. Colorado is one of the worst teams in the league, and Texas Tech cannot afford a slipup at home.
-UNLV AT UTAH (Mountain West). UNLV is coming off a rather decisive loss to San Diego State and needs to rebound. They dont want a bad loss to a sub par Utah team on their resume. Theyd still be a strong NCAA Tournament team, but it would hurt their seeding somewhat. Utah has won their last three games at home, so it may not be a complete cakewalk for UNLV.
-FLORIDA STATE AT VIRGINIA (ACC). Florida State has lost three in a row, and hasnt played all that well on the road, so a win for them would be huge as far as stopping their slide. Virginia has been playing great and has won eight of their last nine with the only loss being at Virginia Tech. They are one of the four teams in a tie for first place, so this is a big game for them when it comes to staying in the hunt. It would also add another decent win to their resume. As for Florida State, theyre just 5-7 in league play and are looking at dropping out of the mix if they cant pull it together and win some games between now and the end.
-SETON HALL AT WEST VIRGINIA (Big East). West Virginia is coming off a blowout loss at Georgetown, but still appears to be in good shape for a bid so long as they dont completely crumble between now and the end. This is the kind of loss that could be really damaging, so they need to take care of business.
-PENN STATE AT WISCONSIN (Big Ten). Wisconsin is in a strong position to get a #1 seed, and shouldnt expect much of a challenge from a struggling Penn State team on their own floor. They just need to take care of business. If they win out the regular season that will probably be enough to wrap up a #1 seed.
-SAN DIEGO STATE AT WYOMING (Mountain West). San Diego State continues to play well late, and is building a hell of a case. A win today keeps them in the mix for an at-large, and keeps them just one game out of second place in the conference standings. Wyoming is not an easy place to play, but they have lost seven of their last nine, and it is a game that SDSU should be expected to win.
-RICHMOND AT XAVIER (Atlantic Ten). Xavier is in a three way tie for first place in the Atlantic Ten and should be okay for an at-large if they can win out the regular season and avoid a poor RPI loss in conference play. Richmond is tied for last place, and is a game out of twelfth place, so they need some wins simply to get into the Atlantic Ten Tournament. A loss in this game would probably completely kill Xaviers at large chances.