-NORTH CAROLINA AT DUKE (ACC) (***Pod System Implications***). As Im sure you know, this is college basketballs most notable rivalry. Both teams are coming off losses. Duke has actually lost two straight, so a win here would really be big on paper in addition to being awarded bragging rights. Duke has four conference losses, and doesnt really have a win against another team who is competing for the pod system other than possibly Air Force, so this game is very important to them. North Carolina just lost to NC State, who is a sub 100 RPI team, so they could use a big road win to offset that and remain a solid contender for a #1 seed. Both teams really want this one, and both have a lot to gain from winning, so it should be exciting.
-USC AT UCLA (Pac Ten) (***Pod System Implications***). The last time these two met UCLA ended up winning by one point in a very exciting game. The fact that UCLA is at home in this one will have some impact, but maybe not all that much. These two teams know each other so well, and its a big enough rivalry to where location probably doesnt play that much of a factor. Both teams are hot. UCLA is 19-2 on the year and followed up their upset loss to Stanford with two decisive and impressive wins against Oregon and Oregon State. USC just won a big game against Oregon, and have also won five out of six. USC is just one game behind UCLA in the conference standings, so a win in this game puts them in a tie for first place. It would also make them very solid contenders for the pod system, and likely put them in it for my next projection.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTED GAMES
-MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ALABAMA (SEC). Im still of the belief that Alabama has some work left to do. They only have one quality win, and although their RPI is solid, nothing else about them really is other than their ranking in the coaches poll. Theyve been struggling lately. Some of that is due to the fact that theyre dealing with injuries, but even in their current state they should be expected to take care of Mississippi State at home.
-AUBURN AT ARKANSAS (SEC). Arkansas has lost five out of seven, and even though they played well against Kentucky, they didnt get the win and appear to be on the decline. Auburn has played some really good games at home, but Arkansas should be able to beat them on their own home court. The Razorbacks have been inconsistent all year though, and havent always played up to their ability. A loss today would be damaging for Arkansas because it would continue this slump that theyre in.
-FLORIDA STATE AT CLEMSON (ACC). Clemson really needs a win. Theyve lost five of their last six, and although most of those werent particularly damaging, not winning any of those games isnt helping. Florida State is hot right now, and seems to have finally figured out how to play on the road. They just won a big game at Duke, but have another tough assignment against a very desperate team, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to that. Clemson must win. It would be a quality win in conference play, and that would go a long way as far as getting out of their slump.
-EVANSVILLE AT CREIGHTON (Missouri Valley). Creighton is still in a tie for first place in the conference standings, and has really improved as a team since conference play began. They did struggle to beat a rather weak Drake team in their last game, but that was on the road. They tend to play much better at home, and should take care of a struggling Evansville team.
-FLORIDA AT GEORGIA (SEC). Florida is fantastic when they want to be, but sometimes I get the impression that theyre sleepwalking during their games. Theyve still been able to win just about all of them, but they need to come out focused for this one because theyre playing a good Georgia team on the road who hung with them for a good portion of the game the first time these two teams met. The fans will really be up for this one as well. A win for Georgia is a huge quality win on their resume, and it gets them in a much safer position inside the bubble than where theyre currently at. A win for Florida goes down as a nice road win, which looks good in terms of ending up as a #1 seed.
-OLD DOMINION AT GEORGIA STATE (Colonial Athletic). Old Dominion continues to hang tough in the conference race. They have a huge game coming up against rival VCU, who is two game ahead of them in the standings, but they dont want to get caught looking ahead. Georgia State is not a strong team, but Old Dominion fell to James Madison right before facing VCU last time, probably in large part because they were looking ahead.
-DREXEL AT HOFSTRA (Colonial Athletic). The last time these two met, Hofstra won in an overtime thriller. Drexel played pretty well out of conference and still appears to have a talented team, but has been somewhat of a disappointment as conference play has progressed. They still have a shot at an at-large, but they probably need to win out the regular season in order to get it. Hofstra has some disappointing losses as well, but theyre just one game behind VCU in the conference standings and will get consideration from the committee if they win the regular season title. This is a big home game for them as far as that goes.
-KANSAS STATE AT KANSAS (Big Twelve). This is a rivalry that suddenly has a little more juice in it. Kansas State is actually a competitor now and appears to be in pace for an NCAA Tournament bid. The two are also tied for second place in the conference standings. Kansas is coming off a disappointing loss to a very good Texas A&M team where they played an excellent game, but not quite good enough to beat TAMU. Theyre still a solid pod system team, but their chances for a #1 seed are looking less and less likely. This game means more to Kansas State. It would be a huge quality road win on their resume, and really have a big time positive impact on their seed. Not to mention, give them some bragging rights against a team who has dominated them for the past several years.
-SOUTH CAROLINA AT KENTUCKY (SEC). Kentucky just seems to keep winning. They blew out a pretty good Tennessee game their last time at home, and beat a good Arkansas game on the road their last time out. South Carolina doesnt look to be as good as either one of those teams, so one would expect Kentucky to win this game tonight. They dont want to get caught looking ahead to Florida this weekend, because a loss at any point will affect their resume.
-GEORGETOWN AT LOUISVILLE (Big East). Louisville is coming off a close loss on the road to Villanova, which is a game they would have won had they not shot the ball so poorly. Shooting has been a problem for Louisville all year, but if they could ever snap out of it theyd be a very tough team to beat. Georgetown is talented, and theyve won five games in a row in what were pretty much blowouts, but none of those teams were as good as Louisville, so it wont be easy for the Hoyas to go into their house and beat them. Louisville really needs a statement win. Their best win was a home game against Syracuse, who is barely on the bubble themselves. Georgetowns resume could use some improvement as well, so its a big game for both teams.
-RUTGERS AT MARQUETTE (Big East). Big mismatch in the Big East. Rutgers is hoping to simply make the Big East Tournament whereas Marquette is looking to make the pod system and be placed in Chicago. They need to win tonight in order to avoid a bad loss on their resume. This would be eight straight wins for Marquette.
-BOSTON COLLEGE AT MIAMI, FL. Many people, including myself, had sort of written off Boston College, but it appears now that theyre playing up to their potential and are a solid NCAA Tourney team with a chance to improve their resume even more between now and the end. Theyre actually in a three way tie for first place, and although many of their tougher games are ahead of them, theyre really playing well. They shouldnt have too much trouble winning this game even though it is on the road, but one never knows for sure. BC needs to win it in order to avoid a bad loss on their resume.
-ILLINOIS AT NORTHWESTERN (Big Ten). Illinois has really struggled on the road in conference play, but this is one they really need to win, especially since theyre a bubble team. It may not be easy. Northwesterns style of play can be hard to adjust to, and theyve really given some teams fits at home. Nevertheless, this is a winnable game for Illinois, and its one they can ill afford to lose.
-OKLAHOMA STATE AT OKLAHOMA (Big Twelve). BEDLAM!!!!!!!! Oklahoma State appears to have the better team by far, but the first game was close until late in the second half. Oklahoma has also played pretty well lately, winning four of their last six and beating a pretty good Texas Tech team rather decisively in their last game. One the flipside, Oklahoma States resume has slipped somewhat. Theyre coming off a damaging and somewhat embarrassing loss to Colorado. Theyre not in any danger of missing the tournament, but that loss will affect their seeding. Ive decided that when these two get together, it doesnt matter how much of a mismatch it may appear to be, chances are well see a close game.
-WISCONSIN AT PENN STATE (Big Ten). Penn State has lost seven straight games, and that streak doesnt appear to be ending tonight as they host a Wisconsin team who is a strong candidate for a #1 seed. A loss for Wisconsin would be damaging given how poor a team Penn State is, but it isnt all that likely.
-MICHIGAN STATE AT PURDUE (Big Ten). Both of these teams are on the bubble, and although both are close, neither are in my bracket. Michigan State has lost three straight (two of which were to Ohio State, though), and needs to snap that winning streak and get a nice win on the road. Purdue finally won a road game, although it was against a weak Penn State team. Their resume needs some more quality wins on it, as well as a good finish in the Big Ten, so they need to step up in this one as well.
-BRADLEY AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (Missouri Valley). These two are in-state conference foes. Bradleys NCAA hopes are still flickering, but they really need to finish strong in order to make that happen. A win today over a very hot Southern Illinois team would do wonders. SIU just cracked the rankings and are #20 in the coaches poll, and deservedly so. Theyve won five in a row, and seven of their last eight, and are in first place in the conference. Theyre at home tonight and should be able to win. Bradley needs it more than SIU, but SIU still has a lot to play for because they dont want to surrender their conference lead, and they want to get as good a seed as possible in the NCAA Tournament.
-TCU AT UNLV (Mountain West). Air Forces blowout loss to San Diego State now means that UNLV is in a tie for second with them in the conference standings. They are undermatched at home today, but theyve fallen victim to the upset before and need to make sure it doesnt happen again. It wouldnt hurt their NCAA chances too much, but it would add a poor loss onto their resume, which would affect their seed, and it would also knock them down in the standings a bit, which is also something that the committee looks at.
-PITTSBURGH AT WEST VIRGINIA (Big East). This is the basketball version of the Backyard Brawl, and in recent years it has been every bit as intense. Pitt is a solid pod system team and West Virginia is a team who is closer to the bubble than theyd like to be, and a big statement win at home over a good Pitt team would go a long way in helping them out. It would also give them bragging rights over their hated rival. As for Pitt, it would be a quality conference road win for them, which would keep them hovering around a #2 seed. Like a lot of big rivalries, this means a lot both on and off paper.
-SAINT LOUIS AT XAVIER (Atlantic Ten). Xavier is on the outside looking in, and must win out and finish first in the standings to get serious consideration. SLU is a team they cant seem to be able to beat, though. Xavier just cant seem to handle their defense. If they lose this one, it will make the conference tournament very exciting for them.
NEWS AND NOTES
-Bad weather has hit the midwest. There weren't all that many fans at last night's Ohio State vs Michigan game. Under normal circumstances that would have been a capacity crowd. Ohio State still managed to pull away in the second half and win. It's not good to be Michigan right now. They haven't played well on the road, they missed a big chance to pick up a quality win against their rival, and to top it all off, they're stuck in their rival's home town due to bad weather.
-San Diego State blew out Air Force. The Azetcs are a talented team, but it's been rare that they've played up to their potential. They did last night though, and if that carries on between now and the end they could end up playing their way onto and inside of the bubble.
Highlighted Games for Sat 2/17: Bracket Buster Edt
Feb 16, 2007, 09:16 pm
Drew Barnette runs down one of the biggest Saturdays of the college basketball regular season. With the Bracket Buster teams being played today, read about who is on the bubble and could really improve their NCAA Tournament resumes with quality wins today. Also read about teams who are favored to win their conference tournaments, and who are facing each other in games that will have an impact on their seeding, and possibly put them in a better position to pull a big upset.
Other big games include Louisville looking for their second big road win in a row as they travel to Marquette, Vanderbilt plays one of their biggest home games of the year as they host Floirda, Georgetown and Villanova Square off in an important Big East showdown,
All that, and much more in a huge Saturday for college hoops...
Mid Major Ramblings on the Eve of the Buster
Feb 16, 2007, 01:20 am
Drew Barnette gives his thoughts and opinions about the upcoming Bracket Buster, talks about how he feels mid-majors are viewed by the media today, looks at tonight's big game between Winthrop and Missouri State, and more...