If you read our Television Teaser any, or every, week, you know that we cover NBA, NHL, and college basketball games involving the best teams. This week we are doing something a bit different. We’re going to cover all the Bracket Buster matchups in college basketball, ranking the games in terms of interest.
Bracket Busters weekend pairs the best teams in mid-major conferences against one another. It allows teams who are on the bubble to pick up a quality win or, for some teams, an opportunity to solidify their profile. With many mid-majors starting their conference tournaments the weekend of February 25 and 26th, it represents the last opportunity for teams to play a game outside the conference schedule.
Note: Records, RPI, SOS, and records vs. top 50 RPI are accurate as of games played through February 15th.
Northern Iowa (17-11) (7-9 Missouri Valley) at Virginia Commonwealth (22-6) (13-3 CAA)
Where to find the game: Friday, February 17th at 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2/ESPN3.
UNI numbers: RPI – 61; SOS – 40; vs. top 50 RPI – 3-4.
VCU numbers: RPI – 85; SOS – 237; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-2.
VCU dropped a heartbreaker on Tuesday, falling at George Mason on a buzzer beater three by Sherrod Wright. Short of a run in the CAA Tournament, VCU won’t have a chance to replicate their Final Four run from last year, as their strength of schedule is awful. The Panthers impressed in non-conference play, going 10-2 and knocking off the likes of Old Dominion, Iowa State, Colorado State; Northern Iowa also played Saint Mary’s and Ohio, falling in both of those games. Northern Iowa’s numbers are much better than VCU’s, but a subpar performance in the Missouri Valley means the Panthers will need to win Arch Madness in order to punch their NCAA ticket. Northern Iowa knows something about heartbreakers as well, as they fell by one at Evansville on Wednesday.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Virginia Commonwealth by 11.
Our Prediction: Virginia Commonwealth wins.
Valparaiso (19-9) (12-4 Horizon) at Loyola Marymount (17-10) (10-4 WCC)
Where to find the game: Friday, February 17th at 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU.
Valpo numbers: RPI – 102; SOS – 165; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-1.
LMU numbers: RPI – 87; SOS – 79; vs. top 50 RPI – 3-7.
Loyola Marymount isn’t an elite West Coast Conference team like Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga, but they certainly have the capability of playing spoiler; they proved that on Wednesday night, with an upset win at McKeon Pavilion. The Lions have played their share of tough games to date, facing UCLA (won at Pauley Pavilion), Middle Tennessee (lost at Gersten Pavilion), Harvard (lost at Gersten Pavilion), Saint Louis (won at Gersten Pavilion), Florida State (lost at Donald L. Tucker Center), Gonzaga (lost at Gersten Pavilion and McCarthey Athletic Center), Saint Mary’s (lost at Gersten Pavilion). Both teams need to win their respective conference tournaments in order to make the NCAA Tournament, but both should be in some sort of post-season play. The Crusaders have played well as of late, winners of five of their last six, vaulting them into first place in the Horizon League. Finishing first or second in the Horizon League is important, as the top two seeds need to win only two games to win the conference tournament, and, along with it, the conference’s automatic bid.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Loyola Marymount by 9.
Our Prediction: Loyola Marymount wins.
Drexel (22-5) (14-2 CAA) at Cleveland State (20-7) (10-5 Horizon)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 11:00 AM EST on ESPNU.
Drexel numbers: RPI – 90; SOS – 292; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-2.
CSU numbers: RPI – 84; SOS – 178; vs. top 50 RPI – 1-0.
Last season the CAA put three teams in the NCAA Tournament; the CAA put two teams in, in 2007. This year, the CAA is likely a one-bid league. But if there is ever going to be an at-large candidate from the CAA, its’ going to be Drexel this year. The Dragons have scored a pair of wins over Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason, putting Drexel in first place. Further, Drexel is 10-5 on road and neutral floors, including 6-2 on the road in the CAA. Cleveland State opened the season with a solid win against Vanderbilt, at Memorial Gym. Cleveland State was 12-3 through the end of December, but is only 8-4 since then. The Vikings have dropped three straight including their last two home contests. Cleveland State is 8-3 at home this season.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: N/A.
Our Prediction: Drexel wins.
Wichita State (23-4) (14-2 Missouri Valley) at Davidson (20-6) (14-2 Southern)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 12:00 PM EST on ESPN2/ESPN3.
WSU numbers: RPI – 18; SOS – 68; vs. top 50 RPI – 2-3.
Davidson numbers: RPI – 75; SOS – 206; vs. top 50 RPI – 1-2.
The Shockers have made a strong push towards the NCAA Tournament. Wichita State has won 13 of their last 14, including a 6-1 mark on the road. Wichita avenged a home loss to Creighton, on December 31, this past weekend with a win at CenturyLink Center by 31. Without a doubt, the Shockers are in great shape to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 – wins over UNLV, at Colorado, at Creighton, and a sweep of Northern Iowa certainly help. Davidson has a solid win of their own, a six point win against Kansas on a neutral court, back in December. The Wildcats also faced Duke, Vanderbilt, and Massachusetts in non-conference play, but weren’t able to pick up any wins. Davidson needs to beat the Shockers and make a run to the Southern Conference finals in order to be in the running for a NCAA Tournament bid.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Davidson by 3.
Our Prediction: Wichita State wins.
Buffalo (16-7) (9-3 MAC) at South Dakota State (21-7) (13-3 Summit)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 1:00 PM EST on ESPNU.
Buffalo numbers: RPI – 78; SOS – 155; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-2.
SDSU numbers: RPI – 67; SOS – 194; vs. top 50 RPI – 1-1.
The Jackrabbits are 11-0 at home this season. Despite their home success, South Dakota State is looking up at Summit League leader Oral Roberts. A win over Buffalo won’t help change that, but will certainly help for any post-season discussion. The Summit League Conference Tournament will be held in Sioux Falls, about an hour away from South Dakota State. Like South Dakota State, Buffalo is looking up at their conference leader, Akron. The Bulls don’t have any top 50 RPI wins, but do have wins over Dayton, Kent State, and Akron; Buffalo lost by two at Temple on December 28th and by five at Kent State on Tuesday.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: South Dakota State by 11.
Our Prediction: South Dakota State wins.
Akron (19-7) (11-1 MAC) at Oral Roberts (24-5) (16-1 Summit)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 2:00 PM EST on ESPN2/ESPN3.
Akron numbers: RPI – 64; SOS – 131; vs. top 50 RPI – 1-2.
Oral Roberts numbers: RPI – 50; SOS – 189; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-2.
The MAC last had an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in 1999, when Kent State, then coached by Gary Waters, won the conference tournament. Miami (OH), led by Wally Szczerbiak, was selected as an at-large team. The Zips have been the most consistent team in the MAC, to date. Akron has a ten point win at Mississippi State, a 16-point win at Marshall, and a nine point win over Kent State. Oral Roberts does have a solid road win against Xavier; the Golden Eagles dropped close games against West Virginia and Gonzaga on the road, seven and six point losses, respectively. Both teams have the potential to be at-large candidates, but would almost certainly need to win out and make their conference tournament championships.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Oral Roberts by 10.
Our Prediction: Oral Roberts wins.
Drake (15-12) (8-8 Missouri Valley) at New Mexico State (19-8) (7-3 WAC)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 3:00 PM EST on ESPNU.
Drake numbers: RPI – 121; SOS – 107; vs. top 50 RPI – 2-3.
NMST numbers: RPI – 77; SOS – 117; vs. top 50 RPI – 1-3.
If Drake is going to make a post-season tournament, let alone the NCAA Tournament, they are going to need to be more consistent. Need proof? Drake has wins over Iowa State, Wichita State, and close losses to Ole Miss and Virginia to show for. On the other hand, Drake has lost by 44(!) at Boise State, 14 at Iowa, seven at Indiana State, and 11 at Illinois State. Now, the home of Klayton Korver will need to put together a winning streak just to be eligible for a post-Missouri Valley tournament. The Aggies are in better shape, and are actually in the NCAA Tournament discussion. New Mexico State has scored a win over rival New Mexico (at The Pit), but they have inexplicable losses at UTEP, Hawaii, and Idaho. If New Mexico state is going to make a run for the NCAA Tournament, they will need to win out, including a win at Nevada, and need to do some damage in the WAC Conference Tournament.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: New Mexico State by 12.
Our Prediction: New Mexico State wins.
Nevada (22-4) (10-1 WAC) at Iona (21-6) (13-3 MAAC)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 4:00 PM EST on ESPN2/ESPN3.
Nevada numbers: RPI – 65; SOS – 181; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-2.
Iona numbers: RPI – 53; SOS – 167; vs. top 50 RPI – 1-0.
Just imagine if Nevada had beaten UNLV in the Thomas & Mack Center. Instead, the Wolfpack fell by four to their in-state rivals, back in November. Nevada’s best non-conference win is a three-point win over Washington; outside of a home loss to Idaho, by four, the Wolfpack have no bad losses. The problem is, Nevada hasn’t exactly played a challenging schedule. On Saturday, their clash with Iona represents one of their toughest opponents faced to date. Iona has a decent home win over Saint Joseph’s and lost by one to Purdue in Puerto Rico. If the Gaels want to have any shot at an at-large bid, they must beat Nevada and likely need to make an appearance in the MAAC Conference Championship. With players like G Lamont (Mo-Mo) Jones (transfer from Arizona) (16.3 points per game) and F Mike Glover (18.9 points per game), Iona’s season would be a disappointment with anything less than a NCAA Tournament bid.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Iona by 11.
Our Prediction: Iona wins.
Old Dominion (17-11) (12-4 CAA) at Missouri State (16-12) (9-7 Missouri Valley)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 5:00 PM EST on ESPNU.
ODU numbers: RPI – 128; SOS – 147; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-2.
MOSU numbers: RPI – 83; SOS – 62; vs. top 50 RPI – 1-6.
Old Dominion has the most NCAA appearances of any CAA team, with 11. The Monarchs have been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons, winning a game each year in the NCAA Tournament. Old Dominion is a dark horse candidate to win the CAA, as they have close losses to Kentucky, Missouri, and at George Mason. ODU had a couple questionable losses in non-conference, losing to Vermont, Fairfield, and Richmond, but has done well in conference, only losing to George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth. If Missouri State had won a few more conference games, we could easily be talking about the potential for an at-large bid. The Bears played their share of tough games, falling to Oral Roberts, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Saint Mary’s all on road or neutral sites. Missouri State does have wins over Nevada, Creighton, and Northern Iowa, though.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Missouri State by 12.
Our Prediction: Old Dominion wins.
#21 Saint Mary’s (23-4) (12-2 WCC) at #16 Murray State (25-1) (13-1 Ohio Valley)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 6:00 PM EST on ESPN3.
SMC numbers: RPI – 36; SOS – 130; vs. top 50 RPI – 3-2.
Murray numbers: RPI – 51; SOS – 275; vs. top 50 RPI – 2-0.
Saint Mary’s knew that a win and a Gonzaga loss would give Saint Mary’s no worse than a share of the West Coast Conference regular season title. After seeing Murray State fall at home to Tennessee State, Saint Mary’s suffered the same fate, late Wednesday night, in a 75-60 upset loss to upstart Loyola Marymount. Murray State was the last remaining unbeaten team until a 72-68 home loss to Tennessee State; despite that, the Racers are the top seed in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Many believe that Murray State needs to win out, including winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, in order to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. A win over Saint Mary’s would give the Racers some breathing room. They already have wins over Southern Miss, Dayton, and Memphis. Outside of the Saint Mary’s game, any further losses for Murray State will likely put them on the bubble.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Murray State by 11.
Our Prediction: Murray State wins.
UNC Asheville (19-8) (14-2 Big South) at Ohio University (20-6) (8-4 MAC)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 7:00 PM EST on ESPN3.
UNCA numbers: RPI – 119; SOS – 238; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-3.
Ohio numbers: RPI – 98; SOS – 254; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-1.
NC-Asheville will be the top seed in the Big South Conference Tournament, which will begin at the end of the month. The Bulldogs will host the second and third rounds of the Big South Conference Tournament, hoping to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, which would be their third appearance overall. The Bulldogs have played close games against North Carolina State, Connecticut, and Tennessee, but couldn’t pull out the win. Ohio University has represented the MAC in the NCAA Tournament 12 times, the second most of any team in the MAC; in the Bobcats last NCAA Tournament appearance, back in 2010, they knocked off Georgetown in the first round. The Bobcats lost by five at the KFC Yum! Center, in a November 25th game at Louisville. Ohio has beaten Marshall, Northern Iowa, Buffalo and Kent State, but has bad losses to Toledo and Eastern Michigan.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Ohio University by 13.
Our Prediction: Ohio University wins.
UT-Arlington (20-5) (12-0 Southland) at Weber State (21-4) (13-1 Big Sky)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 8:00 PM EST on ESPN3.
UTA numbers: RPI – 112; SOS – 321; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-2.
WSU numbers: RPI – 88; SOS – 310; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-3.
Texas-Arlington has been to the NCAA Tournament only once, back in 2008. The Mavericks are looking to add to their NCAA Tournament appearances as they have a two game lead in the Southland Conference over their nearest competitor, with five games left in conference play. Despite Weber State having the most appearances in the NCAA Tournament from the Big Sky, the Wildcats haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2007, and they haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1999. Led by PG Damian Lillard, who leads the NCAA in average points per game, with 24.7, the Wildcats are looking for their 20th regular season conference title. Weber State has only one bad loss – to Idaho State – and has played a decent non-conference schedule. The Wildcats lost at Saint Mary’s, at Brigham Young, and at California during the months of November and December. Both teams will need to win their conference tournaments in order to be assured of a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Weber State by 3.
Our Prediction: Weber State wins.
Long Beach State (19-6) (12-0 Big West) at Creighton (22-5) (12-4 Missouri Valley)
Where to find the game: Saturday, February 18th at 10:00 PM EST on ESPN2/ESPN3.
LBSU numbers: RPI – 44; SOS – 135; vs. top 50 RPI – 0-4.
Creighton numbers: RPI – 28; SOS – 108; vs. top 50 RPI – 3-2.
Long Beach State has played one of the toughest, if not the toughest, non-conference schedules this year. The 49ers played the likes of Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina, Xavier, and Kansas State, all on the road. LBSU came up with wins against Pittsburgh and Xavier, and lost close ones to San Diego State, Kansas, and North Carolina. Coach Dan Monson knows moral victories don’t help, but they certainly prepared the 49ers for conference play, where their average margin of victory is by 13.25 points. Creighton has struggled as of late, losing three of their last four games, including a 31-point blowout loss to Wichita State at home. Despite that, Creighton’s profile looks good for an at-large bid, provided the Jays get back to their winning ways. Creighton has good wins over San Diego State, Northwestern, Wichita State, and Northern Iowa to date. The winner of this game moves themselves all the closer to an NCAA Tournament bid, while the loser will likely need to make some noise in their respective conference tournament.
RealTimeRPI Prediction: Creighton by 9.
Our Prediction: Long Beach State wins.