Here's basically what BracketBusters is: a bunch of mid-major teams going up against each other on national television to prove to the Selection Committee just how good, terrible, forgettable or fundamentally sound they really are.
Sometimes the games give a team an extra boost in the resume that can help with seeding; sometimes they don't have an impact at all.
It's a worthwhile event, but one that usually falls short of having six or seven must-see matchups. That's the case again this season. There is now just one ranked team that will be a part of the made-for-TV event — Butler. Siena, a team that recently lost the nation's longest winning streak, goes up against the Bulldogs in the first and best matchup this year's series has to offer. That is a game worth watching. But are the others?
This year's 22 BracketBusters teams represent 10 conferences and:
• Nineteen teams in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) top 100.
• Seven 2009 NCAA tournament participants: Northern Iowa; Siena; Butler; Morgan Sate; Akron; Virginia Commonwealth; Utah State.
• Two teams undefeated in conference play: Butler and Murray State.
Here are the games and quick evaluations:
• Old Dominion at Northern Iowa; 7 ET (ESPN2). It's the one I'm most excited about, really. The CAA, with George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, William & Mary and Northeastern all playing well enough to reach the NIT, was looking to maybe be a multi-bid league. That no longer looks to be the case - unless ODU, which has a win over Georgetown, can get an impressive win against the Missouri Valley's best team.
• William & Mary at Iona; 9 ET (ESPNU). The Tribe gets the shaft in terms of an opponent, because this team has already shown it can hang with the big boys. Iona is a second-tier team from the MAAC that's having a really good season three years removed from a 2-28 season. William & Mary will need this win for NIT hopes.
• Siena at Butler; 11 ET (ESPN2). The marquee game at 11 a.m.? So be it. Siena is for sure out of at-large talk if it can't win against the Bulldogs. The Saints have fallen against every "name" team they've played this season. Butler has some wiggle room, but that's primarily because it's undefeated so far in the Horizon. This game is out of league, of course, so Butler's unblemished Horizon mark won't be threatened. A win here could be the key to Butler getting a 5-seed come March.
• Morgan State at Murray State; noon (ESPNU). Murray State has only three losses and is already the Ohio Valley's regular-season winner. Morgan State has a win over Arkansas, but it hails from the wretched MEAC. A no-win proposition for the Racers here. I think the Racers win by 25.
• Louisiana Tech at Northeastern; 1 ET (ESPN2). Interested for no other reason than I've heard some things, seen the box scores and followed both of these squads through my laptop screen all season. Now I get to see them as a moving object. Louisiana Tech needs this one a bit more than Northeastern. Probably the third-best game we're being offered.
• Nevada at Missouri State; 3 ET (ESPN2). This game looked good ... in December. But Missouri State has lost too many games in the Mizzou Valley and Nevada is behind Utah State in the WAC, which is not your father's WAC. No buzz here.
• Akron at Virginia Commonwealth; 4 ET (ESPNU). If Akron hadn't lost to Kent State recently and VCU didn't do the same against Northeastern, we'd have a delicious one here. But, from a Tournament perspective, neither team benefits from a win.
• College of Charleston at George Mason; 8 ET (ESPN2). It's two schools who have defeated North Carolina in the past three and a half years. Some selling points, but nothing of tremendous consequence. Strategically, I like the way these two teams match up. Mason's the better team.
• Western Carolina at Kent State; 8 ET (ESPNU). Western Carolina was, ever so briefly, a bubble team. No longer. Maybe Kent State can give the MAC a boost.
• New Mexico State at Pacific; 10 ET (ESPNU). Not worth your time.
• Wichita State at Utah State; midnight (ESPN2). This one is. Both are bubble teams, though Wichita State is barely alive. Utah State, like always, can't afford a loss. The Aggies have a habit of building up four-, five-loss seasons that are void of any top-75 wins. Well, the Shockers offer that opportunity. And Utah State is at home. Wichita State could knock out a mid-major contender down the road if it kicks Utah State to the curb.
- Murray State