College Basketball: Reactions to BracketBuster Weekend
The end of the season is bearing down on us now that BracketBuster weekend has been completed. The weekend dedicated to the premier mid-major programs in the nation saw plenty of action from exciting finishes to standout individual performances.
Here are some reactions to what took place over the last few days.
*Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and information.
Murray State Is Legit
Murray State sure made a statement with its win over St. Mary's on Saturday. With that victory the Racers are now 2-0 against nationally ranked teams, and they have won three in a row since their perfect season ended against Tennessee State on February 9.
Not only did Murray State beat St. Mary's, but it essentially dominated Randy Bennett's squad for a large portion of the game. The Racers led for the entire game, and they seemed to have things locked up from the first few minutes of the second half.
Isaiah Canaan put together another outstanding performance with 23 points and four assists. The junior guard shot 9-of-13 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range.
Murray State essentially locked up an at-large bid in case it loses in the OVC tournament with this win. The remaining doubters might still think a first-round exit for Murray State in the NCAA tournament is likely, but don't be surprised if Steve Prohm's squad makes it to the second weekend of madness.
The Summit League Deserves 2 NCAA Tournament Bids
The chances of two Summit League teams playing in the 2012 NCAA Tournament is doubtful, but based on the weekend performances from Oral Roberts and South Dakota State, both deserve the opportunity to play in March.
First, South Dakota State manhandled Buffalo behind Nate Wolters' 22 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Then, Oral Roberts came out of its comfort zone by playing a relatively low-scoring game against Akron, yet the Golden Eagles were still able to defeat the red hot Zips.
The Jackrabbits have the potential to be one of the top mid-majors in the nation, and that would be garnering more national attention if they did not have puzzling losses to North Dakota and South Dakota.
Oral Roberts has a chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if it loses in the Summit League tourney, but that is nowhere near a guarantee. The Golden Eagles beat Missouri State and Xavier earlier in the season, and then the win over Akron added one more quality win. They also only have one blemish on their Summit League record and that came at South Dakota State.
In all likelihood, one team will represent the Summit League in the Big Dance, but both Oral Roberts and South Dakota are capable of winning a game or two if they get there.
Loyola Marymount Could Be a West Coast Surprise
Loyola Marymount was plagued with inconsistency during non-conference play, keeping the Lions off the national stage. The Lions defeated a pair of Top 25 teams, Saint Louis and UCLA, in November, but they also went on to lose to Columbia, North Texas and Morgan State.
But over the last two months, Loyola Marymount has pulled itself together going 10-4 in WCC play and tacking on another Top 25 win over St. Mary's last week. All four of its conference losses have come to the top three teams in the conference, and meanwhile it has swept San Francisco, Pepperdine and Portland. On Friday night, the Lions defeated Valparaiso in their BracketBuster matchup, 61-53.
They will be a threat to the top three WCC teams in the conference tournament thanks to balanced guard play and a pair of solid forwards in Drew Viney and Ashley Hamilton. And if they make the NCAA tournament, they could give a highly seeded team fits in the first round.
The Lions early season struggles will keep them out of the at-large field, but they should find themselves in at least the NIT with wins over San Diego and Santa Clara this week.
Wichita State Is Definitely the Best Team in the Valley
When I said Wichita State would win a Missouri Valley conference championship this year I got slammed countless times. But after taking a backseat to Creighton for the first couple of months of the season, the Shockers have emerged as not only the best team in the Missouri Valley, but possible even the best team among all mid-majors.
Wichita State has an outstanding non-conference résumé which only got stronger with a 91-74 whopping of Davidson on the road this weekend. The Shockers came in fourth place at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, defeating Colorado but losing to Alabama and Temple—their only two non-conference losses.
In December, the Shockers then handed No. 20 UNLV its first loss with a 89-70 blowout.
And in conference play, Wichita State's only losses are to Creighton and in triple overtime to Drake. Meanwhile, the Shockers have swept Northern Iowa, Missouri State, Indiana State and Evansville while they also demolished Creighton in Omaha.
Right now, they need just one win or one Creighton loss to clinch an outright conference championship and the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley tournament.
Forget About Drexel's Early Losses
Drexel came into the season expected to be a premier mid-major, but an unimpressive 2-4 start quickly took the Dragons off the leader boards. Additionally, they missed out on a great opportunity to garner national attention by going 1-2 in the Paradise Jam. Of course, all this happened with junior guard Chris Fouch being injured for the team's first six games.
But since losing to Delaware on December 3, Drexel has won 21 of its last 22 games—its last loss came to Georgia State on January 2.
During their winning streak, the Dragons beat both VCU, George Mason and Cleveland State, which are all wins that look pretty on a résumé. They currently control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament, and that achievement could be enough to get them into the at-large field if they lose in the Richmond.
Scott Machado Is the Best Point Guard in the Nation
Still don't know who Scott Machado is?
The Iona point guard is leading NCAA Division I with 10.1 assists per game, and he just logged his first career triple-double a few games ago against Marist with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Not only does Machado get assists, but he is also careful with the ball. His assist to turnover ratio is 3.1 to 1, and four times this year he has had 15 or more assists with two or fewer turnovers.
On the national stage against Nevada this weekend, Machado put together another strong performance. The senior posted 13 points and 15 assists despite having one of his poorer outings.
Kendall Marshall of North Carolina provides good competition for Machado, but right now the New Yorker seems to have the edge. He has outstanding court vision and can get the job done without needing to look fancy.