BracketBusters: Who Gained and Who Lost in Weekend Action
Another year and another great BracketBusters weekend.
The thing that came out of this year's edition was that there may be more good mid-major teams this year than in any other.
Teams like Wichita State, Drexel, Creighton, Murray State and VCU must feel good about themselves after big wins this weekend. Even teams like St. Mary's and Long Beach State should still feel alright about themselves despite tough losses. However, they have to regroup and get back on track.
This may be the deepest mid-major group of teams we've ever seen, and don't be surprised if a couple of these teams make deep runs in March.
Let's look at the biggest winners and losers from the weekend.
Winner: Murray State
The biggest matchup of BracketBusters weekend was definitely St. Mary's visiting Murray State. The matchup turned out to be a one-sided affair.
Murray State took an early lead and never looked back, as they eventually took a 34-25 lead into the locker room at the half.
The second half was even better for the Racers, as they shot 58 percent from the field in the half, while Isaiah Canaan scored 17 of his 23 points. He shot 9-of-13 from the field for the game.
This dramatically improves the Racers' resume, as they now have another quality win to go along with good wins against Memphis and Southern Miss.
Murray State should now be considered a lock for the tourney unless a dramatic collapse were to happen to the team.
Loser: Saint Mary's
Coming out on the wrong side of the big matchup was St. Mary's.
The team couldn't find any rhythm on offense (see their 38 percent field goals), and struggled all night to shut down Isaiah Canaan and the Racers offense.
Playing without their best defensive player, Stephen Holt, didn't help at all, and Rob Jones struggled with foul trouble early in the game and was never able to get going.
The Gaels have now lost two in a row and three of four. They must tread carefully the rest of way, as another year of being on the bubble is not what this team needs.
Look for St. Mary's to bounce back however, and find their way comfortably into the field of 68.
Winner: The CAA
The big conference winner on BracketBuster weekend was definitely the CAA.
Wins came from all three teams that participated.
VCU struggled with Northern Iowa early on Friday night, but they were able to wear down the Panthers and pull away late in a 77-68 win.
Drexel played the early game Saturday at Cleveland State, and absolutely destroyed the Vikings 69-49. Four players scored in double figures, while they held the Vikings to 27 percent shooting.
Old Dominion also got a win at Missouri State 73-67.
Old Dominion will have to win the CAA tournament to get into the dance, but VCU and Drexel each still have an outside chance for at-large selections, so their wins over the weekend only helped their cause.
Winner: Wichita State
The hottest team in college basketball may very well be the Shockers of Wichita State.
The Shockers won at Davidson 91-74, and looked extremely impressive in doing so. The game was tight early in the second half, and then the switch flipped.
Wichita State ended up shooting 64 percent from the field. You read that right. This was after shooting 58 percent in their huge win last weekend at Creighton.
Joe Ragland was the hero Saturday, as he had 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting for the day.
The Shockers are now 24-4 overall and 14-2 in the Missouri Valley. Witchita State is an absolute lock for the dance, and they may just be this year's Butler or VCU.
Loser: The Horizon League
The Horizon League definitely came out losers from the weekend.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Cleveland State (second in the Horizon) got destroyed by Drexel at home. They were on top of the league two weeks ago, but they have now lost four straight games.
Valparaiso, who now leads the conference thanks to the collapse of Cleveland State, also lost their BracketBuster game at Loyola Maramount 61-53.
The entire league is down this year as Butler doesn't have the same it factor it had the past two years, and Detroit is underachieving from pre-season expectations.
This will be a one-bid league, and I don't know if any team can win a tournament game.
Winners: Creighton and Long Beach State
The best game of the day definitely turned out to be the Long Beach State-Creighton matchup.
Creighton came into the game losing three of four, including getting blown out at home by Wichita State. The 49ers, on the other hand came in on a hot streak, as they were 12-0 in the Big West after that brutal non-conference schedule (played at Kansas, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Louisville and San Diego State).
Long Beach State led almost the entire game, and played like a team that played the more difficult out-of-conference schedule. However, give Creighton credit for hanging tough and fighting back to win it with a runner by Antoine Young with 0.3 seconds left.
Casper Ware had 21 for the 49ers, but he was outperformed by national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott, who racked up 36 points and 11 rebounds.
Both teams should feel very good after the game, as Creighton got a big bounce back win and Long Beach State played great in a hostile environment.
Creighton pretty much secured an at-large berth with the win, and Long Beach State has to be considered if they don't win the Big West (which they should) due to their performance against top teams on the road all season long.
Winners: Big Performances on Big Stage
The weekend also provided a bunch of big-time performances from some very good players. These guys may not get the national exposure because of their mid-major status, but with the lights a little brighter this weekend they were able to show off their skills.
Doug McDermott (Creighton): 36 points and 11 rebounds in 81-79 win.
Joe Ragland (Wichita State): 30 points (11-of-14 FG) in 91-74 win.
Scott Machado (Iona): 13 points and 15 assists in 90-84 win.
Isaiah Canaan (Murray State): 23 points (9-of-13 FG) in 65-51 win.
Kent Bazemore (Old Dominion): 28 points (9-of-15 FG) and seven rebounds in 73-67 win.
Olek Czyz (Nevada): 28 points (9-of-16 FG) and seven rebounds in 90-84 loss.
Wendell McKines (New Mexico State): 25 points and 12 rebounds in 71-55 win.
Nate Wolters (South Dakota State): 22 points, six rebounds, and eight assists in 86-65 win.
Hats off to these guys for their performances as they were all really fun to watch.
Losers: Bubble Teams from the Big Conferences
Some of the biggest losers from the weekend have to be the bubble teams from the power conferences.
BracketBusters showed us that there are plenty of good mid-majors that belong in the field of 68. This may cause the committee to take some as at-large candidates (if they don't win their conferences).
For example, Creighton and Wichita State both locked up spots in the tourney, but what if neither wins the Missouri Valley tournament? They would bump not only one, but two bubble teams out of the picture.
The same can be said for Murray State and St. Mary's. You also must consider the possibility of teams like VCU and Drexel, which are both coming on strong.
The bubble is down again this year, and teams like Connecticut, North Carolina State, Texas and plenty more are really going to have sweat things out down the stretch.