Golden Tickets: Previewing Bracketbusters Games That Matter
The Bracketbusters games were a great idea to give one-bidders (teams that come from conferences where only the tourney winner gets a dance invite) a chance to beef up their profile when they plead their cases to the NCAA Tournament committee. However, most of the games this weekend feature schools that need a miracle not even God could pull off to make their case as at-large bidworthy.
So with that in mind the Bald Prophet will take a look at the games that could actually do some schools some good.
Illinois State (RPI 59, SOS 188, 22-5, 11-5 MVC) - Niagara (RPI 67, SOS 176, 21-7, 12-4 Metro Atlantic)
The Redbirds started 14-0 to mark the most counterfeit undefeated run in NCAA Division I history but have actually clawed their way back to overcome a sweep by Indiana State (who didn't have Larry Bird, of course). The Purple Eagles didn't get Calvin Murphy back, either, but their best win is a four-pointer over MAC leader Buffalo.
Who needs it more? Slight edge to Illinois State. The Redbirds could actually make a case if they win this and the rest of their regular-season games and make it to the MVC finals. The Eagles probably still need to win their tournament regardless.
VCU (RPI 66, SOS 119, 19-8, 12-4 CAA) - Nevada (RPI 106, SOS 106, 14-10, 8-4 WAC)
Ask Duke if they want to see VCU in the Dance again, especially Eric Maynor. Both these teams have been disappointing this year as Luke Babbitt has done his best to replace Nick Fazekas and Lovell Pinkney but doesn't have the supporting cast Mark Fox enjoyed in the past.
Who needs it more? VCU. Nevada has to win the WAC tourney without question. VCU will be helped slightly if they win convincingly.
Butler (RPI 27, SOS 97, 21-4, 13-3 Horizon) - Davidson (RPI 56, SOS 143, 21-5, 15-2 Southern)
Butler has suddenly fallen from lock status due to losses to UW-Milwaukee (who didn't bring back Joah Tucker) and Loyola-Chicago (who didn't bring back Carl Golston). Davidson has proven to be more lost than, well, the crew of Lost without Stephen Curry.
Who needs it more? Davidson. Butler should right the ship in time and will probably make it as long as they don't lose any more regular-season conference matchups. If the Wildcats lose here and bow out early in the Southern tourney the committee would get the final excuse it needs to seal their NIT fate.
Northern Iowa (RPI 87, SOS 123, 17-9, 12-4 MVC) - Siena (RPI 29, SOS 71, 21-5, 15-1 Metro Atlantic)
The Saints of Siena have to be ticked. They scheduled Goliaths early and often only to lose every one. Obviously, their conference foes won't help their RPI rating the rest of the way. Northern Iowa is in a dogfight with Creighton in the worst year for the MVC in several years.
Who needs it more? Northern Iowa. I see Siena's only threat to conference tourney victory as the aforementioned Purple Eagles and they could lose this as well as a final to Niagara but still be safe as houses. Northern Iowa is a mediocre 5-5 outside of the MVC and lost to schools that include Illinois-Chicago and Indiana State (could the Sycamores be the fly in the ointment for multiple teams?)
Utah State (RPI 34, SOS 172, 24-2, 12-1 WAC) - St. Mary's (RPI 62, SOS 167, 18-5, 7-4 WCC)
The West Coast kick is likely to get one bid (Gonzaga) after last year's three-team triumph. Patty Mills is the beach's answer to Stephen Curry. Utah State beat Utah in their only game of note this season.
Who needs it more? St. Mary's in a landslide. Even if the Aggies lose this one I don't see them getting shunned by the committee even with an early loss in the tourney. St. Mary's has lost to Portland and San Diego. Enough said.
Wisconsin-Green Bay (RPI 73, SOS 162, 19-7, 12-4 Horizon) - Long Beach State (RPI 132, SOS 147, 13-11, 8-4 Big West)
OK, how does this game get selected? Hey, Green Bay has pulled off a Favre-like comeback to make a weak case and looks like the most likely team to overtake Butler for regular-season supremacy. Not bad for a team that lost to Loyola-Chicago and a Division II team.
Who needs it more: Green Bay. The Beach still has to win their tourney thanks to an overall record barely above the Mendoza line regardless of what it does here.
George Mason (RPI 54, SOS 110, 18-8, 11-5 CAA) - Creighton (RPI 51, SOS 127, 22-6, 12-4 MVC)
2006's darlings are back. Of course, nobody of note is still on the team from the Patriots squad that legitimately shocked the world with their Final Four run but they have put together a decent season. Creighton looks like the only MVC team at this point who could make a fairly legitimate case for an at-large bid.
Who needs it more? Draw. Both teams have very similar profiles and face at least one team in their conference that has a good chance at knocking them from the automatic perch. This looks like the best game of the bunch slightly ahead of Utah State/St. Mary's.
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