BracketBusters Do More Harm Than Good for Mid-Majors
ESPN's creation of the BracketBuster weekend originally carried the idea that this two day event would give the little guys of college basketball a chance to shine and pick up one more marquee win to help make the NCAA Tournament.
For most mid-majors, that goal was not achieved this weekend as the BracketBuster event actually knocked more teams out of contention than it helped. Then again, as you'll see in a moment, nearly every bubble team that could take a step back this weekend did in fact take a step back. And the NCAA wants to expand to 96 teams? Oof.
Friday night represented the demise of the Colonial Athletic Conference as two of the best teams in the league took hits to hurt at-large chances as well as the league's overall profile.
Even without seven footer Jordan Eglseder, Northern Iowa knocked off Old Dominion, the CAA's only legitimate at-large candidate. The Panthers scored 71 points, making Friday's contest the first time UNI reached the 70 point mark in consecutive games since early in the season when the Panthers did it against defensively inept squads East Carolina and Boston College.
In the other CAA game Friday, Iona—the second best team in the MAAC—knocked off William & Mary. The Tribe's at-large aspirations were officially ended with the loss as its wins over Wake Forest and Maryland in the non-conference won't be enough to squeak W&M into the dance.
The majority of the BracketBuster games were slated for Saturday, and these games did help one conference in particular.
The WAC has looked like a one-bid league all season, but after Utah State took care of business against Wichita State and Louisiana Tech went on the road to another top CAA school and left with a victory, the WAC might be able to get two bids.
La-Tech isn't in position to grab an at-large spot, but USU still has a shot if the Aggies win out but lose in the conference title game to La-Tech.
The other mid-major squad desperately needing a win Saturday was Siena. The Saints have dominated the MAAC after a poor non-conference run. After suffering its only loss in conference play just eight days before, Siena needed to knock off Butler to have any at-large hopes.
Siena headed off to Hinkle Fieldhouse and struggled to score, defend, and every other essential part of basketball in the second half.
Besides the general disaster that was the BracketBuster, the many major conference squads on the bubble had a pretty awful weekend as well.
As of about 10 days ago, the Atlantic-10 looked like it was going to get an unprecedented six bids to the tournament. But Rhode Island struggled entering this weekend before winning against a hapless Fordham team. Even with that victory, the Rams might still be on the wrong side of the bubble.
Charlotte and Dayton suffered tough losses over the weekend that those two squads might not be able to recover from. The 49ers couldn't afford to lose at home against Xavier. Of the six potential tournament teams from the league, Charlotte had the lowest RPI, and a victory over Xavier would have been great for the computer numbers but also help the team pass the "eye" test.
While Bobby Lutz's team lost to a good team, Dayton dropped a disastrous game on the road. The only losses acceptable for the A-10 teams at this point are to the other tourney contenders. Losing to Duquesne, by those standards, makes that loss unacceptable. Dayton had a chance to hold on against the Dukes, but failed to execute down the stretch en route to the devastating loss.
Several major-conference teams suffered death blows on Saturday. Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida, Seton Hall, and South Carolina are pretty much officially done. Mississippi is on its way after losing at home to Florida. Virginia Tech is hurting with its awful schedule and inability to win a game against Duke, in which the Blue Devils hovered around 20 percent shooting for the majority of the game.
Purdue 75, Illinois 65
Despite Demetri McCamey's absurd 16 assist game that tied John Wall for the season high in assists (more on him in a moment), Purdue showed why it belongs among the top teams in the country. It appears that three game streak early in Big 10 play was just a blip on the radar.
Purdue will likely be tough to knock off the top seed line at this point after Villanova's recent issues and Duke's struggles on the road.
Pittsburgh 70, Villanova 65
The Wildcats penchant for playing foul-plagued defense took hold in Pittsburgh once again as the Panthers went to the line 34 times, two Villanova players fouled out, and three more finished with four fouls. While the defense could have been better for Jay Wright's clubs, the offense failed Villanova for the first time since Nova's loss to Temple.
Player of the Year Race
John Wall or Evan Turner? The last time the nation was so undecided over something, teenage girls were freaking out over N'SYNC or the Backstreet Boys (for the record, my sister was an N'SYNC girl which naturally makes me want to hate them, so I'll take the Backstreet Boys any day).
The Wall/Turner debate has all the national personalities bickering at each other on Twitter, which creates a nice open forum.
Wall's case: He's dealt with the youth, the many different personalities and stars, and the hype quite well. He's hit more game-winning shots than most players will hit in their careers at the high school, college, and professional levels combined. He's the unquestioned floor general on what could be a national title winning team.
Turner's case: The Villain is having the best season in terms of production. The junior averages an absurd 19.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. He never leaves the floor in the games that matter most. Plus, he's not afraid of the nation's best defender (though ET isn't a believer).
What they did this weekend:
John Wall didn't particularly stand out against Vanderbilt, as the freshman scored an inefficient 13 points and dished out just one assist. However, it was his play at the end of the game that once again saved the Wildcats. Wall blocked fellow freshman John Jenkins' three-pointer in the final seconds to secure a Kentucky road win.
Evan Turner certainly strengthened his case with his second half dominance of Michigan State. Turner went into the Breslin Center and lit Sparty up for 16 second half points while the rest of his team faltered. With Thad Matta playing just six players, it will be important for Turner to continue to dominate second halves as fatigue wears on.
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