ESPN set their schedule for this year's Bracket Buster Saturday earlier this week, and it's full of good mid-major battles. More TV talk along with the weekly look into SEC hoops action....
[ Updated February 5 ]
ESPN'S BRACKET BUSTERS
For the second straight season, ESPN reserved a Saturday late in the regular season for the mid-majors to show their stuff. This year's event falls on February 21st, and just this past Monday, the network released the schedule for this year's event. It's a chance for teams who don't normally get national air time to show off in front of fans from around the nation and, more importantly, the NCAA committee. Most of these teams will still have to win their conference tournaments to make the NCAA Tournament, but at this point in the season, every game is big. And on Bracket Buster Saturday, none will be bigger than these. Here's a look at the ten games ESPN chose to be a part of this year's showcase....
Creighton at Kent State: The Bluejays are currently just a couple games behind Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference but will head out of the league for this one. Kent State is 9-1 and leading the MAC East. KSU has a good RPI in the mid-50s, while Creighton's ranking of 69 could get some much-needed help with a big win over the Golden Flashes.
Manhattan at Wisconsin-Milwaukee:
It's another non-conference battle when the MAAC travels to the Horizon League. Wisconsin-Milwaukee has yet to lose a conference game, while the Jaspers are a near-perfect 9-1 in league play. Both teams are in pretty good shape with their RPI, which is currently in the mid-50s. The Panthers' Luis Flores is one of the nation's top scorers at over 23 points per game.
|Manhattan Guard Luis Flores|
Manhattan guard Luis Flores averages over 23 points per game and is one of the nation's best players you won't often see. February 21st is your chance on ESPN's Bracket Buster Saturday.
College of Charleston at Western Michigan: The Broncos are leading the MAC West with a 9-1 conference record and will host Charleston, tied for the Southern Conference's lead in the South divison. WMU has received some national attention this year for their success and could get more with a win in this televised matchup. Charleston needs to improve a number 75 ranking in the RPI.
Gonzaga at Tulsa: Everyone knows about the Zags and their success. Gonzaga's only two losses came to the only two unbeaten teams in America, St. Joseph's and Stanford. Tulsa is a dismal 7-12 on the season but will almost surely give the Bulldogs a tough test in Oklahoma. Tulsa's Jason Parker is one of the nation's best scorers at over 19 per contest.
Hawaii at Southern Illinois: Both of these teams have had recent success in the Tournament and could get back there again this year. The Salukis are 11-0 in the Missouri Valley and running away with the conference title so far. The Warriors are knotted up atop the WAC standings. Both teams have great RPIs in the 30s.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Rice: The Owls are the other team tied up with Hawaii in the WAC, while the Ragin' Cajuns from ULL are leading the way in the Sun Belt. Both teams will likely need to win their conference tournament to make the NCAA Tournament due to their RPI ratings: ULL at number 91 and Rice at number 71.
East Tennessee State at Fresno State: East Tennessee State is leading the Southern Conference with an undefeated 10-0 record. Fresno State has struggled this season to only a 10-8 record. With RPIs not ranked all that highly, both teams will need to pull out victories in their respective conference tournaments to advance to the Big Dance.
Toledo at Nevada: The Rockets are second in the MAC West with a 9-2 league record, while Nevada comes in with a disappointing 7-3 WAC record. The Wolfpack got plenty of early-season attention with an upset win over Kansas but have not kept the momentum going in league play. The 'Pack's RPI is not too shabby at number 49 in the country.
Southwest Missouri State at Miami (Ohio): Both of these teams will need to win their conference tournaments to advance to the NCAA Tournament because they haven't fared all that well in conference play. SMS is only 6-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference, while the Redhawks come in with a 7-3 mark so far in MAC action.
Austin Peay at Wichita State: Wichita State has a respectable RPI rating in the 70s but is only 7-4 in Missouri Valley play. Austin Peay is leading the Ohio Valley Conference with an unbeaten 9-0 mark, but it is actually Murray State who looks more impressive this year out of the OVC.
HERE AND THERE
....Bravo to former Ohio State RB Maurice Clarett for finally moving on with his life. He has caused nothing but aches and pains for himself, his team, his university, and everyone who loves college football with his ongoing saga. He wanted to leave OSU for the NFL and has finally gotten his wish. Adios!....
....It's a shame that the college hoops TV schedules can't be made out week-by-week like those in college football. We as fans miss too many of the big games each week because we are stuck with games the "experts" thought were going to be good when they made the schedule out a few months before the season began. I can understand why since college hoops games are played seven days a week, and the travel plans would be affected...but it's still a shame!....
....I have grown to like Dick Vitale less and less throughout this season. No matter where he goes, he loves to give his props to his favorite ACC schools. If that wasn't enough, he insists are acting like the teams who he is viewing each individual night are the top two teams in the country (behind Duke and UNC of course). Then, when he moves on the next night, those two teams are the flavor of the day. Example: "Dickie V" praised Mississippi State's effort against Kentucky in Starkville when the Bulldogs lost on a last-second shot to UK. He commented that night on how that MSU team was for real and deserved a national ranking. The only ESPN.com writer not to vote MSU into the website's Power 16 the next week? Vitale himself....
....Already this week, three members of the SCS.com Fab 15 have been defeated. (#11) Cincinnati fell across town at Xavier and (#12) Georgia Tech was knocked off at Florida State, both on Tuesday. (#6) Louisville followed those teams up with a loss of their own at Memphis late Wednesday night. A few more potential upsets this weekend? (#4) Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, (#6) Louisville vs UAB, (#9) Oklahoma State at Iowa State, (#12) Georgia Tech at Tennessee....
THIS WEEK IN SEC HOOPS
Kentucky pulled out a big win at Florida Tuesday night after trailing most of the second half. It was the Gators' second SEC loss at home so far this season. Wednesday night was fairly uneventful in the SEC this week with each of the scheduled four games turning out as most expected them to.
If there was a surprise, it was the way the Arkansas Razorbacks dominated Auburn in the Bud Walton Arena. Stan Heath's Hogs jumped out to a twenty-point lead in the first half and never looked back on their way to a twenty-two point victory. LSU picked up their second league win in a row with a seventeen-point victory over Tennessee. The Volunteers are nearing the end of a stretch that has Buzz Peterson's club playing nine teams in a one-month period, seven of them currently ranked in the top 25 and another that has been ranked at times this season. Also on Wednesday, South Carolina survived a scare at home against Alabama. USC's Kerbrell Brown buried a three-point shot near the end of regulation to send the game to overtime. The Gamecocks then pulled away in the extra period for an eight-point win. The only other SEC game of the mid-week saw Georgia pull out a home victory over Mississippi in Athens.
Eleven of the twelve SEC teams are in action this weekend in five conference games and one non-conference showdown. The biggest matchup of the weekend is in Lexington where Kentucky will host South Carolina. Both teams pulled out close wins earlier in the week and will now battle for the top spot in the SEC East. The other early game Saturday is between LSU and Arkansas in Baton Rouge. A Tiger win would keep LSU no more than two games behind league-leading Mississippi State. The out-of-conference tilt between Tennessee and Georgia Tech will be yet another tough test for the Volunteers. Though they get a break from SEC play, this game won't be any easier for UT as the Jackets are currently ranked in the top 15.
Georgia and Auburn meet on the Plains Saturday afternoon. Both teams desperately need a win in this one to keep their Tourney hopes alive. It's an in-state battle in Starkville when Mississippi State hosts Mississippi. The Bulldogs are leading the SEC and are one of the nation's hottest teams. Rick Stansbury's club kicked down the door and hopped into the top ten nationally this past week. The final game of the weekend has Vanderbilt traveling to Florida. The 'Dores picked up a huge win over Kentucky last Saturday, and this test will be just as tough. UF has already lost three games at the O'Connel Center this year and certainly cannot afford to drop another one.
|*SEC WEEKEND SCHEDULE*|
|South Carolina at Kentucky 12:00 JP*|
|Arkansas at LSU 12:00 JP*|
|Georgia Tech at Tennessee 2:00 ABC*|
|Georgia at Auburn 3:00|
|Mississippi at Miss. State 4:30 FSN/SS*|
|Vanderbilt at Florida 6:30 FSN/SS*|
|Times CDT     (*) Regional TV|
The Mid-Week's Top Player: Darrel Mitchell....The sophomore guard scored 22 points in LSU's victory over Tennessee Wednesday night. Mitchell shot 8 of 11 from the field (73%) and was 6 of 9 (67%) from behind the arc. The Louisiana native also had 8 assists and 2 steals in the conference win.
On the Rise: Mississippi State....The Bulldogs picked up two huge wins last week against Tennessee and at Auburn. Those victories vaulted Rick Stansbury's club into the top ten nationally for the second consecutive season and have the Dawgs leading the way in the SEC. MSU hosts in-state rival Mississippi on Saturday after taking the mid-week off.
On the Slide: Florida....Though they were once ranked number one in the country, the Gators have been falling fast as of late. UF has lost four of their previous six games, all SEC contests and two of them on their own home court. Amazingly, the Gators' NCAA hopes could be fading before their eyes if they don't get things turned around quickly.
NEW Tourney Time Projections:
NCAA: Mississippi State (2), Kentucky (3), South Carolina (5), Florida (7), LSU (7), Vanderbilt (9)
NIT: Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas
HOME: Georgia, Mississippi, Auburn
Top to Bottom: (1) Mississippi State, (2) Kentucky, (3) South Carolina, (4) LSU, (5) Vanderbilt, (6) Florida, (7) Tennessee, (8) Alabama, (9) Georgia, (10) Arkansas, (11) Auburn, (12) Mississippi
Weekend Predictions: Kentucky over South Carolina, LSU over Arkansas, Georgia Tech over Tennessee, Auburn over Georgia, Mississippi State over Mississippi, Florida over Vanderbilt
-Last Week's Predictions: 2-4 (.333)   |   SEC Season: 12-7 (.632)