Saturday, February 23rd Highlighted Match-ups (Bracket Buster Edition)

Saturday, February 23rd Highlighted Match-ups (Bracket Buster Edition)
Feb 23, 2008, 04:28 am

-TENNESSEE AT MEMPHIS. This is one of the most anticipated match-ups of the regular season this year. They’re the top two teams in the country, and the winner will most likely emerge as the unanimous #1 next week. In addition to that, the winner will be in the driver’s seat to earn a #1 seed. Both teams are extremely athletic and love to push the pace, especially Tennessee. We should see a very exciting, fast paced game in front of an enthusiastic crowd. In the grand scheme of things neither team is in any danger of missing the tournament and losing this game won’t prevent either team from being in a position to go deep into it. It’s very possible that both teams will end up with a #1 seed and/or make the Final Four, but it’s still a huge regular season match-up that the committee will look at when they’re dishing out the #1s.

-DRAKE AT BUTLER (Bracket Buster). Drake has lost two straight coming into this game, but they’re still a virtual lock to finish first in the Missouri Valley and make the NCAA Tournament. Their seed has taken a hit with their recent losses, though, but they can offset that with a win in this game. Butler has virtually locked up home court advantage for their conference tournament, and they’ll almost assuredly make the NCAAs even if they fail to win the automatic bid. Both teams are merely playing for seeding, but since this would be the most impressive win of the season for either team there is quite a bit at stake.

-KENT STATE AT SAINT MARY’S (Bracket Buster). Saint Mary’s is a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament, and they’re in a race with Gonzaga to finish first in the West Coast standings. It should be exciting watch those two duke it out down the stretch, and then possibly again in the conference tourney. Kent State is on the outside of the bubble, but a win like this on the road would be the standout win that they need to make a strong case that they belong in the NCAA Tournament. In addition to winning this they’ll need to finish strong in the MAC. Getting into position to earn an at-large bid is very important, especially considering how competitive the MAC is.


-SAINT JOHN’S AT DUKE. Duke is coming off an upset loss to Miami FL, and now steps out of conference for a match-up against a struggling Saint John’s team. A loss would do some damage to the Blue Devils’ hopes to get a #1 seed, but if they can finish first in the ACC standings and/or win the ACC Tournament they’ll be in the discussion for the #1 seed in the Charlotte Region regardless of what happens in this game. That being said, Saint John’s hasn’t been playing well and it doesn’t look like they’ll put up much of a fight.

-RUTGERS AT MARQUETTE (Big East). Rutgers has struggled on the road for most of the season and seeing as how they’re just 2-12 in their last 14 games it’s hard to imagine that they’ll put up much of a fight in this one. In fact Rutgers will struggle just to get into the Big East Tournament. Marquette, on the other hand, has won three straight and looked rather impressive in all three wins. Winning this game would continue to add to their momentum and sustain their current NCAA Tournament credentials.

-IOWA AT MICHIGAN STATE (Big Ten). Iowa upset Michigan State in a low scoring, somewhat sloppy affair earlier this year, but winning in East Lansing is going to be a much tougher order. Michigan State snapped a two game losing streak with a blowout win against Penn State earlier this week. That win avenged an upset loss from earlier this season. The Spartans will look to do the same against the Hawkeyes tonight.

-INDIANA AT NORTHWESTERN (Big Ten). Indiana has been playing outstanding basketball since they learned that former head coach Kelvin Sampson was in trouble. It will be interesting to see how well they do now that he’s been dismissed. One wouldn’t expect them to have too much trouble with Northwestern, but with the way the week has gone and with talk of a possible walkout by multiple players, it’s hard to know what to expect in this one.

-WISCONSIN AT OHIO STATE (Big Ten). Wisconsin is in a three way tie for first place in the Big Ten, so every game is going to be crucial down the stretch in regards to that. The standings, as well as how they finish, will be evaluated by the committee when it comes to seeding. Ohio State needs this win more than Wisconsin does. Wiscy is playing for seeding, but Ohio State has lost three of their last five, and without too many quality wins they’re playing just to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes will face several tough teams between now and the end so they’ll have plenty of chances to make their case, but they’ll need to win a few big games to feel safe and this is a big opportunity for them.

-KANSAS AT OKLAHOMA STATE (Big Twelve). Oklahoma State has won three out of their last four and beaten some pretty good teams in that stretch. They’ve had a poor season, but will actually be coming into this game with some momentum. Kansas is in first place in the league standings, and is in the mix for a #1 seed. They’ll need to finish strong in order to get it. Just one loss could keep them from getting it. Regardless of what happens, they’re a solid team and assuming they stay healthy they’ll be dangerous in the NCAAs.

-BYU AT SAN DIEGO STATE (Mountain West). BYU’s winning streak now stands at nine games and it looks as though they’re safely in the NCAA Tournament so long as they don’t undergo a collapse in the final leg of the season. San Diego State has had a good year as well, but it’s looking like they’ll need the automatic bid to get them in. They only have two losses at home this year and nearly beat BYU the first time these two played, so we could be in for a closer game than many expect.

-MISSISSIPPI STATE AT SOUTH CAROLINA (SEC). Mississippi State remains in first place in the SEC West, and if they win the games between now and the end of the season to hang onto that standing then they’re a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament. They can’t afford a meltdown, though, because they didn’t do all that much out of conference that will impress the committee.

-OREGON STATE AT USC (Pac Ten). USC picked up a huge win against Oregon earlier in the week, and should be able to take care of Oregon State as well, who is one of the worst teams in the conference. USC had been in a slump, but if they can take care of business today and pick up their second straight win against the Oregon teams then they should be back on track.

-OKLAHOMA AT TEXAS (Big Twelve). This is Part II of this season’s Red River Shootout. Texas won the first meeting on the road and appears to be playing as well as anyone right now. Okalahoma has been streaky this season, but they do come into this game with three straight wins. A win for the Sooners would be their biggest of the season so far and boost their resume, which would have a positive impact on their seed. Texas can help out their seed as well, especially considering that they’re tied with Kansas for first place in the league. Regardless of what happens, both teams appear to be headed for the NCAAs, but it’s still a big game because of the implications it has on seeding, not to mention the conference standings.

-NEBRASKA AT TEXAS A&M. Nebraska got off to a disappointing start to conference play, but has managed to win four of their last seven and is coming off an upset win against Kansas State. They haven’t managed a road win nearly as impressive as this one would be, though, and will have to finish strong just to secure a spot in the NIT. TAMU has lost two in a row and should enter this game with a purpose. They’re safely in the NCAA Tournament for now and this is a winnable game for the Aggies, which is important when it comes to the conference standings.

-OREGON AT UCLA (Pac Ten). UCLA is still in a race with Stanford to finish first in the league. They can get one step closer to a first place finish and put another quality win on their resume if they can take care of business in this one. Oregon is closer to the bubble than they’d like to be and could be in trouble if they go into a slump between now and the end. A big road win like this would be huge and all but assure them a spot in the NCAAs, though.

-GEORGIA AT VANDERBILT (SEC). Vandy has won five in a row and should be favored to make it number six against Georgia today. They have a huge game coming up against Tennessee and don’t want to get caught looking ahead, though. It appears that they’re safely in the NCAA Tournament, but they could really do a lot to help themselves out as far as seeding goes with a strong finish to the season.

-ARIZONA AT WASHINGTON STATE (Pac Ten). Arizona is coming off a loss to Washington in a game that they really needed to win. They’ll be facing an even tougher challenge against Wazzu today, and it could end up being their third straight loss. Arizona’s credentials have been taking a hit and they could really use a win like this to resuscitate them, which would help them get a better seed. Wazzu has been playing well lately and this is definitely a winnable game for them, which would be another quality win on their resume.


-KANSAS STATE AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve). Baylor lost a wild one to Oklahoma in their last game, which was their sixth loss in seven games. They need some big wins in order to get their season and their credentials back on track. This is a very pivotal game for the Bears. Kansas State is a good team, and if they win it will give Baylor’s resume a boost. If they lose they’ll fall to just 5-7 in the conference, which would land them outside the bubble with only a few games to play their way back in. This is a big game for Kansas State as well because they’re coming off an upset loss to Nebraska, but are still just a game behind Texas and Kansas for first place in the standings. Both teams have a lot to play for, so it should be a good one.

-CINCINNATI AT GEORGETOWN (Big East). Cincinnati isn’t quite on the bubble yet, but if they win this game they certainly will be. They have five games remaining in the regular season, and I believe that if they can win four of them they’ll make the NCAA Tournament. That is a huge accomplishment for a team that started off as poorly as Cincinnati did. As for Georgetown, they’re safely in the dance, but there is quite a bit at stake in terms of their potential seed. They’re also in a tight, four-way race for first place in the Big East standings, so in that regard every game is pivotal between now and the end.

-RICE AT HOUSTON (Conference USA). Houston’s loss to UAB earlier this week probably eliminates them from any serious at-large consideration. They may be in the discussion if they win out and lose in the championship game of the conference tournament, but it’s very possible that won’t even be enough.

-ARKANSAS AT KENTUCKY (SEC). Kentucky has just two wins against the RPI top 100. They came against Vanderbilt and Tennessee, though, so both wins were very solid. This is a big game for Kentucky because a win would add another quality win to their profile. If they can finish strong then it’s very possible that they’ll play their way into the NCAA Tournament. I’d say they need to win four of their last five regular season games, and then avoid an early exit from the SEC Tournament in order to feel safe. Arkansas could use a road win as well. They have a pretty strong profile, but have been a streaky, inconsistent team this season. If they go into the tank between now and the end they’ll be in trouble come Selection Sunday.

-MISSISSIPPI AT LSU (SEC). Ole Miss finally got a big win earlier this week when they avenged an earlier loss to rival Mississippi State. They still have quite a bit of work to do if they want to safely get back into the NCAA Tournament picture. LSU has had a substandard year, but has played well in their last few games. It’s the kind of game that Ole Miss must be able to win because LSU is not a tournament team. If Ole Miss wants to dance they need to be able to win against non-tournament teams, especially now that they’re on the bubble.

-MARYLAND AT MIAMI, FL (ACC). Miami just picked up a huge, much needed win against Duke that could end up being a deciding factor if they’re still on the bubble come Selection Sunday. They still aren’t safe, and could really use another big win today. Maryland, on the other hand, has lost two of their last three and is coming off a somewhat surprising loss to Virginia Tech. The Terps weren’t all that impressive out of conference, so they need to prove themselves in league play. So far they’ve done it, but if they go into the tank between now and the end there won’t be much to fall back on. This would be a nice win for them as well.

-NEW MEXICO AT UTAH (Mountain West). New Mexico has won five in a row, and with games against BYU and UNLV remaining between now and the end it’s possible that they’ll be in a position to get an at-large if they win out. This game today won’t be easy, though. It took overtime for the Lobos to beat them the first time.

-CONNECTICUT AT VILLANOVA (Big East). This is a huge game for Villanova. They went into a slump where they lost five straight games, but have now won three out of four to pull themselves out of it and can add a huge quality win to their resume which should get them into the field in the next Bracket Projections. UConn has been playing well and is one of the four teams in the hunt for first place, but they’ve had more than their share of close calls this season. Nova has looked outstanding in their last four games and are certainly good enough to pull off the upset and getting back inside the bubble.

-ARIZONA STATE AT WASHINGTON (Pac Ten). Arizona State played well against Wazzu the other night, but came up short. This is a winnable road game for the Sun Devils, and it’s one they really need to win because they’re right on the bubble. A win will put them at 7-7 in the league standings, plus add another road win to their resume.

-UNLV AT WYOMING (Mountain West). UNLV is on the bubble and should end up inside of it if they can manage to win out the regular season. Wyoming has really struggled this year so UNLV shouldn’t have too much trouble. They need to still play with a sense of urgency, though, because this is the kind of loss that would knock them out of the picture.


-VCU AT AKRON. VCU is in first place in the Colonial, and since the conference tournament is in their home city one has to like their chances of winning the automatic bid. They’re 12-2 in their last 14 games, but none of the wins are really going to jump out at the committee, so chances are they won’t make the dance without the automatic bid. Akron is a tough team as well, and the fans should be jacked up for this one. They come into this game having won two straight on the road, and will be among the teams who are favored to win the Mid American Tournament.

-GEORGIA SOUTHERN AT AUSTIN PEAY. If anyone has a shot at taking down Davidson in the SoCon Tournament, it’s Georgia Southern. Austin Peay looks to be the best team in the Ohio Valley. They can’t get in to the NCAAs without the automatic bid, but one has to like their chances.

-SIENA AT BOISE STATE. Boise State is having one of their best seasons in the past decade. They’ve won eight of their last nine and are in a tie for first in the WAC Standings. Normally the WAC regular season champ would be assured a bid, but not this year. Still, they’ll be among the favorites to win the conference tourney. Siena made headlines back in November when they upset Stanford, but they’ve lost two straight games coming into this one. They’re still in first place in the MAAC standings, but they’re tied with three other teams. If Siena does make the dance they’re looking at a rather poor seed.

-RIDER AT CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE. Both teams are in a tie for first place in their respective conferences. CS Northridge got off to a great start and have three straight wins coming into this one. Neither is looking at all that good of a seed if they make the NCAA Tournament, but don’t be surprised if one or both wins the automatic bid and makes the field.

-GEORGE MASON AT OHIO. Both of these teams could be dangerous first round opponents if they make the NCAA Tournament, and winning this game would help out in terms of seeding if that team went on to win their conference tournament. However, both teams have far too many bad losses on their resumes and can’t get in without the automatic bid. It should still be a good game, and both of these teams are certainly good enough to win their conference tourneys, so it’s possible we’ll see one or both of them in the Big Dance.

-CREIGHTON AT ORAL ROBERTS. Oral Roberts is running away with the Summit League and since the tournament is in their home city it looks as though they’ll be the hands down favorites to win it. With an RPI in the 40s they’ll get some consideration for an at-large if they win out, but fail to win their conference tournament. If that happens they’ll really be sweating, but they should at least be in the discussion. Creighton has played pretty well this season, especially considering how young they are, but it isn’t likely that they’ll get a bid to the dance without winning their conference tourney.

-NEVADA AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS. This would have been a great game a season ago since both teams were ranked in the top 15, but it’s still an interesting game this year, and given how young each team is it should be a great game next year when Southern Illinois travels to Nevada for the return game. Nevada has won seven out of nine, and Southern Illinois has won six out of eight, so both teams have been playing really well and have quite a bit of momentum coming in. Both have also been playing well enough to make quite a bit of noise within their leagues, and could even win their conference tournaments. Southern Illinois recently knocked off Drake and Nevada is just a game out of first place in the WAC.

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