Breaking Down the Bracketbusters…Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010
The BracketBuster matchups are out, and as promised, RTC is here with some analysis of some of the top games! Five Colonial Athletic Association teams lead the pack into these February weekend matchups. The Western Athletic Conference drew four bids and the Missouri Valley drew three. One problem with the BracketBusters? Five of the television games will be on ESPNU, which of course means they’re not available on ESPN360. However I’d say there are five games where you must, to quote another piece here, “quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live.”
Friday 2/19 (RPI)
Old Dominion (#46) @ Northern Iowa (#17) – 7 pm on ESPN2/ESPN360
The Monarchs will travel to Cedar Rapids to play where the Panthers have won every home game by an average of 14 points per game entering this week. 6’8 UNI senior Adam Koch is a tough-to-contain inside presence, scoring a team high 12.7 points per game. 6’10 ODU senior Gerald Lee will likely be assigned to the task of guarding Koch, an he has been a beast this year for the Monarchs, shooting 53% from the field and leading the team with 14.3 points per game. The matchup to watch in this game will be to see if Old Dominion can defend Koch on the inside while keeping their shooters, junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 ppg) and Senior Ali Farokhmanesh (team high 42 3-pointers made), at bay. Both teams are first in their respective conferences in FG percentage defense at eerily similar numbers: Old Dominion’s 39.5% FG-defense is 21st while Northern Iowa’s 39.9% ranks 37th nationally. The Monarchs have had some defensive trouble lately, trying zones at Northeastern on Saturday when facing a team with similar size and offensive weapons as the Panthers, to give up a season high 59.5% field goal percentage.
Saturday 2/20 (RPI)
Siena (#44) @ Butler (#19) – 11 am on ESPN2/ESPN360
The owner of the nation’s longest winning streak, Siena at thirteen straight, will go into an extremely tough environment at Butler in Saturday’s first Bracketbuster game. The Saints are led by 6’5 senior Edwin Ubiles and his 15.8 points per game as he makes his case for MAAC Player of the Year despite some lingering shoulder issues. Alex Franklin plays bigger than his 6’5 frame to lead the Saints down low with 16.1 points per game. On the other side, Butler’s Gordon Hayward has been a beast for the Bulldogs this year, scoring 16.1 points per game and tying a season-high 25 in Sunday’s comeback win over UW-Milwaukee. Hayward, a sophomore, is already attracting the attention of NBA scouts. Fellow sophomore Shelvin Mack has scored 15 points per game and Matt Howard, when not in foul trouble, scores 11 points per game. Howard has been tough to defend inside, going off for 23 points in Butler’s nine-point loss to Minnesota, but has had issues with foul trouble, getting disqualified in three of the Bulldogs’ four losses. It will be interesting to see how Siena defends Hayward and Howard and how this veteran Saints team led by seniors Ubiles, Franklin and Ronald Moore can contain this explosive offense on the road.
Morgan State (#66) @ Murray State (#83) – 12 pm on ESPNU
This is what BracketBusters were made for: both teams are a combined 19-0 in conference play going into the week and they’ll get to test their readiness for the NCAA Tournament in this matchup. Murray State has a high-flying offense that will get its first real test since December against Morgan State, a team from the MEAC that has won six straight road games. Morgan does not get it done pretty, as they are 5th in the MEAC in effective FG% at 47% but they managed to pull out a three-point win at Arkansas and played Louisville close away until falling by nine. Snow could not slow down their win streak, as they took 81 shots Sunday to score 100 points and beat Norfolk State in overtime. Sophomore Kevin Thompson has been tremendous, setting career highs in points (23) and rebounds (25) in an 87-80 win over Towson earlier this year. One key to Morgan State’s success is rebounding, where they are eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (41.0%). They will face a Murray State team that is third in the nation in two-point field goal percentage (an amazing 56.6%) led by a balanced attack. The Racers have five players averaging double figures and Tony Easley, the 6’9 senior, shoots an amazing 69.3% from the field. It will be interesting to see how the Bears plan to contain him and the offense in what will likely be both teams’ last test until the a potential NCAA Tournament automatic bid.
Louisiana Tech (#74) @ Northeastern (#56) – 1 pm on ESPN2/ESPN360
Louisiana Tech has impressed so far by starting out 18-4 including a ten-game winning streak this season. One reason to watch this game? Kyle Gibson has scored double-digit points in every game this season and had a season-high 29 in a 98-70 win over Northwestern State in December. LSU transfer Magnum Rolle has scored 50 points in the last two games and has recorded double-doubles in four of his last five. Rolle went off for a season-high 29 on 13-15 shooting in a 99-93 win over Houston earlier this year. However, they are not without flaws, as a team that allows opponents to shoot 36.5% from three point range and plays its bench only around 20 minutes per game. Meanwhile, the Huskies are hitting their stride again this year at the right time. Northeastern has won 12 of its last 13 games and shoots the third highest three point field goal percentage in the CAA. Chaisson Allen has taken over lately, scoring 19 in their Saturday win over Old Dominion and has shot 57.8% from the field in the last five games. The Huskies are the third-best in the CAA at 50.4% from inside the three-point arc. Most of that has been led by Nkem Ojougboh, the 6’9 senior whose season high 18 points propelled the Huskies to a 12-point home win over VCU earlier last month. Louisiana Tech needs an impressive win beyond their home wins over Murray State and Utah State, while Northeastern can use another win other than their three-point home win over Utah State to improve their RPI. I’m not sure Louisiana Tech will be able to handle how well the Huskies play at home.
Wichita State (#48) @ Utah State (#55) – Midnight on ESPN2
Fans will likely not regret staying awake for this game. Over the last three years Utah State has ranked first, fourth and, fifteenth in the nation in effective FG percentage. Leading the charge this year is 6’7 junior Tai Wesley who leads the team with 13.1 points per game. 6’1 senior Jared Quayle helped Utah State beat BYU by 10, delivering 22 points in that rivalry game. Quayle (45.3%) and junior Brian Green’s (45.8%) three-point shooting help the Aggies place fifth in the nation in three point shooting. However, they are in a tough fight for the WAC conference title and a tournament bid despite being one of two teams to beat BYU this year. Meanwhile Wichita State is searching for a signature win. Their best win is in the MVC over Northern Iowa and a two-point win over Texas Tech, both at home. The Shockers get the most production from the guards, as Clevin Hannah and Toure’ Murry are tied for the team-lead with 12.4 points per game. 6’7 junior J.T. Durley poured in a team-high 19 in the Shockers’ nine point home win over Northern Iowa to snap their 15-game win streak. What is really the Shockers’ calling card is their defense. They rank 45th in effective FG% defense and is tops in the Missouri Valley in holding teams to a 30.2% three point field goal percentage. This game is a must win for the Shockers if they want to have a legitimate NCAA Tournament resume: a 6-4 record in road/neutral games does not help their cause.
Other Games to Keep an Eye On
William & Mary at Iona Feb. 19, 9 pm on ESPNU
Nevada at Missouri State Feb. 20, 3 pm on ESPN2
Akron at Virginia Commonwealth 4 pm on ESPNU
College of Charleston at George Mason 8 pm on ESPN2
Western Carolina at Kent State 8 pm on ESPNU
New Mexico State at Pacific 10 pm on ESPNU
When not writing for Rush The Court, Ryan writes about Fantasy Baseball on Rotosavants.com and writes on his own website: RyanRestivo.com. Ryan is busy being immersed in baseball draft prep and has a very cool Fantasy Baseball project for drafts. You can contact him here.