RTC Daily Bracketbusters: Monday-ThursdayPosted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2010
Even though ESPN likes to hype up its Bracketbuster day, the fact is that the last few weeks of the season act like an elimination tournament with teams moving in and out of the NCAA Tournament, while other teams move up and down on a daily basis. While each and every game could theoretically have an impact on the Bubble and NCAA seeding, there are a few games that matter more than the others which we will feature over the next two weeks leading up to the conference tournaments. We will feature these in two posts per week. The first will be a post released on Sunday night for games from Monday through Thursday, and the second will be a post released on Thursday night for games from Friday through Sunday.
Georgia Tech at Clemson on Raycom/ESPN Full Court at 8 PM on Tuesday – This game is important not just for NCAA seeding, but also for ACC seeding. Both teams are currently occupying a position in the ACC standings where they could easily rank anywhere from 3rd in the conference all the way down to 7th in the conference. That conference rank could be the difference between having to play Duke or having to play UNC (ok, I’ll admit that was a cheap shot Tar Heel fans) early in the ACC Tournament. As you would expect from fairly similar teams, they both sit in the middle of most brackets. I could see either one going as high as a 6-seed or as low as a 9-seed when Selection Sunday roles around and these head-to-head match-ups will play a huge role in where they fit in the bracket.
Memphis at UAB on Comcast Sports South at 9 PM on Wednesday – It still seems incredible after all these years of John Calipari‘s teams dominating Conference USA that the Tigers are no longer dominating CUSA any more. In fact, these two Conference USA teams will be playing for more than the #2 seed in the CUSA Tournament (UTEP is in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed) when they meet in Birmingham. They might be playing for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament as well. Most bracketologists have the Blazers as one of their last teams in while the Tigers are one of the last teams out. A win by Josh Pastner‘s squad could cause the teams to flip positions into and out of the bracket overnight. Normally I might make this game even higher, but I’m not buying the UTEP Kool-Aid and the loser could still get in with either a win in the conference tournament over the other or could potentially win the CUSA Tournament outright.
Oklahoma State at #24 Texas A&M on ESPN at 9 PM on Wednesday – Both teams are coming off huge home wins. Now the question is whether they can sustain the momentum. The Cowboys will need to show they can win away from the land of perpetual T. Boone Pickens money and the Aggies will need to show they can win against a team that isn’t collapsing. Both teams are currently in a group of five Big 12 teams with in-conference records of either 8-6 or 9-5. A win here or there could mean the difference between finishing 3rd in the conference or finishing 7th in the conference and even though OSU has a win over KU everybody in the Big 12 (and the country) wants to avoid the Jayhawks for as long as possible in any tournament (Big 12 or NCAA). Right now both teams are in the 6-8 seed range, but a hot or cold streak to finish the season could mean anywhere from a 5-seed to a 10-seed for these two teams.
#19 Vanderbilt at Florida on ESPN at 7 PM on Tuesday – The Gators are coming off a tough two-point loss at Georgia, but their prior three-game winning streak has assured them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now they are entering a two-game stretch (home versus Vanderbilt then at Kentucky) where it might appear that they can only help their NCAA seed and a win could boost them 2-3 spots, but if they lose these two and their opener in the SEC Tournament a four-game losing streak might be enough to take them to the NIT for the third straight year. As for the Commodores, they have a treacherous two-game finish in Gainesville then at home against Devan Downey and company. They are currently chasing a #3 or #4 seed, but a loss in either of those games could cripple their chances at getting a top-4 seed (barring an upset victory over Kentucky in the SEC Tournament). Technically they still have a chance of winning the SEC regular season title (if they win out and the Wildcats finish on a 3-game losing streak), but we don’t see that happening.
#9 Villanova at Cincinnati on ESPN2 at 7 PM on Tuesday – The question here is how these teams respond to difficult loses on Saturday. Villanova’s loss was more visible and watched (by just about everyone in upstate New York–aka everything outside of NYC), but the Bearcats suffered a difficult loss in Morgantown where they blew a 2nd half lead before falling just short. The Wildcats loss likely will keep them out of a #1 seed, but the Bearcats loss might be enough to keep them out the NCAA Tournament altogether. A win here for Villanova would be big to ensure that they stay on the 2-seed line while Cincinnati needs a win here and probably at Georgetown along with 1 or 2 wins in the Big East Tournament to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
Illinois at #7 Ohio State on ESPN at 9 PM on Tuesday – Heading into their first meeting on Valentine’s Day, it looked like the Illini were a lock to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Then the Fighting Illini got crushed by 19 at home. Now after losing 3 of their last 4 games Bruce Weber‘s squad is in danger of playing their way out of the NCAA Tournament especially with a game against Wisconsin looming to finish the season. The Buckeyes are probably set as a 3-seed at worst (and might possibly get to a 2-seed if they win out) and have a solid shot at sweeping the Big Ten regular season and Conference Tournament having won 12 of their past 14 games with the two losses against a pair of top 10 teams (West Virginia and Purdue) by a combined 9 points.
#20 Georgetown at #8 West Virginia on ESPN at 7 PM on Monday – The marquee game of “Big Monday” with a pair of teams heading in the wrong direction late in the season. Georgetown is coming off an awful loss at home against a Luke Harangody-less Notre Dame team. Now they will be without Austin Freeman who is out with what appears to be gastroenteritis. The Hoyas have slipped from a certain 3-seed to a questionable 4-seed who might not get to stay in their home pod thanks to the loaded Big East and some other teams in their geographic region. The Mountaineers are also a difficult team to get a good feel for, but should stay at the 3-seed line or above thanks to a strong RPI (6th) and SOS (7th). They should be able to pull out a win here despite their fairly weak backcourt play thanks to Freeman’s absence and the homecourt.
Connecticut at Notre Dame on ESPN at 7 PM on Wednesday – Two bubble teams that appear to sit on opposite sides of the bubble with the Huskies on the inside and the Irish on the outside. That could all change with this game. The difference between this game and our #9 game is that there is no way the loser of this game will win its conference tournament to get an automatic bid to make up for a loss here. Without Harangody, we would normally lean heavily towards the Huskies, but this game is at the Joyce Center and the Irish are coming off a huge road win at Georgetown while the Huskies are coming off a bad home loss to Louisville. We guarantee that every coach and fan of a bubble team will be keeping an eye on this game as it will be the biggest of the week for that group of teams.
#5 Kansas State at #2 Kansas on Big 12 Network/ESPN Full Court at 8 PM on Wednesday – As we mentioned before, we cannot fathom how this game is not on national TV. Having said that, this is huge game. It is only the second top-5 match-up of the season and we might not see another one all season including in the Final 4. Kansas comes in licking its wounds from an embarrassing road loss at Oklahoma State, but they boast the nation’s longest home win streak and have won 34 straight at home against their in-state rivals. Having said all that there is much more on the line for the Wildcats. Bill Self‘s crew already has a #1 seed and the Big 12 regular season title wrapped up so they “don’t have a lot to play for” although we are sure they’re going to be amped up to crush Frank Martin‘s squad. On the other sideline, the Wildcats will be playing for a chance at a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The only thing holding this game back from the #1 spot in this week’s rankings is that it basically has no impact on the conference rankings. It is almost enough to make you think it should be on national TV. . .
#4 Duke at #23 Maryland on ESPN at 9 PM on Wednesday – I know what all of you are thinking: How can this game beat out a top-5 match-up? (Other than the fact that this one will actually be televised for most of the nation.) The answer is quite simple. Not only is it a huge rivalry game, but for Duke it also could help determine a NCAA Tournament #1 seed for one team and for Maryland it could help clinch a share of a shocking ACC regular season title (seriously, did you have any idea that the Terrapins were even close to that) or win it outright (you know that UNC would love to ruin Duke‘s Senior Day) and boost them into consideration for a 4-seed. In addition it will probably go a long way towards determining the ACC POY award: Jon Scheyer versus Greivis Vasquez. While this game isn’t quite what the 2001 Duke-Maryland games were, it has just about everything you could ask for in a RTC Daily Bracketbuster.