It was fun listening to Scott Van Pelt explain what ESPN meant by "Bracket Buster Weekend", "OK, so these are all teams who no one wants to face in the first round, playing each other, and these teams are mid-majors, with a lot of seniors, and maybe with a chip on their shoulder." OK, we get it, man.
But for an extra-special President's Weekend of Bracket Bustin', Friday was kind of quiet on the College Basketball scene. ESPN showed more Poker than College Hoops. And TNT had the Rookie vs. Sophomore NBA Game, and the Celebrity Game, which was notable for the moment of terror it inspired in New Orleans (more on that later, I guess).
But we're talking college hoops here, and that Bracket Buster (tm) special tonight was my Eagley lads of Winthrop of the Big South vs. Missouri State of the MVC, or as they are branding it now, The Valley!
Winthrop wins, 77-66, on Missouri State's floor. I could be wrong, but I do think that even if Winthrop gets bounced in the first round of the Big South tournament, they have effectively punched their ticket for the NCAA's. Undefeated in conference, winning against the third team in the MVC on the road should be enough for them to make it through no matter what. As I've said before, every middlin' Major Conference team should be rooting feverishly for Winthrop to go undefeated the rest of the way. Two Big South teams in the tournament would mean one of those sketchy Big 10 or ACC or Big East teams would be left in the cold (and I think some of them probably deserve to be). Fair warning--High Point of the Big South could easily win the conference tournament.
Winthrop's star player, Michael Jenkins proved that you can in fact hit a 3-pointer in 4 tenths of a second. He hit to bring Winthrop within 1 point at the half. The Eagles fell in love with the 3 in the second half, going 8-13 in the second half from deep.
Just a couple of years ago, this would have been the end of Missouri State's chances to get into the tournament, but after the crazy success of mid-majors last year, and the MVC in particular, in seems reasonable to assume that the MVC is sending at least 3, maybe 5 teams again. Missouri State is probably in. Don't be surprised though, if Winthrop cracks the 25 on Monday. They've been close for the last few weeks, and they have now won 13 games in a row.
Taking a quick look at the games on tap for tomorrow, the game that was probably meant to be a Bracket Buster (tm) Weekend game is Butler vs. Southern Illinois. Now that both of those teams have rankings in the Top 20, that name is probably a misnomer. Unless the Seeding Committee is high, these teams shouldn't be the dangerous 12 or 13 seeds come March. They should have 3 or 4 seeds. You can't be a Bracket Buster if you are a favorite in the first two rounds of the tournament. At least I don't think you can be.