BracketBusters proves disastrous for a handful of bubble teams
BracketBusters is actually robbing mid-majors like Siena of at-large chances
Big Ten picture is clearest of any league: should get no more or less than five
Pac-10 is essentially mid-major, so even league title shouldn't guarantee berth
BracketBusters was a neat idea when it started seven years ago. Mid-majors, always handicapped in scheduling and hungry for TV exposure, were given a prime mid-February opportunity to shine.
But in 2010, this thing ain't working. At least not for the mid-majors.
Old Dominion, William & Mary, Siena and Wichita State all faced road tests this past weekend, and all flunked with various degrees of severity. Now, it's going to be exceedingly difficult for any of them to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
For every George Mason, which helped play its way into the 2006 tournament (and subsequently the Final Four) by winning at Wichita State, there are many William & Mary's, who badly hurt their tourney chances. The net result is more at-large opportunities for big-conference teams -- the exact opposite of what this event was supposed to achieve.
BracketBusters isn't as brazenly distasteful as football's BCS, under which non-BCS teams can earn an eight-figure payday in exchange for not bucking a system that gives them practically no chance to play for the national title. The impact here is more subtle. Win your BracketBusters game and get 70 cents on the dollar worth of value for beating another mid. Lose, and crush your at-large hopes.
Bottom line: For the mids, the risks of these games now outweigh the rewards. The modest TV exposure and return game next season (when mids get a chance to double up on the cannibalization) aren't worth the potential hit to their chances of making the NCAAs, where real money and real exposure are available.
If I were a top mid-major program, I'd refuse to play in BracketBusters again unless the event also involved borderline at-large teams from major conferences. If that won't happen (and it won't), then it makes more sense to play a high-major on the road. Maybe you pull the upset and get a vaunted quality win. Maybe you just cash a decent check.
Either option is better than the BracketBusters status quo.
Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
Send your very valuable feedback to email@example.com or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response. Readers who claim their team's record is wrong because they failed to read the previous paragraph will get to play a road BracketBusters game.
Summary key -- GW: Good wins over top 50ish foes (home league wins judged more strictly), BL: Bad losses to teams outside top 100 or to direct bubble competitors.
Duke continues to get things done at home and remains a sneaky possibility for the final No. 1 seed slot, currently occupied by Purdue. After the Blue Devils, the next highest ACC seed this week is a No. 7.
SHOULD BE IN
Wake Forest (18-7, 8-5, RPI: 21, SOS: 25) is coming off a bad performance at N.C. State. That capped an 0-2 road week for the Deacons, who should be fine but will drop several seeds this week.
Maryland (18-7, 9-3, RPI: 35, SOS: 28) capped off what should be an NCAA-bid-ensuring week with a miracle three to beat Georgia Tech (for the second time). The work is not quite done, but should be if the Terps beat Clemson at home. The final three (at Virginia Tech, Duke, at Virginia) aren't cake, but expect the Terps to dance.
IN THE MIX
Clemson (19-7, 7-5, RPI: 34, SOS: 34) did get all three home games it needed and now has a bit of breathing room. The Tigers' final quartet of games includes trips to Maryland, FSU and Wake, so the Tigers can't rest on their laurels. Their profile is still not all that good.
Virginia Tech (21-5, 8-4, RPI: 44, SOS: 142) couldn't get it done at Duke, but few do. Still in third in the balanced ACC and looking likely to nab at least two more wins. A 10-6 mark in this league will be plenty, despite the abominable nonleague slate.
Florida State (19-7, 7-5, RPI: 40, SOS: 57) took care of business at slumping Virginia and is now set up to push its way into the NCAAs. The remaining schedule looks less daunting than it did a few weeks ago thanks to UNC's and Georgia Tech's struggles and Clemson's mild road form.
Georgia Tech (17-9, 6-7, RPI: 32, SOS: 18) was on the verge of a huge road win Saturday, but had it stolen away by Maryland's buzzer-beating three. Could that shot keep the Jackets out of the NCAAs? We'll see. They have a week to recover for a must-get home date with BC. The next one, at Clemson, could be enormous.
Locks: Kansas, Kansas State
Kansas is establishing itself as the nation's best team and K-State is establishing itself as a legit Final Four threat. Not a bad 1-2 punch at the top, especially since Texas isn't a part of it. This conference is going to get six, and Oklahoma State has every chance to make it seven.
SHOULD BE IN
Texas (21-6, 7-5, RPI: 25, SOS: 46) got an important road win at Texas Tech on Saturday. A lot of folks come out of Lubbock with an L. Now with Oklahoma State and Oklahoma left at home, 9-7 seems very reasonable. The 'Horns will be fine; just working on their seeding.
Texas A&M (18-7, 8-4, RPI: 13, SOS: 4) gave Kansas everything it wanted at home, then scraped past Iowa State to cap a satisfactory, if not totally satisfying, week. The Aggies are another team now playing for seeding.
IN THE MIX
Missouri (20-7, 8-4, RPI: 39, SOS: 59) had a strong consolidation week, taking out Texas at home and then rolling at Nebraska. Without needing an upset, the Tigers are now looking at 10 Big 12 wins, which is more than enough to dance. Beating Kansas or winning at K-State would be seeding gravy.
Baylor (19-6, 7-5, RPI: 15, SOS: 21) couldn't get it done at Oklahoma State, but that probably helps the Pokes more than it hurts the Bears. None of the final four are gimmes, but they're all winnable, too. Get a split, get to 9-7, and get ready to find out your draw on Selection Sunday. Even 8-8 probably would do it this season, but there's no need to cut it close.
Oklahoma State (19-5, 7-5, RPI: 29, SOS: 39) got the two must-games last week, in Ames and then home to Baylor. Now the Pokes enter what will be a season-deciding gauntlet: at Texas, Kansas, at A&M. With Nebraska at home in the finale, wins in any one of those three will set up 9-7, which probably will be enough. Getting even one won't be easy, though.
Texas Tech (16-10, 4-8, RPI: 46, SOS: 13) is more or less done after losing at Baylor and to Texas. Barring something like six straight wins, starting with home to K-State, an at-large looks rather unlikely.
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