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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.GW: at Gonzaga, Xavier, Richmond, at UNC (can't really be considered good at this point)BL: W&M?, at Miami, at N.C. State (neither great)
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.GW: Sweep of FSU, totality of ACC performanceBL: None, really, though William & Mary at home remains questionable
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.GW: Butler (N)BL: None, but handful to bubble competition: league foes GT and VT, plus A&M and Illinois
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.GW: Clemson (at home)BL: at Miami
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.GW: Sweep of Georgia TechBL: Home to N.C. State; swept by Maryland (for bubble purposes)
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.GW: Duke, Siena?, at UNC? (everyone's done it)BL: Nothing horrible, but swept by FSU and still under .500 in ACC
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.GW: Pitt (N), Michigan State, at Texas Tech?, UNC? (N)BL: None, although at Oklahoma and at UConn are disappointing
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.GW: Clemson (N), Minnesota? (N), at Missouri, at Texas Tech?BL: None
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.GW: K-State, at Texas Tech, Texas (albeit at home), ODU (N)BL: at Oral Roberts (plus at-large rivals Richmond, Vandy, A&M and Baylor)
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.GW: at Texas, Xavier (N), (for very modest bubble purposes) at Arizona StateBL: Nothing egregious
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.GW: at K-StateBL: at Tulsa, vs. URI (both fading bubblers)
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.GW: None, really (Washington and Oklahoma State at home?)BL: at Wichita State (fellow borderline bubbler)
Locks: Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, West Virginia, Pitt
Even at 8-6 in league play, Georgetown remains safe with wins over Villanova, Duke and Temple, to go with the nation's strongest schedule. The Hoyas would have to do something disastrous to miss out, but should they slip at Louisville and then home to Notre Dame this week, we'll take a closer look. Pitt rejoins with impressive wins at Marquette and over Villanova.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Marquette (17-9, 8-6, RPI: 59, SOS: 50) got a crucial road win at Cincinnati in overtime on Sunday to help ease the hurt from a home loss to Pitt. Team Bubble Watch remains on course for the predicted 11-7, although road games at Saint John's and Seton Hall now look more daunting than they did a couple weeks ago.GW: Xavier, GeorgetownBL: at DePaul, a ton of close ones overall
Louisville (18-9, 9-5, RPI: 30, SOS: 5) continues to win while others dither, and it's going to add up to an NCAA berth if things keep going this way. The Cards got the two crucial wins they needed this week, although neither was easy. With a difficult last four ahead (Georgetown, at UConn and Marquette, Syracuse), Louisville may be just two total wins away from an NCAA bid, although three (counting the Big East Tourney) would make things a lot more comfortable.GW: at Syracuse, (also beat BE bubblers USF and Cincy)BL: Charlotte (injury asterisk, but by 22), W. Carolina, at Seton Hall? (plus UNLV)
Cincinnati (15-11, 6-8, RPI: 56, SOS: 16) has some problems now after losing at USF and to Marquette. The Bearcats have DePaul next, but close at West Virginia, vs. Villanova and at Georgetown. They were very close to in this week, but the bubble always contracts, so Cincy could very well need to get two of those last three and get to 9-9.GW: Vandy (N), Maryland (N)BL: At Seton Hall and St. John's are disappointing; Gonzaga (OT) and Xavier (2OT) could be costly
Connecticut (16-11, 6-8, RPI: 45, SOS: 2) scoffed at BW's DOA notice last week, shocking Villanova on the road and then rolling at Rutgers to reignite its NCAA hopes. This week now features enormous home dates with West Virginia and Louisville. Get both and things suddenly are very realistic. Get one? Make it West Virginia, I guess, and then roll the dice at Notre Dame and USF to close the regular season.GW: Texas, at VillanovaBL: at Michigan and to a series of bubble battlers in the Big East
South Florida (16-10, 6-8, RPI: 64, SOS: 42) suffered the kind of home loss with everything at stake that makes you shake your head. After downing Cincy and being in strong position to make the NCAAs, the Bulls got crushed at home by St. John's. Now they head to ticked-off Nova and are staring at 6-9, which likely means they'd need to win at least four in a row after that to have legit at-large hopes.GW: at Georgetown, Pitt, Virginia (not so much anymore)BL: Central Michigan, vs. South Carolina?, plus big BE issues: Louisville, Marquette, and swept by ND
Notre Dame (17-10, 6-8, RPI: 79, SOS: 56) almost stole an epic win at Louisville without Luke Harangody, but a double-overtime loss doesn't cut it right now. The Irish look headed to the NIT.GW: West VirginiaBL: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern (N) (for bubble purposes), at Rutgers, at Seton Hall, St. John's
Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State
This is the major conference with the clearest picture. It stands a good chance of getting five bids, and probably is only getting five bids. In the four-team scrum at the top, Purdue has made its statement, winning at Ohio State and beating Illinois to make it nine in a row and move into a No. 1 seed in this week's bracket. The Buckeyes then bounced back to win at Michigan State and are benefiting from a Wisconsin slide.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Illinois (17-9, 9-5, RPI: 68, SOS: 49) lost at Purdue despite 16 assists from Demitri (Yes, I played with Evan Turner in high school) McCamey, and now has a very important road game at Michigan on Tuesday before a home game with Minnesota. Could be a make-or-break week for the Illini, who close at Ohio State and vs. Wisconsin.GW: at Clemson, Vandy, Mich State (w/o Kalin Lucas), at WisconsinBL: Utah, Bradley, Georgia
Minnesota (16-8, 7-7, RPI: 75, SOS: 60) pulled a UConn, unexpectedly crushing Wisconsin at home and then routing Indiana to get back to .500 and shockingly close to reentering the bracket. This is now an enormous week for the Gophers, who host Purdue and then visit the Illini. Wins over Butler and Ohio State (with Turner) also continue to look strong.GW: Butler, Ohio State (with Turner), WisconsinBL: Portland (N), at Indiana, at Miami, Michigan, at Northwestern (bubbler)
Northwestern (17-10, 6-9, RPI: 94, SOS: 93) gamely tried to rally at Wisconsin for a season-saving upset, but fell short. Now the Wildcats probably must win six in a row, making the semis of the Big Ten tourney in the process, to even have a claim. The last three in league play (Iowa, at Penn State, at Indiana) are not going to help them, nor is the nonleague game against Chicago State.GW: PurdueBL: at Iowa, Penn State
Fact of the week from the inimitable Jerry Palm: Only eight teams without an RPI Top 50 win have received at-large bids in the last 16 seasons, and none in the last three (when a number of current Selection Committee members were voting). In related news, Cal is 0-4 vs. the RPI Top 50 and looks very likely to end the season without a win in that category.
Cal's atrocious performance at Oregon State (I watched it) wasn't just bad, it was utterly indifferent. It is very reasonable to say that the Pac-10 should be treated like a mid-major conference this season and that only the tournament winner will be assured an NCAA bid. If teams like last year's Creighton and New Mexico didn't make it with shares of comparable conference titles in their pocket, a Pac-10 crown shouldn't put Cal in either, despite a weak bubble. Reminder: Eligible Pac-10 teams are 2-24 in nonleague games vs. the RPI top 50.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
California (18-9, 10-5, RPI: 24, SOS: 10) continues to have killer computer numbers due to a 12-2 record vs. the RPI 100-199 and only one 200+ game. Despite early-season injury credit, though, the Golden Bears have a thoroughly unworthy at-large profile. As noted above, the Pac-10 is essentially a good mid-major league this season, so a league title, especially with five or six losses, shouldn't be enough to guarantee an NCAA bid.GW: None (home vs. Washington is the best win)BL: UCLA, at Oregon State
Arizona State (19-8, 9-5, RPI: 58, SOS: 76) held off Arizona to stay in second. The Sun Devils still play at Cal on Saturday, so they control their own fate to get at least a share of the league title. They also have a better win (San Diego State) than Cal, but are just 4-7 against the RPI Top 100.GW: San Diego StateBL: at UCLA
Washington (18-9, 8-7, RPI: 51, SOS: 39) losing at home to USC may have ended the Huskies' at-large hopes. An 11-7 mark and a loss in the Pac-10 final isn't at-large worthy this season, even if the Huskies win their final three on the road (where they're 1-5 in league play).GW: Texas A&M (plus Cal at home)BL: Oregon, at UCLA, USC
Locks: Kentucky, Vanderbilt
After the overtime win at Mississippi State, a gutsy last-possession win at Vandy more or less gives the 'Cats the SEC crown and keeps them firmly as a No. 1 seed. Vandy's a pretty good club, too.
SHOULD BE IN
Tennessee (20-6, 8-4, RPI: 18, SOS: 24) bounced back nicely, holding off Georgia and then winning at South Carolina. The Vols are just about at lock status with the bubble so soft. Win at Florida or beat Kentucky this week and they're good to go. Ending with five straight loses might not even KO them.GW: Kansas, Ole Miss?, Charlotte (bubble purposes)BL: None
IN THE MIX
Florida (19-8, 8-4, RPI: 53, SOS: 57) got an enormous road win at Ole Miss to cap a 2-0 week and strengthen its position. The bad news is the last four (Tennessee, at Georgia, Vandy, at Kentucky) are really tough. Get two and the Gators are fine. Get one and that SEC quarterfinal (assuming a first-round win over a West bottom-feeder) will loom very, very large.GW: Michigan St. (N), Florida St., at Miss (bubble purposes)BL: South Alabama; plus Richmond and Xavier (bubble purposes)
Mississippi State (19-8, 7-5, RPI: 63, SOS: 116) almost took a devastating misstep after losing to Kentucky in overtime, but escaped at LSU. The Bulldogs swept fading Mississippi and beat bubbler Old Dominion. They also lost at Florida, if that ends up being a tiebreaker. They're cutting this very close at the moment.GW: ODU, sweep of Ole MissBL: Rider, at Arkansas
Mississippi (17-9, 5-7, RPI: 61, SOS: 54) lost at home to Vandy and Florida and is now in a lot of trouble, although the Rebels have two "gimme" home games and two very winnable road games left. They may need to get all four. There's precious little else besides the K-State win that will help.GW: K-State (N), UTEP (with Derrick Caracter)BL: Arkansas (plus swept by Miss. State)
South Carolina (14-12, 5-7, RPI: 81, SOS: 26) would have been deleted, but the Gamecocks still have trips to Kentucky and Vandy. If they somehow win both, sweeping Kentucky... that would be interesting. Won't happen.GW: Kentucky, RichmondBL: at Wofford
Locks: Temple, Richmond
Now things are really starting to sift out in the A-10, but not in a great way for overall bids. Now, along with Saint Louis, Duquesne is starting its own bubble body count. These will be treated like bad losses, but in this season's A-10, that's pretty harsh. Things look good for three bids, with the fourth A-10 semifinalist having a very solid chance.
Richmond moves into the lock category as the league leader at 11-2 and A-10 team with the best nonleague profile. Even with three rough games remaining, there doesn't seem to be a way Richmond can miss at this point. (Who loved the Spiders in December?)
SHOULD BE IN
Xavier (19-7, 10-2, RPI: 19, SOS: 22) now clearly sits third in the A-10 order after a huge road win at fading Charlotte. The X-men are the next team to try out the Billikens in Saint Louis and then host Richmond in an awesome game next Sunday. With games at Fordham and St. Bonaventure after that, X would likely sign for a split this week. That should equal NCAAs barring some really unexpected stuff.GW: Cincy (bubble purposes), Dayton, URI, at Florida (bubble purposes), at CharlotteBL: None, but a decent number
These next three teams remain extremely close ...
IN THE MIX
Rhode Island (20-6, 8-5, RPI: 25, SOS: 60) routed Fordham after losing at Saint Louis. The Rams won at Dayton, but the overall profile is still questionable when compared to the Flyers. URI needs to win its last three (at St. Bonaventure, Charlotte, at UMass) and then we'll see what happens in the A-10 quarters.GW: at Dayton, Oklahoma State (N)BL: at Saint Louis (bubble purposes)
Charlotte (18-8, 8-4, RPI: 55, SOS: 99) lost twice at home, including to Duquesne, and now is in a lot of trouble. The 49ers will need to take advantage of season-closing games at URI and vs. Richmond.GW: at Louisville (albeit with 'Ville shorthanded), at Richmond, TempleBL: None, but lost by 30+ at Duke and ODU, Duquesne
Dayton (18-8, 7-5, RPI: 42, SOS: 41) doubled-up on harmful road losses, losing by a deuce at Duquesne after falling at Saint Louis last week. The Flyers' five A-10 losses are by a total of 11 points, but they're still losses and now they're mounting. Dayton definitely passes the NCAA eye test, but its résumé is starting to test the limits of committee patience. The Flyers still go to Temple (on Wednesday) and Richmond and can't afford to lose both.GW: Georgia Tech (N), Old Dominion, Xavier, Charlotte (bubble purposes)BL: at Saint Joe's, at Saint Louis, at Duquesne
Saint Louis (17-8, 9-3, RPI: 82, SOS: 137) No one likes a party crasher, which is what the Billikens are in the A-10. Fourth-place Saint Louis might not be a great at-large candidate at this point, but the opportunity is there to change that. The next three -- Xavier, Duquesne and Temple -- are at home, where the Billikens are 14-1. They then close at Dayton, in what could be an enormous game.GW: Richmond, Dayton and URI (all at home)BL: Missouri State, at Bowling Green, Iowa State, at GW
BracketBusters was a fiasco for the CAA, which saw four of its top five teams lose, including the two that had legitimate at-large hopes. Old Dominion remains the auto-bid this week. This conference tourney is going to be brutal and may be the only bid this league gets. Fair? Probably not.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Old Dominion (21-8, 13-3, RPI: 41, SOS: 85) had a golden chance at Northern Iowa, which was without seven-footer Jordan Eglseder, and whiffed. Bad time for a bad performance. Winning out until the CAA final would make for a very interesting Selection Sunday debate. GW: at Georgetown (also swept W&M)BL: None, but three in a very balanced conference and eight overall now
William & Mary (19-8, 11-5, RPI: 48, SOS: 86) had the national stage to itself Friday night at Iona and delivered a performance that joins Illinois State's 30-point Valley final loss to Drake in 2008 in the annals of all-time TV-game whiffs. BW has been pro-Tribe all year, but any committee member watching that couldn't have thought W&M looked like an NCAA team. Mix in 200+ RPI league defeats to UNC-Wilmington and James Madison and the three great nonleague wins probably aren't enough. We'll see...GW: at Wake, at Maryland, RichmondBL: UNCW, at JMU, routed at Iona, (also swept by ODU, the league's other at-large hopeful)
Locks: New Mexico, BYU
Could this league actually get four? It did, barely, this week, but that's unlikely unless there are two semifinal upsets in the league tourney.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
UNLV (19-7, 8-5, RPI: 43, SOS: 62) is courting danger after picking up a fifth MWC loss and slipping behind San Diego State in the standings. The Rebels should win their last three, but an exit before the final of the MWC tourney on its home court would be risky. UNLV split with all three other MWC contenders and probably needs to beat one more to feel safe about dancing.GW: Louisville (plus at New Mexico, BYU and SDSU in league)BL: Utah
San Diego State (18-7, 9-4, RPI: 38, SOS: 72) remains a sneaky at-large hopeful after two more MWC wins, but probably needs to win at BYU on Wednesday to be a serious candidate past this week. The Aztecs are 2-3 against the other top teams in the MWC.GW: New Mexico, UNLV (both at home in league)BL: at Pacific, at Wyoming
Locks: Northern Iowa
UNI grabbed the crown and then polished off Old Dominion in BracketBusters. Count them in and worry about seeding.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Wichita State (21-7, 11-5, RPI: 50, SOS: 128) probably needed to win at Utah State in BracketBusters to entertain legitimate at-large hopes. It doesn't look great now.GW: Texas Tech, UNIBL: at Illinois State, at Drake, at Evansville
UTEP still leads the league, but UAB still plays UTEP and Memphis, so things could change.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
UTEP (20-5, 11-1, RPI: 53, SOS: 125) finished a sweep of Tulsa with a road win and has won 10 straight.GW: at UAB, Oklahoma (N, in Oklahoma City)? Sweep of Tulsa (nominal bubble purposes)BL: None, but maybe too many missed chances
UAB (21-5, 9-3, RPI: 31, SOS: 95) won twice but still sits in third place behind UTEP and Memphis. That's not going to be good enough, despite the solid RPI. The final two games of the season are home to Memphis and at UTEP, so UAB can move closer. The Blazers will need to.GW: Butler, CincyBL: at Kent State
Memphis (20-7, 10-2, RPI: 61, SOS: 107) remains in second place, but the Tigers may end up ruing a series of close losses earlier in the campaign. Not enough meat here.GW: UABBL: at UMass, at SMU
Locks: Gonzaga, Butler
Gonzaga remains fine despite a second WCC loss. Butler's more than fine.
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Utah State (21-6, 11-2, RPI: 34, SOS: 92) was pegged a few weeks ago as a team to watch, and the Aggies now have positioned themselves to get into the dance after taking out Louisiana Tech and Wichita State at home. If they win their last three, they'd win the WAC by at least two games. Would 26-7 with a loss in the WAC title game be enough? It very well might. They looked good in two TV games this week.GW: BYU, Wichita St (for bubble purposes)BL: at Long Beach State, at Northeastern
Saint Mary's (21-5, 9-3, RPI: 46, SOS: 126) was thrilled with Utah State's BracketBusters win, as the Gaels can keep mentioning that they won at Utah State in December, and also hammered New Mexico State, the WAC's second-place team, by 32. Stranger things have happened, although I still suspect the Gaels will be auto bid or bust come Selection Sunday.GW: at Utah State, San Diego StateBL: at Portland (for bubble damage)
ON THE PERIPHERY (if an at-large is needed)
Siena (MAAC) probably needs an auto bid now after falling apart after halftime at Butler. Cornell looks very well positioned to win the Ivy and shouldn't need one, although if it does, the Ivy losses required to end up in that position probably would kill the Big Red anyway.