Murray State strengthens NCAA case; more BracketBuster thoughts
With Selection Sunday just three weeks away, the mythical eye test will start rearing its ugly head as experts (and, of course, the NCAA selection committee) determine exactly who the 37 "best" at-large teams are for the NCAA Tournament.
Unlike many seasons, though, where the eye test is used as a replacement for on-paper evidence to support the candidacies of middling high-majors, this season's batch of high-quality mid-majors along with the ongoing carnage in the middle of the BCS leagues means the eye test may have its script flipped.
Saturday's BracketBusters action featured a number of quality games and teams that showed very well in them. These national TV impressions might be enough to provide bid insurance:
Any mid-major curb appeal starts with a marquee star, and the Racers have that in Isaiah Canaan, who went for a superefficient 23 points on just 13 shots and chipped in four assists as Murray State shot 58 percent from the field. The Racers showed very well against a quality opponent.
Seeding them will be an exercise in subjectivity, with their now four credible nonleague wins offsetting an Ohio Valley schedule that the computers treat very poorly, but as the committee likes to say: You can play your way out of a bad seed, but you can't play your way out of missing the NCAAs.
What more does the committee need to see after the Shockers shot almost 64 percent from the field, led by Joe Ragland's 30 points (on 11-14 FG)? The Shockers' offense has been searing hot, scoring at least 1.22 points per possession in their last four games. They defend and rebound, too.
The Shockers are looking more and more like they could be in the 4-seed area come Selection Sunday, and with one or two of the 1-seeds looking relatively vulnerable, they are a very viable pick for an Elite Eight appearance ... or more.
The Bluejays really needed this win after a three-game Valley losing streak had started to weaken their potential at-large profile. Now they can assume, especially with all the carnage around them, that their profile will hold up without a Valley auto-bid. CU star forward Doug McDermott was everything and more than advertised, with 36 points and 11 rebounds.
What more could the committee want to see from either of these teams? Long Beach may have significant at-large issues now, with just a win at Pitt (pre-injury/transfer/cave-in) and a neutral-site W over shorthanded Xavier as their nonconference confirmation of an unbeaten Big West run. That's unfortunate, as the 49ers are a very good team with a very questionable at-large profile.
The Dragons are predominantly defensive specialists, and they held the Vikings to 28 percent shooting, but it's the recent surge in Drexel's offense that has them looking Tournament-worthy. This was the seventh game in Drexel's last 10 outings where the Dragons have scored at least 1.10 points per possession, a very good number for any team, and a tremendous one for a team that can defend.
The Dragons have a solid chance at a solo title in the CAA, as co-leader George Mason still must play at VCU. Despite a bad RPI and a fairly empty profile, could 27 wins and a league crown be enough? With VCU, George Mason and ODU also winning their BracketBusters games, this was a good weekend for the league.
This could be another 27-win team that loses in the conference championship game. Could they possibly get an at-large? With the way all the major-conference teams keep losing their way down the S-curve, would Oral Roberts still have to "expect a miracle" to be in the discussion for an at-large?