ESPN can't please everybody, especially when the 2012 BracketBusters includes a record 142 teams representing 16 mid-major conferences. Some games are going to just be duds that offer little resume support for the winner (in the eyes of NCAA tournament and NIT tournament committees) and crushing defeat for the loser -- a net loss.
Aside: I hate RPI. It's a poor metric of true team talent. However, the tournament committees can't be bothered with such things, so they rely heavily on RPI in ranking teams. That means I have to refer to it. Don't judge me.
Wichita State at Davidson
Pomeroy: Wichita State 70%
Probably the most universally reviled matchup of BracketBusters came to fruition after both teams endured harrowing losses over the weekend. The Shockers, a team that I championed not long ago, feature a more balanced attack than conference-rival Creighton -- reflected in their higher efficiency margin (+24.0 vs. +20.5). But they lost in triple overtime to underrated Drake Saturday, a loss that surely affected their BracketBuster pairing.
At 10-1 (in conference) Creighton is the favorite to win the MVC's auto-bid for the NCAA tournament. Wichita State (9-2) will likely receive an at-large bid, so the Shockers are fighting for seeding.
Enter Davidson. At 9-1 the Wildcats represent the best of the terrible Southern Conference, and are ranked 67th in RPI. Their harrowing weekend loss was to Samford (RPI 290), making their matchup with WSU even stranger.
Davidson will easy snag the Southern Conference's auto-bid (no other team is even in the ballpark), so they have nothing to gain in this game, while Wichita State has everything to lose. A win for the Shockers at Davidson is negligible considering their already solid resume, and a loss would be devastating.
Lamar at George Mason
Pomeroy: George Mason 71%
Lamar (13-8, 4-3 Southland Conference) isn't in the mix for any post-season talk. George Mason (18-5, 10-1 CAA) very much is. The Patriots represent one quarter of the top-heavy CAA (Old Dominion, VCU and Drexel are all 9-2 in conference play) so an auto-bid is far from a lock, especially with two games against VCU still on the schedule.
A win for the Patriots over Lamar (RPI 119) brings little to their resume if they end up on the market for a long-shot at-large or a quality NIT seeding. Drexel (as a six-seed) and VCU (as a seven-seed) both appear on John Templon's latest NIT bracketology.
Northern Iowa at VCU
Pomeroy: VCU 72%
The Missouri Valley only has room at the top for two teams this season: Creighton and Wichita State. The rest of the conference just isn't competing at their level. While the Panthers of Northern Iowa (14-9, 4-7 MVC) have plenty of post-season cred, they're a long-shot to return to either the NCAA or NIT tournament this season. They've lost four of their last five, but probably ended up with VCU because of their too-high 57th-ranked RPI. The Panthers' post-season profile is beyond saving, so this game has no implications for them.
As I mentioned in the George Mason section above, VCU is in the thick of the top of the CAA. If they don't end up with the league's auto-bid, they'll be in the market for a long-shot at-large, or, if nothing else, a quality NIT seeding. A win over UNI does little to help this, and a loss would seriously hurt things.
NC-Asheville at Ohio
Pomeroy: Ohio 78%
Ohio (17-4, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) must seriously consider the prospect of their likely seeding in the NIT tournament. John Templon has them as a four-seed right now (assuming Akron grabs the MAC's auto-bid). NC-Asheville (16-7, 6-3 Southland), with their 127th-ranked RPI can do little to help them, win or lose.
IUPUI at Nicholls State
Pomeroy: IUPUI 87%
Were these the last two teams left in the hat?
Post-season implications aren't an issue with these teams. But consider that IUPUI (8-15, 2-9 Summit League) is located in Indiana and Nicholls State (5-15, 1-7 Southland) is buried deep in southeast Louisiana.
Two of the Colonel's (that's NSU's mascot) wins are against non-D-I teams, and the other three are against three of the bottom-25 teams in the nation (by Pomeroy rankings). They are themselves the fourth-worst team in the nation (again, Pomeroy) and allow 1.2 points per trip.
IUPUI has taken down Valparaiso (148 Pomeroy), Ball State (160) and Western Illinois (171). They feature touted 6-6 senior swingman Alex Young. If the Jaguars decide the long trip is worth it (if only for the sighseeing), they should start their bench and thank ESPN for the extra practice time.
Wichita State and the MVC in general get the shaft in these bracketbuster games. No surprise they got who they got here in the ICT. Putting St. Marys vs Murray St. is the best selection the selectees could have made to RUIN the buster weekend for most of the top schools involved. With the number of good home teams being greater than good away teams they really should have made a more thoughtful choice. CU vs SMU and WSU vs MS would have made for better games. CU gets LBS who is solid but other than losing their impressive out of conference schedule they haven't done much IMO. And WSU vs DU... sigh... lose and your *bleeped*, win and no one cares. That's the kind of game the 26th RPI team in the country should have to put up with. And once again the fail boat sets sail on the NCAA and there selections. Could have been a great weekend, now it's just average at best. Granted I'm a WSU fan and MVC proponant, but you don't have to be one to think this group of selections takes the BracketBuster event in the wrong direction. Opt out MVC and CAA... Opt out after next year please.