Bracket Busters is the biggest stage that some mid-major teams will see in a college basketball season. With 2013 being the final installment of the Bracket Busters franchise, college basketball fans will be able to enjoy a large slate of great game.
Games will be played February 22 and 23 with the ESPN family of networks airing the top games on tap for the event.
Let’s take a look at the games viewers should be looking forward to, giving you three weeks to plan out your day accordingly:
1.) Creighton (20-3, 9-2 MVC) @ Saint Mary’s (19-4, 8-1 WCC) Feb. 23 6pmET ESPN/2
Creighton traveling to Saint Mary’s is the only game that was a given considering each team’s standing in high powered conferences. Creighton leads the Missouri Valley and is the only team in the Bracket Busters field who is currently ranked (16th in Associated Press polls as of February 4). Saint Mary’s trails Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference by one game.
This game also features two top players in the nation with Doug McDermott having a statistically great year for Creighton (2nd in nation in scoring) and Matthew Dellavedova leading the way for Saint Mary’s.
Saint Mary’s needs this non-conference win to boost their at-large bid resume for the selection committee while Creighton is safely in the NCAA Tournament field. However, Creighton would like nothing more than to notch another quality win before the conference tournament.
This will be the premier game of Bracket Busters Weekend.
2.) Ohio (15-6, 6-1 MAC) @ Belmont (19-4, 10-0 OVC) Feb. 23 10pmET ESPN2
While the Ohio Bobcats don’t have the most impressive resume in the field, they do tout standout D.J. Cooper in their backcourt. Cooper is having his best season statistically of his college career this season and, despite Akron having an impressive season, has Ohio in the thick of the Mid-American conference standings.
Belmont, who could have easily been paired with Creighton over Saint Mary’s (Saint Mary’s is a bigger draw than Belmont for ESPN’s ratings) are the best mid-major nobody seems to be talking about. Last season, it was Murray State that captured that nation’s heart out of the Ohio Valley conference, but Belmont is leading the Racers by two-and-a-half games in the overall standings. Ian Clark is the best guard in the country nobody is talking about. Overall, Belmont is a great team and their matchup against Ohio should be a contest fans will want to tune in to.
Cooper versus Clark will be the interesting matchup for this game. Look for plenty of scoring and plenty of assists from these two.
3.) South Dakota State (18-6, 9-2 Summit) @ Murray State (16-5, 7-2 OVC) Feb. 23 8pmET ESPN2
Probably the most intriguing one-on-one matchup of Bracket Busters is Nate Wolters and South Dakota State challenging Isaiah Canaan and Murray State. Both teams made NCAA Tournament appearances last season. Canaan (21.0) and Wolters (20.8) rank eighth and ninth in the country in scoring respectively.
Here’s a statistical side-by-side of the two players:
Canaan, Murray State: 21.0 PPG, 44 percent FG, 38 percent 3PFG, 77 percent FT, 3.9 RPG, 4.0 APG
Wolters, South Dakota State: 20.8 PPG, 46 percent FG, 37 percent 3PFG, 80 percent FT, 5.9 RPG, 5.6 APG
Statistically speaking, the Canaan-Wolters matchup couldn’t be more even (aside from rebound and assists averages, maybe). This will be one of those games where two star players for lesser-known teams get their chance to shine on the big stage. Murray State is battling Belmont for the Ohio Valley championship, while SDSU is in a three-way tie with North Dakota State and Western Illinois in the Summit League. Both teams could use a non-conference boost heading into their conference tournaments.
You won’t want to miss this game.
4.) Montana (16-4, 12-0 Big Sky) @ Davidson (15-7, 10-1 Southern) Feb. 23 1pmET ESPNU
Montana is a team that is finally finding its groove as a whole with the return of star guard Will Cherry, who missed the first seven games of the season to a foot injury. Cherry returned on December 15 at home against South Dakota State and played only 13 minutes in a Montana loss in double overtime. Since then, the Grizzlies have yet to lose a game with a healthy Cherry (currently on a 12-game winning streak).
Davidson started out the season on a rocky note, going 9-7 in their first 16 games of the season, but currently find themselves on a six-game winning streak. Considering the teams the Wildcats play leading up to the matchup against Montana, the streak could blossom to as much as an 11-game winning streak, barring a hiccup or two along the way. When rolling, Davidson is a very dangerous team that could spark a run in the NCAA Tournament. However, Montana is just as dangerous now that they are healthy.
Montana-Davidson may not be the marquee matchup as the first three are, but it has the potential to be a game of two teams on a tear, which should sell itself.
These four games highlight the Bracket Busters weekend schedule. These will be the games fans will be able to see mid-major talent they otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to watch. It’s going to be a fun day/weekend of basketball so, to quote Terrell Owens, “Get your popcorn ready!”