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February 2, 2010

BracketBuster games could be boon to some

Though February's BracketBuster matchups may have little to no effect on March's NCAA tournament brackets, some of the games are extremely compelling.

ESPN announced the 49 matchups between teams from the America East, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, MAC, MAAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, Southern, Ohio Valley, WAC and Summit League on Monday, a schedule headlined by NCAA tournament hopefuls Butler and Siena.

With so many games between teams in one-bid leagues, only two or three matchups have potential NCAA implications. Here's a look at the top five BracketBuster games on Feb. 19-20.

1. Siena at Butler
: Feb. 20, 11 a.m.
BUZZ: Siena is 12-0 in the MAAC and has a three-game lead over Iona for the regular-season title. If the Saints slip in the conference tournament, they risk losing an at-large bid. Though Siena won first-round tournament games in each of the past two seasons, the Saints don't have an impressive non-conference win this season. Siena is ranked 43rd in the RPI, and a win at Butler would be a huge step toward a possible at-large bid. Butler already has beaten Ohio State and Xavier at home this season.

2. Old Dominion at Northern Iowa
: Feb. 19, 7 p.m.
BUZZ: The Missouri Valley could boost its case for two NCAA bids during BracketBuster weekend. Northern Iowa leads the MVC at 10-1 and owns a top-20 ranking in the RPI. A loss at home to Old Dominion, which is second in the Colonial at 9-2, could damage UNI's at-large chances if something goes awry in the remainder of the MVC season. The game features an intriguing frontcourt matchup between Northern Iowa's Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder and ODU's Gerald Lee.

3. Wichita State at Utah State
: Feb. 20, 11:59 p.m.
BUZZ: Wichita State has a chance to put itself in the mix for an NCAA at-large bid by winning on the road. Wichita State faces MVC leader Northern Iowa, which is 10-0 at home this season, on Wednesday in a rematch of the Shockers' 60-51 win in Wichita. Winning that one and winning at Utah State, which is 60-2 at home since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, would provide a big boost for the Shockers.

4. Morgan State at Murray State
: Feb. 20, noon
BUZZ: Neither team has lost a conference game -- Murray State is 11-0 in the Ohio Valley, Morgan State is 8-0 in the MEAC -- but neither has an at-large shot. Still, this game could impact the seedings at the bottom of the bracket. Both are projected to be No. 13 seeds or worse, but more could be on the line for Morgan State, which plays in the weaker conference. Morgan State has one of the nation's leading scorers in Reggie Holmes (22.8 ppg). Murray State is far more balanced, with its top six scorers each averaging between 9.7 and 10.8 points per game.

5. Louisiana Tech at Northeastern
: Feb. 20, 1 p.m.
BUZZ: Louisiana Tech is tied for the WAC lead with New Mexico State and Utah State, while Northeastern is tied with Old Dominion for second in the CAA, behind George Mason. While this game might not feature two NCAA teams, it will have some of the best star power in BracketBusters. Louisiana Tech's Magnum Rolle is an NBA prospect, while guard Kyle Gibson is among the nation's leading scorers (21.5 ppg). Northeastern counters with a talented backcourt of Matt Janning and Chaisson Allen.

Other televised BracketBuster games
William & Mary at Iona, Feb. 20, 9 p.m., ESPNU
Nevada at Missouri State, Feb. 20, 3 p.m., ESPN2
Akron at VCU, Feb. 20, 4 p.m., ESPNU
College of Charleston at George Mason, Feb. 20, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Western Carolina at Kent State, Feb. 20, 8 p.m., ESPNU
New Mexico State at Pacific, Feb. 20, 10 p.m., ESPNU

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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