2010 BracketBuster Matchups: Breaking Down the Teams
        February 19th and 20th brings about the eighth annual BracketBuster games- 22 potential Tournament hopefuls are pitted against each other. These 11 games will give teams an opportunity to play televised basketball against other top non-conference opponents, just three weeks before Selection Sunday. Over the years, numerous teams participating in the BracketBuster games have made their way into March Madness, including in 2009 where three hopefuls made it past their first round matchups (Siena defeated Ohio State, Cleveland State defeated Wake Forest, and Morehead State defeated Alabama State).

Here is the list of televised games and NBA-Draft.com's brief analysis:

Friday, Feb. 19

Old Dominion (18-7, 10-3 Colonial Athletic) at Northern Iowa (21-2, 12-1 Missouri Valley), 7 pm (EST)

        Northern Iowa has made their way into the Top-25 over the last few weeks, playing out of the Missouri Valley Conference and carries a 21-2 record into this week's games. The Panthers return all five starters plus the MVC's top sixth man to a team that almost upset Purdue in the 2009 NCAA Tournament; they boast a 2009 first-team All-Valley forward in 6'9" senior, Adam Koch and 2009 second-team selection, 6'2" guard, Kwadzo Ahelegbe. The Panthers also have one of the top centers in all of the mid-major conferences, 7'0", 280-pound senior, Jordan Eglseder. Northern Iowa focuses on sharing the basketball and balanced scoring led by Koch and Eglseder with just under 13 points per game.

        Old Dominion is currently in second place in the ultra-competitive Colonial Athletic, just one game behind George Mason. They feature the pre-season CAA Player of the Year, Gerald Lee. Lee is 6'8" post player, who is a potent offensive threat. He spent some time with the Finish national team over the summer improving his game, which he has shown so far this season. The Monarchs have beaten #11 Georgetown on the road, while also narrowly losing to Missouri and Dayton.

        Northern Iowa has the advantage in this matchup, due to it's inside duo of Koch and Eglseder. The game is in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where the Panthers are 12-0 on the season. Both teams return all five starters from last season's squads, but only the Panthers made the NCAA Tournament.

William & Mary (16-7, 8-5 Colonial Athletic) at Iona (18-7, 10-4 Metro Atlantic Athletic), 9 pm (EST)

        William & Mary spent some time in the AP polls earlier in the season, after defeating the likes of Wake Forest and Maryland on the road. But since then, the Tribe have something more to prove. They have won just one of their last four games, including a loss at home to fellow-CAA BracketBuster team, Old Dominion. They started off the season 10-2, but have fallen to 16-7 on the year. They are led by 6'3" senior Guard, David Schneider who can do a little bit of everything, but has struggled shooting the ball all season long, including the last two games (2-for-19). Quinn McDowell and Danny Sumner are tough matchups due to their athleticism and ability to score both inside and out.

        The Gaels have been on fire, winning nine of their last ten Metro Atlantic games. Iona has close early-season losses to the Florida State and Baylor, but did defeat Providence on the road. They have done so with balanced scoring and all-around play- Iona has seven players averaging at least 5 points per game, led by last season's MAAC Rookie of the Year, 6'1" Guard, Scott Machado.

        William & Mary's late struggles should come to an end when the Gaels and Tribe meet. Even though the game is at Iona, W&M plays tough basketball away from home, as evidenced by their wins at Wake Forest and Maryland. Though the Tribe need to go on a run in conference play in order to make this game count towards a possible Tournament birth.

Saturday, Feb. 20

Siena (20-4, 13-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic) at Butler (20-4, 13-0 Horizon), 11 am (EST)

        At this moment, Siena owns the nation's longest winning streak (14) and an undefeated mark in Metro Atlantic play (13-0, 20-4 overall). They came into the pre-season, ranked in the AP Top-25, but fell out after dropping three of its first seven games. Thought it should be noted that these opponents were Temple, St. John's and Georgetown. The Saints only other loss on the season was to Northern Iowa on the road, so perhaps Siena doesn't have the non-conference schedule to get an at-large bid in March, but a win over Butler could drastically improve their seeding if they hang on to win the MAAC. The Saints have four double-digit scorers led by undersized power forward, Alex Franklin and last year's NCAA Tournament standout, Edwin Ubiles. Ronald Moore, the senior point guard, leads the nation in assists.

        Butler also began the season, ranked in the Top-25, but fell out after losses to #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson at the 76 Classic in Anaheim. Since then, the Bulldogs have bounced back into the Top 25 by beating the likes of Ohio State and Xavier and thrashing Horizon League opponents. Guards lead the Butler attack between sharp-shooting Gordon Hayward and combo-guard Shelvin Mack- both played on the US U-19 team that won a gold medal in the FIBA World Championships this past summer. Inside, the Bulldogs have last season's Horizon League Player of the Year, Matt Howard, who has struggled to the fullest extent this season.

        The matchup of Siena and Butler is by far and away the best game of the 2010 BracketBuster extravaganza. Further more, the key matchups of Siena's Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles against Butler's Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack should prove to be a battle all game long. Butler is not only more experienced, but simply the better team in this contest, but expect Siena to keep it close.

Morgan State (17-7, 9-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic) at Murray State (22-3, 13-0 Ohio Valley), 12 pm (EST)

        Morgan State leads the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference right now, sporting an undefeated 9-0 mark in the conference, holding a two-game advantage over second-place. For each of the past two years, the Bears have set the school record for wins and are on pace to break that record yet again. They are an impressive team to watch with the amount of point they can put up- averaging 79 points per contest and sixth in the nation in total points. Morgan State features a dynamic inside-outside duo, led by senior Guard, Reggie Holmes. He is fifth in the nation in scoring, at just under 23 points per game. He has the ability to go off at any time, like his 34 points and five 3s in an upset win at Arkansas. The inside man is 6'8" sophomore, Kevin Thompson; his 12.4 rebounds per game rank fourth in the nation. He has 13 double-doubles on the season, including a 23-point, 25-rebound performance against Towson.

        Matching up against the Bears will be another high-powered offense, the Murray State Racers of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Racers average 79 points per game as well, and rank fourth in the nation in total points. However, they don't have one dominant scorer like Morgan State. They have six players averaging double figures, but none more than 11 points per game. In fact, none of them have scored more than 21 points in a game on the season. But this is what has worked for Murray State, who comes into the week with a 22-3 overall record.

        With Murray State sporting a perfect 13-0 at home this season and entering the week with an 11-game winning streak, the balanced-scoring attack should handle Morgan State's inside-outside duo. It will be a high-scoring, fast-paced game, so look don't look for a ton of scores-and-stops, but this game could come down to the wire in an offensive battle.

Louisiana Tech (19-4, 7-2 Western Athletic) at Northeastern (16-8, 11-2 Colonial Athletic), 1 pm (EST)

       Coming into the 2009-10 season, the Bulldogs from Louisiana Tech were predicted to finish in the bottom half of the Western Athletic Conference, they are currently in a three-way tie for 1st place. They have two All-WAC performers, guard Kyle Gibson and center (LSU transfer), Magnum Rolle. They also boast three other "role players", averaging double-figures. The inside-outside presence of Rolle and Gibson makes it tough for opponents to double-team either one of them without leaving open another LaTech threat. Olu Ashaolu is one of those players who stands 6'7" with long arms and creates matchup problems all over the floor. He plays guard but can defend other positions and affects all areas of the game. Earlier this season he scored 17 points while grabbing 21 rebounds (9 offensive) in a win at Houston. Ashaolu was one of two Bulldogs named the WAC performer of the week, with the other being Kyle Gibson. Gibson has scored in double-figures every game this season and averages 22 points per game.

        Northeastern comes into the week in first place in the Colonial Athletic, with a one-game lead over Old Dominion and George Mason, so if the Huskies can't hold onto the top spot and the automatic bid, this game will prove be extremely important come Selection Sunday. The Huskies are led by senior guard Matt Janning, a dangerous offensive weapon and plays his best in big games. He has been a captain for Northeastern since his sophomore campaign. Another player to watch is 6'8" post player, Manny Adako. In Northeastern's flex offense, Adako offers a variety of skilled post moves, who reads defenders well and uses his skilled big man moves to score down low.

        Northeastern began the season just 2-7 out of conference, and is one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning 14 of their last 15 contests. But Louisiana Tech's offensive weapons should prove to be too much for the Huskies. Olu Ashaolu should frustrate Northeastern's Matt Jannings, while Magnum Rolle controls the glass and creates plenty of second-chance points for the Bulldogs.

Nevada (13-9, 5-4 Western Athletic) at Missouri State (16-8, 6-7 Missouri Valley), 1 pm (EST)

       Nevada has one of the best trios in college basketball, led by former McDonald's All-American forward Luke Babbit, guard Armon Johnson and guard Brandon Fields. In his first-season, Babit was awarded first-team All-WAC and freshman of the year honors last year. He finished third in the conference in scoring and rebounding, while also leading the team in three-pointers made. He is a matchup problem because of his ability to score in the post, but shoot from the perimeter and get to the foul line. While the defense focuses on stopping Babbit, Armon Johnson and Brandon Fields can also make you pay. Johnson was a first-team All-WAC selection as well, finishing seventh in the league in scoring and third in assists. In a near upset against BYU, Johnson went off for 30 points on 13-of-21 shooting. Fields is just as dangerous of a scorer, but his shooting can be suspect. He is streaky and less consistent of the other two. Between the trio, they average 52.2 points per game this season.

        Missouri State started off the season on a ten game winning streak, have since lost seven of their last 11 games. In Missouri Valley Conference play, they are just 6-7, struggling both at home and on the road. 6'6" small forward, Kyle Weems leads the team in scoring and rebounding. He is a versatile scorer, scoring in both the low post, but also from the perimeter. He has hit 5+ 3s in five separate games this season, but none in his last two games, where he has scored a total of eight points.

        Despite the hot start, Missouri Sate has struggled as much as any team in the nation over the last month. Since the New Year, the Bears are just 5-7, while the Wolf Pack are not much better at 5-4, but have shown more promise- losing a pair of road games and a home game in overtime. Neither team will make the NCAA Tournament without winning their respective conference, so look for this win to be a confidence booster heading into the final stretch of league play. Nevada should take this one behind the play of Luke Babbit and Johnson.
    
Akron (17-7, 7-3 Mid-American) at VCU (17-5, 9-3 Colonial Athletic), 4 pm (EST)

        The Akron Zips find themselves just one game out of first place in the MAC, but hold an impressive overall record of 17-7. They return four starters and 13 lettermen in total from the team that won last season's league championship. The Zips are led by seven players averaging at least 7 points per game, including a set of brothers, Brett and Chris McKnight. Their depth and front court size (four contributors all in the range of 6'7") have caused problems for many opponents to date. One key statistic to watch is how well the Zips close out on shooters. Last season, they held opponents to 29% from behind the arc.

        Virginia Commonwealth came into the 2009-10 season with some questions; with Eric Maynor gone, who will lead the team? Coach Anthony Grant left for Alabama, how will the new team fare? As one of the most recognized mid-majors, VCU has answered skeptics with a 17-5 record and wins over Oklahoma, Nevada and Richmond. The Rams have similar depth to Akron, but they have a four-guard attack, focusing around one big man, the lengthy 6'11" Larry Sanders. Sanders is the potential CAA Player of the Year with his 15.0 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Behind Sanders, the team's leading scorers are all guards.

        So far this season, Akron is just 4-3 on the road, while VCU is 12-1 at home. As long as Larry Sanders can stay out of foul trouble, VCU should take this matchup. They have a premier big man in Sanders and better guards led by Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess. Expect for the Rams to win this one by double-digits.

College of Charleston (16-8, 11-2 Southern) at George Mason (15-9, 10-3 Colonial Athletic), 8 pm (EST)

        Charleston has a 1 game lead in the Southern, but really made headlines with their overtime win over North Carolina just over a month ago. The Cougars are just 5-7 on the road at this point, but could potentially upset any team due their perimeter shooting abilities. 6'2" junior, and the star of the UNC game, Andrew Goudelock leads a team that averages 9.5 made 3s a game on 38% shooting. Outside shooting is key to their success and can really cut into an opponent's lead or help build one with their success. In a conference loss to Western Carolina, the Cougars made 19-35 shots from behind the arc (54.3%). The team puts up an average of 25 3-point shots a game; with a friendly shooters' roll, they could seemingly beat any team in the nation

        George Mason has been inconsistent all season long, playing exceptional basketball early in the season, losing to Villanova and Georgia Tech in the San Juan shootout by a combined 9 points, but in the Patriots' two late December/early January losses to Radford and Northeastern, GMU lost by a total of 79 points. But since then, George Mason has won 7 of their last 9, tying them for second place in the CAA. They have a balanced inside-outside scoring attack led by guard Cam Long and forward Ryan Pearson.

        George Mason's guard play will be key in this game. Cam Long & Co. will look to lock down Andrew Goudelock and his CofC teammates. While George Mason's guards run around trying to contain the Cougar's shooters, look for the Patriot big men, featuring Ryan Pearson, Luke Hancock and Mike Morrison to control the tempo by getting to the foul line and scoring in the paint.

Western Carolina (18-6, 8-4 Southern) at Kent State (17-7, 8-2 Mid-American), 8 pm (EST)

        Western Carolina was another one of those teams that began the season on a hot streak and has cooled down in Southern conference play. The Catamounts won 10 of 11 games, including a victory at Louisville, but in the 13 games since, WCU is just 8-5. The Catamounts feature a guard-oriented attack that averages over eight made 3s a game, but more impressively, they get to the foul line about 21 times a game. This penetrating offense with the kick-out ability can break down opposing defenses and favor Western Carolina. In a victory over Berea College, the Catamounts put up 124 points and won by a margin of 71 points.

        The Catamounts opponent in this BracketBuster will be Kent State of the Mid-American Conference. The Flashes hold a one-game lead in the MAC and will need to win the conference in order to march into the NCAA Tournament. Kent State has a trio of guards averaging double-figure points, as well as two more that come off the bench to contribute. Kent State is on the rise, winning their last seven games and play several home games and easy road games coming up

        A matchup of two perimeter-oriented teams, Western Carolina and Kent State should look to run and get up the floor in this contest. Kent State should look to ride their hot streak into this BracketBuster tournament and take advantage of WCU. Kent State sports a 9-2 record at home, while Western Carolina is just 6-5 on the road this season.

New Mexico State (14-8, 7-2 Western Athletic) at Pacific (15-7, 8-2 Big West), 10 pm (EST)

        New Mexico State started the season slow, but they were also without last season's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, 6'6" post player, Wendell McKines due to a team suspension. Since McKines has returned to the court, the Aggies are 10-2, including 4-1 on the road. New Mexico State's strength lies with its starters. Their frontcourt of 6'8" Troy Gillenwater, McKines and 7'0" sophomore, Hamidu Rahman; the trio can really score the ball, but do an even better job dominating the glass. They all average at least 9 rebounds a game. But the Aggies best player is junior guard, Jahmar Young who is an excellent outside shooter averaging 21 points a game.

        Pacific, hailing from the Big West, will be an interesting matchup for New Mexico State. Although the Tigers are 8-2 in the conference and 15-7 overall, there is only one other team in the league has a winning record. Don't let that fool you. Even though they don't have a single player averaging double-figures, nor are they were strong rebounding the ball, the Tigers find ways to win games. They play excellent team defense, giving up less than 60 points a night, including holding several opponents under 50 points.

        In a down year for the Big West, Pacific is standing out and its been quite some time since they were relevant in college basketball (think Michael Olowakandi circa 1998) and don't look for this to be the year they become significant again. New Mexico State is one of the stronger teams in the BracketBusters tournament. New Mexico State's offensive attack and potent rebounding abilities will seemingly be too much for Pacific. Look for the Aggies to win this one of the road.

Wichita State (20-5, 9-4 Missouri Valley) at Utah State (18-6, 8-2), 11:59 pm (EST)

        With a win here, and a strong final conference schedule, the MVC can become a two-bid league with probable champion Northern Iowa and Wichita State. The Shockers were hot right out of the gate, winning 16 of their first 18 games, but have struggled since, especially on the road. On the season, Wichita State is undefeated at home (14-0), but just 5-4 on the road. To gain an at-large bid into March Madness, the Shockers will have to prove they can win on the road.

        The Aggies are one of three teams (along with Kansas and Gonzaga) to win at least 23 games in each season over the last decade. Utah State has produced the last two WAC Players of the Year, neither of which is still on the team. But they do have Jared Quayle, a senior do-it-all guard who has been producing up to all-league standards. He is averaging 12 points 6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. When the team needs a basket or a big play, the Aggies look towards Quayle who has come through numerous times with clutch free throw shooting (92% on the season) or perimeter shooting (45% from behind the arc).

        Neither team is very good on the road, but the game will be in Utah, where the Aggies are 13-1 at home this season. Utah State's balanced scoring attack, led by all-league Quayle will get the best of the Shockers. Look for a close one, as on paper, this is one of the BracketBuster's best matchups.

The best of the non-televised games:

Fairfield (16-7, 9-4 Metro Atlantic Athletic) at Vermont (17-8, 8-3 America East)
Indiana State (14-10, 6-7 Missouri Valley) at Green Bay (16-9, 8-5 Horizon)
UC Santa Barbara (13-8, 8-3 Big West) at Fresno State (12-12, 5-5 Western Athletic)
Morehead State (17-7, 11-2 Ohio Valley) at Illinois State (16-8, 7-6 Missouri Valley)


Written by Corey Ruff - NBA-Draft.com President - 2-8-10