Friday, January 27, 2006

WKU Holds Off Cajuns; Buster Update

I. Tops Roar Early, Coast Late Over ULL, 94-81
For the second straight home game, WKU blasted out to a gi-normous lead, only to see the opponent crawl back into the game in the second half. The Toppers' pressure defense blew the Cajuns' doors off out of the gate to the tune of 11-0 to start the game. The sold out crowd of 7,300+ shook the building with the ESPN2 lights blazing on. The Tops continued the onslaught for most of the first half, building a lead of 44-22 at one point. But, much like the UALR game twelve days ago, the Tops took their foot off of the accelerator. The Cajuns pounced on the lax defense and closed the half on a 7-0 run. That run spilled over into the second half with ULL executing a dunk-filled 19-1 run before it was finished to cut the lead to four at 45-41.

From that point on, the entire second half consisted of dunks by Cajun C Michael Southall (who scored a career high 34 points) and timely counterpunches by WKU's Anthony Winchester. The lead fluctuated from 6-12 for the duration of the game. The Tops made their free throws down the stretch to keep this one from getting too stressful. The game finished with a flurry of activity from The Great Red Pterodactyl himself, Grace Wilborn. He caught an alley-oop pass apparently intended for someone in Section 206 at the apex of its flight and rammed it home to the delight of the sold out crowd. He followed that up on the other end with a rejection of a Cajun shot that put a black eye on the man in the moon. When the lights are on, Everyone's Pfavorite Pterosaur comes to play with extra vigor.

The Topper defensive scheme was a bit perplexing. The press proved extremely effective for the first 17 minutes, but ULL solved it around that time. I do not know how many dunks Southall had, but his hands are surely sore today. ULL is a terrible shooting team, but WKU never employed a defense that forced them shoot from the perimeter. The Toppers won the game, but it left my section of folks scratching our heads a bit. Nevertheless, the Tops put on quite an offensive show for the ESPN2 crowd. One cannot complain too much about double-digit victories.

II. Bracket Buster Update
This is the last Buster update as the pairings will be announced on Sunday. I think most of top TV teams are set at this point, but the real question (especially as a WKU fan) is this: what will be the criteria used to choose the teams? Will it be by total NCAA profile or just by RPI? WKU fans are hoping it is the former.

I have updated the Bracket Buster Page today. Teams from the same conference obviously will not be matched up in the Bracket Buster. Also, it is not determined by RPI alone (though it is a big component), but a combination of record, schedule strength, RPI, impact on NCAA selection profile, and perceived TV marketability probably will play into the pairings. If teams were matched up today, this is how the 11 TV games might look if they pair teams based on their total NCAA profile. If they go strictly by the RPI, consult the linked Bracket Buster page above and just follow the numerical assignments unless the home and road team are from the same conference.

This is how I would match them up based on NCAA profile.

1. Bucknell at Northern Iowa
2. Missouri State at UW-Milwaukee
3. George Mason at Wichita State
4. Akron at Creighton
5. Tennessee Tech at Southern Illinois
6. Samford at Old Dominion
7. Northwestern State at Iona
8. Buffalo at Utah State
9. Fresno State at Bradley
10. Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky
11. Drake at Nevada

I think Northwestern State is the most interesting case. They have a good RPI, but they only have two games remaining against teams with winning records, so they are going to continue to drop the rest of the season. Also, I'm wondering if Nevada's preseason buzz and marquee big man Nick Fazekas will get them some special treatment. The last two or three teams on each side probably come down to Saturday's game resuts. There are still a lot of teams alive for TV games.

III. Weekend Forecast
Let's break these into three categories.
Clashes of the Titans (Beware of The Kraken)
--Ohio State at Iowa. Iowa looked very tough at home against Indiana earlier this week.
--Wisconsin at Michigan. Michigan finally scored their big win. Two in a row?

Bubble Boy Games (They're real...and they're SPECTACTULAR)
--Mississippi State at Alabama. The Tide has little room for error.
--Washington State at Cal. Bears are trying to be that fourth Pac-10 bid.
--Kansas State at Colorado. Somebody has to win these Big 12 games.
--Wichita State at Creighton. CU looks to knock off one of the three two-loss MVC teams.
--Virginia at Duke. This would probably vault the Cavs solidly into the bracket.
--Vanderbilt at Florida. 'Dores would love to hand UF their third straight conference loss.
--Old Dominion at George Mason. This is really a Clash of the CAA Titans game, but both would be on the NCAA at-large bubble.
--Cincinnati at Georgetown. Bearcats are 1-4 in their last five.
--Kansas at Iowa State. Let's see if the Cyclones really are the second best team in the Big XII.
--Hawaii at Nevada. Hawaii will be in NCAA contention with a few road wins.
--Arizona at North Carolina. Two hoops powerhouses in slightly down years. Both are still solidly in the bracket, but they are "Titans" in name only.
--Texas at Oklahoma. Sooners need a quality win. Badly.
--Marquette at Pitt. This would solidify Marquette a bit.
--Louisville at Rutgers. Both SEVERELY need this one.
--Maryland at Temple. Dangerous game for the Terps. Owls just knocked off Xavier this week.

Sun Belt Slate
--UALR (4-2) at Arkansas State (3-4). In state rivalry alert! State took the first match up in The Rock.
--UL-Lafayette (1-6) at Middle Tennessee (2-4). ULL's Southall is coming off a career game.
--South Alabama (4-2) at North Texas (5-2). Mean Green have a real shot out West.
--New Orleans (2-5) at Western Kentucky (6-1). Probably the worst and best teams in the Belt.
--Troy (3-3) at Denver (4-3). The Trojans are 7-1 at home and 2-7 on the road.

Enjoy the weekend. Bracket and Bracket Buster pairings talk on Monday.