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Breaking the BracketBusters Code (Revised)

[NOTE: I screwed up. In my haste to publish this article Tuesday evening, I evidently picked up last year’s home-away designations and made my projections/guesses based on dated information. Sorry about that. I’ve revised my not-so-educated guesses based on what (I swear) are the true home-road teams for this year’s BracketBuster event.]

Creighton’s participation in the made-for-TV drama that is ESPN’s Bracket Buster event has bestowed upon Bluejays fans some memorable moments. These include:

  • Kyle Korver (27 points; 7-15 from 3-point range) leading CU to a 1-point win over Fresno State on national television.
  • Kent State’s 19-0 run turning a 42-41 Creighton lead with 14:30 to play in the game into 60-42 score with 7:48 to go, with the Bluejays losing to the Golden Flashes 70-55.
  • Creighton sets an MVC record with 20 3-pointers during a 100-68 embarrassment of Chattanooga.
  • More than 15,000 fans at Qwest Center Omaha and a national TV audience on ESPN stayed up late (11 p.m. tip) to watch the Bluejays beat Fresno State again.
  • Eventual NCAA Tournament participant Creighton loses for the only time in its home Bracket Buster game history, dropping a 64-58 game to Drexel.
  • Hitting the road for just the second time in Bracket Buster play, the Bluejays get a game-winning 3-pointer from Booker Woodfox (video here) en route to a 65-64 win at Oral Roberts.
  • Woodfox (22 points; 5-6 from 3-point range) paces the Jays to a 13-point rout of George Mason in front of one of the five largest crowds in Creighton history.

On February 1, the folks in Bristol will announce the matchups for this season’s ESPNU BracketBusters weekend (Feb. 19-20). That means on 2/1, Creighton fans will find out who they’ll get to watch the Bluejays host for one of the team’s rare Saturday night home games. The Nebraska High School Wrestling Championships take place at Qwest Center Omaha that same weekend, and for that reason one can conclude the earliest the Bluejays would play is 8:30 p.m. or so that Saturday night.

Along with the start time, a lot of the information relative to BracketBusters weekend is shrouded in mystery. Last season, 13 BracketBusters games were on the ESPN family of networks. This season, the network will only broadcast 11 games. Will Creighton’s combination of near-100 RPI, solid home court crowd, and relatively brand name program give the Bluejays a shot at some television exposure?

The biggest unknown is not when they’ll play or if they’ll be on TV; rather, what team will come to the Qwest Center to (hopefully) join the ranks of the Fresno States and George Masons of the past and leave with a late-season loss?

Taking a look at the designated home and away teams for the event, comparing the teams’ RPIs as of January 24, and eliminating rematches of previous non-conference games, I took some time to project some possible BracketBusters matchups (for the TV games, only). Again, not knowing exactly how the folks at ESPN and throughout the participating mid-major basketball leagues put these combinations together, I based this primarily on 1) RPI rankings (in parentheses below), 2) league standings as of Tuesday night, and 3) what I’d like to see, as a basketball fan. You know, sort of a not-so-educated guess.\

[Note: I have no idea how the conferences and ESPN pick the match-ups. There. I said it.]

Butler (RPI: 24; 1st place in Horizon) vs. Siena (RPI: 33; 1st in MAAC)

Northern Iowa (RPI: 22; 1st place in MVC) vs. Old Dominion (RPI: 36; tied for 1st in CAA)

Northeastern (RPI: 54; tied for 1st in CAA) vs. Wichita State (RPI: 53; 2nd in MVC)

Kent State (RPI: 73; 1st in MAC East) vs. Louisiana Tech (RPI: 58; 1st in WAC)

VCU (RPI: 48; 3rd in CAA) vs. Western Carolina (RPI: 60; 1st in SoCon North)

George Mason (RPI: 104; tied for 1st in CAA) vs. Western Michigan (RPI: 102; 2nd in MAC West)

Iona (RPI: 75; tied for 2nd in MAAC) vs. Buffalo (RPI: 91; tied for 2nd in MAC East)

Murray State (RPI: 81; 1st in OVC) vs. College of Charleston (RPI: 85; 1st in SoCon South)

Pacific (RPI: 98; 1st in Big West) vs. New Mexico State (RPI: 110; 2nd in WAC)

Utah State (RPI: 60; tied for 2nd in WAC) vs. William & Mary (RPI: 42; tied for 2nd in CAA)

Creighton (RPI: 114; tied for 3rd in MVC) vs. Nevada (RPI: 69; tied for 3rd in WAC)

Can you say 2007 NCAA Tournament rematch?!?! Bring on the Wolf Pack. Or, maybe a one-man wolf pack?

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