Since they’re on the phone right now reviewing the BracketBusters match ups I thought this might be a good time to post predictions for the final version of this event.
There will be 13 games on television of some sort (if you include ESPN3). There are nine games actually on TV (ESPN2 and ESPNU). That means that Iona, even after losing its past two games, still has a shot at getting on television.
One thing I noticed when putting together the Home and Away pools is that everyone is right for complaining about the pools this season. The Home pool has five Top 60 RPI teams, while the Away pool has just one (Creighton). In terms of Top 100 teams though it is fairly even.
Here’s my best guess at what is going to happen:
Creighton at St. Mary’s (CA): Yes, a better game would be to have the Bluejays go to Belmont, but it will be hard for ESPN2 to resist this game that would feature plenty of offensive fireworks.
Ohio at Belmont: The Bruins’ consolation prize for missing out on Doug McDermott very well could be DJ Cooper. At least that’s what I’d do. Ohio is probably the second best team in the MAC, but the Bobcats were 6-0 before falling to Akron last week. Of course if Belmont somehow lost…
South Dakota St. at Wichita St.: I know that the Shockers are hosting someone in a television game. Gregg Marshall’s team is too good not to get one of the premiere television slots. The question is who are they playing? Given a bunch of okay options I think ESPN will go with another star, Nate Wolters. SDSU gets this game above say Western Illinois because of the team’s up-tempo style.
North Dakota St. at Indiana St.: Two good teams in a regional matchup that makes sense for both parties involved. The Sycamores have an outside shot at an at-large bid, so they need to take care of business. NDSU would put up a fight. This might be the closest game score wise of any of the five I’ve suggested for ESPN2.
Iona at Valparaiso: Call me crazy for suggesting this, but I think the Gaels could be in a marquee game on ESPN2 even after their recent struggles for a few reasons.
- This game would make for excellent television. It’ll be fast paced and high-scoring and has Momo Jones, Ryan Broekhoff and some guys ESPN can pitch.
- Iona’s story: The big collapses, the heart-breaking losses, all that talent. It makes for good TV. If you have to broadcast a game for two hours, why not this?
- While their market shares certainly aren’t great, these teams are right outside both the New York and Chicago markets.
It all adds up to an intriguing game that I think is a lot better than some of the other options ESPN could choose. So let’s see if they pick it.
Detroit at Western Michigan: This should be Detroit at Akron, but the Titans and Zips already played. So instead we’ll get something like this game, which isn’t quite as sexy.
Stephen F. Austin at Akron: SFA is a really good story and has already beaten a Big 12 school (Oklahoma). As the prohibitive favorite in the Southland and just a really good team in general you can sell them as a road team. This game is on ESPNU though because it could get really ugly. The Lumberjacks play really good defense (the third best nationally according to KenPom). It’d make for a fascinating game against an Akron team that can fill it up.
Montana at Long Beach St.: We need another West Coast game for our television slate and there are a few options here, but Montana, with a healthy Will Cherry and a bunch of wins in the Big Sky, seems to make the most sense to go play the 49ers. ESPN’s cameras seem to like LBSU and with all their major conference transfers the story about how they’re turning their season around would make for good TV.
Loyola (MD) at Davidson: I know this truth to be self evident, either Davidson or Murray State is getting a TV game even though they’re quite a ways down the pecking order in the Home pool according to RPI. After selecting my other games there’s no one great to pit Isaiah Canaan against. (Though if Iona or Ohio doesn’t get picked for those other games watch out.) Thus, I’m going with Bob McKillop’s Wildcats. They’re 10-1 in the Southern Conference and actually could make the NCAAs and do some damage. Jimmy Patsos and Loyola might be leaving the MAAC at the end of the season, but he’s great to have on camera. I think this one happens.
If those were the nine games on national television, I think we could see these four games on ESPN3:
- Eastern Kentucky at Northern Iowa
- Canisius at Vermont
- Denver at Oral Roberts
- Northwestern St. at Murray St.
Only one Top 100 RPI team gets left out of a television game in this scenario: Tennessee St. TSU gets screwed because Murray joined their conference. While they’re a good story, if ESPN is going to pick three OVC teams it’s going to take the talented one (Belmont) and the one everyone knows (Murray St.) and one good story (Eastern Kentucky). The other team that would have a major beef under this scenario? Niagara. The Purple Eagles are 10-2 in the MAAC, but their RPI isn’t great and Iona is a bigger name. Last night’s loss to Loyola (MD) in double overtime also gives ESPN a little bit of an out. (I’d still be pissed though if I were a Niagara fan.) We’ll see if this actually comes to pass.
Disagreements? Other thoughts? Expectations? Let me know in the comments.
Note: This post originally had South Dakota St. playing at Belmont. Unfortunately that game already happened this season and it was ugly (76-49 Belmont win). Thanks to Corey Schmidt for pointing it out.