12/28 Bidwell's Blog: Scouting the BracketBusters
It's a little early for this, but I thought it would be a good time to look about six weeks down the road to the annual BracketBuster series. As usual, Murray State will play a home game that third-Saturday in February. What is unusual is that the Racers will (barring a major collapse) not only get one of the coveted TV games this year, but one of THE TV games.
The ESPN family of networks will air 13 BracketBuster games. The home and road teams have already been predetermined. As of tonight, there are only two teams participating in the BracketBuster series that are ranked: #20 Murray State and #21 Creighton. On paper, that's the most attractive matchup, but both are slated to have home games -- so, no luck there.
The Racers are currently #22 in the RPI. Here are the top teams, with their RPI ranking, who will play road games in the BracketBuster series and could end up coming to Murray State:
5. Northern Iowa
Those are actually the only road BracketBuster teams that are in the Top 100 in the RPI. ESPN usually tries to keep these games as geographically close as humanly possible. Keep in mind, these RPI numbers are extremely fluid, so my opinion on this could change vastly in just a couple of days.
With Creighton also having a home game, you can obviously rule out Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Indiana State playing them since they are in the same conference. As of today, I'd guess the Racers would be in line to play either Northern Iowa or Wichita State. Murray would then have to return that game in November or December of 2013.
Staying ranked will be huge for the Racers in terms of where they fall in the TV games. No matter how many games they win, their strength of schedule will continue to drag their RPI down as they move forward. In just two weeks, their RPI has already dropped from 6 to 22 -- and it's not as if they've lost a game.
If they are ranked when the matchups are made, it will be tough to shuttle them off to some lower-tiered TV game. Remember two years ago, a 25-3 Murray State team hosted Morgan State in the BracketBuster. A lot of Racer fans were disappointed they got "stuck" with Morgan State. After looking at the RPI numbers, the Racers were just 22nd of the 24 teams who earned TV games that year. Morgan State was 24th out of 24. Ultimately, you couldn't argue with the pairing. I can't imagine the Racers ending up that low this year, but, again, staying ranked will protect them from an RPI bias when naming them an opponent.
Even though it's early -- of the teams listed above, who would you want to see Murray State play in the BracketBuster?