- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. Participants for 2013's BracketBusters and the home/road breakdown were released Wednesday, and already it's easy to pick out what should be the best matchups for the Feb. 22-23 event. The home-road split works out for a Creighton-at-Murray State matchup. If the two teams continue to perform well during the next two months (before actual pairings are announced Jan. 28), that will be a natural game. Davidson and Valparaiso are the other marquee home teams and the Wildcats and Crusaders probably should get either a team from the Missouri Valley (Illinois State), the Mid-American Conference (Ohio or Kent State) or Horizon (Detroit). The other two teams to keep an eye on over the next two months to see if they are worthy of a high-profile game are road teams Albany (won at Washington) and UC Irvine (lost in overtime at UCLA).
2. The surprise of the Tip-Off Marathon might have been Wichita State upsetting Virginia Commonwealth. Sure, Xavier playing as hard as it did and dominating Butler was a shocker. The Bulldogs being so offensively challenged and without a game-changing guard was disappointing. Gonzaga's shutdown of West Virginia was the most significant development. But the Shockers' two-point victory in Richmond should send shock waves in the Valley that Wichita State will be a player in the race behind Creighton. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said Tuesday that he is playing with eight newcomers and that they "competed their ass off. (VCU) had not lost in November since 2002. In the last two-plus seasons we have the best winning percentage on the road in the country now at 21-3.'' If Marshall's stats are correct, they indicate how much he has his team ready for foreign courts. And if the first week is any indication, the Shockers will have shelf life through the winter.
3. Let's just give Mississippi State a pass for the season. This simply won't be fair. New coach Rick Ray is down to six scholarship players for next week's Maui Invitational. The latest setbacks are an injury to Jalen Steele (fractured right wrist) and a suspension of Colin Borchert; Andre Applewhite and Jacoby Davis are already out. Ray said Wednesday that he'll have two walk-ons to use against North Carolina on Monday in Hawaii. The Bulldogs split the first two games -- a loss at Troy and a win over Florida Atlantic. But to expect much out of this Bulldogs team is simply not right. Ray deserves a freebie this season as he establishes his program.