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Friday, February 17, 2012
Updated: February 18, 10:25 PM ET
The Hype: Bring on BracketBusters

By Myron Medcalf
ESPN.com

The Hype Machine enjoyed a brief vacation. Had to build up the energy reserves for this weekend's BracketBusters. So much on the line. So much hype.

The event's premier matchup doesn't seem as sexy, considering the two teams' recent struggles, right? Um, it's called BracketBusters.

The team that we expected to leave the other mid-majors behind is 1-3 in its past four games. But it's tough to play one-on-five basketball. Good thing that's not how they roll.

The West Coast's best team might be playing in the Midwest this weekend. But it's used to the road, where it might have to win to guarantee an at-large berth.

Plus, two BracketBusters squads have gone to the Final Four during the past two seasons. Will this season send a third?

Saint Mary's versus Murray State feels more like a "record and watch later" game now.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE

Matthew Dellavedova
Matthew Dellavedova and Saint Mary's have something to prove against Murray State.

I know, I know. The Gaels lost at home to Loyola Marymount on Wednesday. And Murray State suffered a home loss against Tennessee State last week. Two of the top mid-majors in the country haven't exactly set up the kind of BracketBusters-headlining showdown we anticipated, right?

Wrong. I'm even more interested in this matchup now. Yes, both teams would earn at-large bids if the NCAA selection committee had to pick today. But neither possesses the remaining regular-season slate that would allow it to recover if it were to stumble in its final games. These two teams expected to have at-large slots locked up at the end of the regular season.

That might be the case in a few weeks.

But a win Saturday would be a huge boost for those postseason aspirations. And it would help the winner avoid a situation that might demand a win or two in their respective conference tournaments to feel completely secure on Selection Sunday.

Above all, their individual reputations have taken a hit recently with surprising home losses. The Gaels and Racers have something to prove as a result. Must-see TV in my opinion.

Creighton is a one-man team.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE

Doug McDermott (22.7 ppg) is the catalyst for Creighton's high-powered offense. And during his team's recent three-game skid he struggled when it needed him most. Against Wichita State on Saturday, he was 5-of-14 from the field. He was also quiet in the second half of road losses at Northern Iowa and Evansville.

Gregory Echenique 120116
Some may think that Creighton is a one-man team, but Gregory Echenique disagrees.

But Creighton (79.5 ppg) didn't earn a top-15 ranking on McDermott's back alone. Grant Gibbs and Antoine Young combine to average 10.1 assists per game. Gregory Echenique, a 6-9 forward, is averaging 9.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 1.7 bpg, and Ethan Wragge (45 percent from beyond the arc) is one of the top reserves in the country.

Yes, Creighton is kind of like the Jackson Five, with McDermott playing the role of Michael. But don't underestimate Tito (Echenique), Jackie (Young) or Jermaine (Gibbs). And Marlon (Wragge) can sing, too.

This is a complete team. And the Bluejays will need all their pieces against a talented Long Beach State squad on Saturday.

Dan Monson needs BracketBusters more than any team in the field.

BELIEVE THE HYPE

The 49ers (No. 41 BPI) have a simple approach to their nonconference schedule. Play America's toughest teams, even if that means traveling often. They have played San Diego State, Louisville, North Carolina and Kansas on the road this season. They lost those four games (they beat Pitt on the road and Xavier at a neutral site when both of those opponents were nationally ranked). But the slate helped Long Beach State's strength of schedule. The 49ers have the nation's toughest nonconference SOS.

But they could use another signature win.

A victory over Creighton (No. 24 BPI) on Saturday would elevate Long Beach State's at-large profile. Monson's squad hopes to grab an at-large slot so that it doesn't have to rely on the Big West tourney.

They've missed out on the NCAAs the past two seasons with losses to UC-Santa Barbara in the Big West tourney title game. But they've put themselves in a position to avoid that scenario this year.

That's what makes this road matchup against the Bluejays, perhaps their last chance to impress the selection committee, so important.

BracketBusters could send a team to the Final Four for the third consecutive season.

BELIEVE THE HYPE

Bradford Burgess
Can one of this season's BracketBusters teams make a Final Four run like VCU did in 2011?

Both VCU (2011) and Butler (2010) participated in BracketBusters during the most recent seasons in which they cracked the Final Four. This season would make three in a row.

This year's BracketBusters features multiple teams that could repeat the feats of those two teams.

Creighton has an offense that can rack up points against any team in the country. VCU has a Final Four veteran in Brad Burgess, and Shaka Smart obviously knows how to prepare a team to make a run in the NCAA tourney. Could be two in a row for the Rams.

Wichita State is shooting 48 percent from the floor. Drexel's defense (55.0 ppg allowed, No. 1 in the CAA) has taken it to the top of the CAA. And obviously, Saint Mary's and Murray State have been successful early.

Pay attention this weekend. One of these teams could end up in New Orleans.

The Hoopla: Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) and Reggie Hamilton (Oakland) will be the stars of BracketBusters (BELIEVE THE HYPE). … The CAA, not the MVC, will be the most successful conference this weekend (BELIEVE THE HYPE). … Iona's offense will be too fast and powerful for Nevada, a rugged WAC team (DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE). … Loyola Marymount is not a two-hit wonder (road wins over BYU and Saint Mary's) (BELIEVE THE HYPE). … Wichita State at Davidson will the best BracketBusters matchup on Saturday (BELIEVE THE HYPE).

Myron Medcalf covers college basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mmedcalf3030@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MedcalfbyESPN.