Friday, January 23, 2009

BracketBuster Speculation: Siena vs. Butler?

Siena, after meetings with national Top 25 programs Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Kansas might get another chance this season at a highly ranked opponent.

And, after playing in one of college basketball's most-storied venues, Kansas' Phog Allen Fieldhouse this season, the Saints might make another appearance in a venerable and historical facility, although that would come next season.

It all very well could happen if Siena gets matched up with Butler for a "BracketBusters" game that would be played on either Feb. 20 or 21.

If that match-up comes about, it would be played at the Saints' Albany, N.Y., home court, the Times Union Center, and would most likely be one of the featured nationally televised games on ESPN.

Under the BracketBusters format, Siena would then be obligated to play a non-league contest at Butler next season. That would have the Saints playing at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler campus in Indianapolis.

The facility, constructed in 1928 and formerly known as Butler Fieldhouse, was prominently featured in the movie "Hoosiers."

The BracketBusters format, designed in 2003 for the dual purpose of setting up attractive non-league games for mid-major level programs as well as creating additional opportunities for ESPN to televise games, matches teams of similar ranking.

Match-ups for ESPN-televised games will be announced on or about Feb. 2.

According to, which issues the official report used to make the BracketBusters selections, Siena has an RPI ranking of 24 (of 343 Division I teams nationall) as of Friday morning (Jan. 23), the highest of any team that would host a BracketBusters game. Davidson is next at No. 39.

Siena would likely retain its top rating in the BracketBusters' pool of potential home teams with victories over Niagara (Saturday at noon) and Iona (Monday at 7 p.m.), both games in Albany. Siena is currently 14-5 overall and 8-0 in MAAC play.

Butler, which is ranked No. 16 nationally in the lastest Associated Press Top 25 poll, is No. 8 in the RPI's, tops among all teams (Miami of Ohio is next at 33) that will be on the road for this year's BracketBusters contests.

Butler is 17-1 overall (its only loss is to Ohio St.) with a nine-game winning streak and has an abundance of young talent with three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior in its starting lineup. Its best players are 6-foot-8, 230-pound sophomore forward matt Howard (13.9 points, 6.7 rebounds per game), the Horizon League's Newcomer of the Year last season; and freshmen 6-8, 200-pound forward Gordon Haywood (13.1, 6.6) and 6-3 guard Shelvin Mack (13.0, 3.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists).

Other potential opponents for Siena would appear to be Miami of Ohio, Utah St. (rated 46th), George Mason (51), Illinois St., (56) and Northeastern (64).

The BracketBusters formet currently includes 102 teams in its pool with half playing at home and half away. Twenty-six of the teams will play in one of 13 games televised on an ESPN network. The rest are paired in non-conference games this year and, then, meeting the same opponent in a "return game" next season in the other team’s building.

Dates and times of non-televised games will be announced a week later than after the televised match-ups are revealed.

Of other MAAC teams ... Fairfield (77 in the RPI as of Friday morning), Niagara (90), Rider (168) and Marist (223) will also host BracketBusters games.

Iona (154), Loyola (178), Manhattan (199), Canisius (231) and Saint Peter's (305) will be on the road for BracketBusters contests.

Fairfield, the fifth-highest rated team that will host a BracketBusters game, and Niagara (seventh-highest among hosts) would also appear in contention to get television exposure.

Those two appear to have a field of potential opponents from the likes of George Mason, Illinois State, Boise State, Virginia Commonwealth, UW-Green Bay, Cleveland State, Bradley, Northeastern Buffalo Northern Iowa and Ohio ... all teams rated between No. 46 and No. 94 in the RPI's.

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