Monday, February 2, 2009

BracketBusters TV for Siena, Niagara and Fairfield

Well, now we know that the ratings mean little when it comes to determining the pairings for the upcoming BracketBusters games to be played on Friday, Feb. 20 and Saturday, Feb. 21.

If the ratings meant anything, then followers of the Siena basketball program would be treated to a BracketBusters game against Butler, currently the No. 11 team nationally in this week's AP Top 25 poll.

That would only seem the natural match, since the Saints are the highest-rated team in the pool of teams that will host BracketBusters' games, and Butler is the highest-rated team that will be on the road for the ESPN-sponsored event.

Instead, Siena will host Northern Iowa, the No. 8-rated road team by, which rates teams for the BracketBusters Report. The game will be played on Feb. 21, although the game's time has yet to be determined.

Overall, Northern Iowa is No. 73 nationally in the RPI's, while Siena is No. 20.

Does that make sense? Of course not.

But, remember, this is a made-for-TV, run-by-TV event. ESPN will televise 13 of the 51 matchups of mid-major level programs.

The most-attractive match would involve Butler, which is 19-1 overall, and Davidson, the second-highest rated home team with an 18-3 record. Davidson, which has one of the sport's best players in senior guard Stephen Curry, advanced to the NCAA tournament's round of eight last season.

So, does it surprise anyone that Butler has been matched with Davidson for a BracketBusters' game? It shouldn't. When a television network calls the shots, it dictates what's best for ratings, not what would appear to be the more-equitable "showdown" of the two top-rated teams eligible for the event, Butler and Siena.

It's not as if Northern Iowa isn't a solid oppnent. The Panthers are 16-6 overall and have won their last 10 games.

But, at No. 73 nationally in the RPI's ... a victory over Northern Iowa won't be a major boost for Siena's hopes for an NCAA tournament at-large berth should it fail go get the MAAC's automatic bid by winning the conference's post-season tournament.

A loss to Northern Iowa, though, would be detrimental to Siena's at-large hopes.

And this humble blogger hasn't even addressed the travel difficulties and significant expenses related to sending the Panthers here this season and Siena to Cedar Falls, Iowa, next season for the return portion of the BracketBusters' situation.

What should Siena fans expect from Northern Iowa?

A big, balanced team. The Panthers have five players averaging between 11.5 points and 9.4 points per game. Their two inside players are 7-foot-1, 290-pounder Jordan Eglseder (9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds) and 6-8, 245-pound forward Adam Koch (11.4, 4.8).

Niagara and Fairfield will also be featured in televised matchups. The Purple Eagles will host Illinois State, while Fairfield will host Hofstra.

Game times and network assignments for the televised games will be announced on Monday, Feb. 9. ESPNU will televise five of the games, ESPN2 will televise six and, ESPN's customized broadband service, will offer two.

All 10 MAAC teams will get BracketBusters games, but the other seven contests will not be televised.

Here are those pairings:
Canisius is at Bowling Green
Iona is at Boston University
Loyola is at Drexel
Manhattan is at William & Mary
Saint Peter's is at Youngstown State
Hartford is at Marist
UMBC is at Rider

As part of the agreement, home teams will play a return game at the home facility of their 2009 BracketBusters series opponent in November or December of the following season.

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