ESPN announced the 2011 BracketBuster schedule on Monday, and it's highlighed by 11 televised games. In all, 114 teams from 15 conferences will play BracketBuster games from February 18-20.
Here are the televised games, with dates and times:
Friday, February 18
VCU at Wichita State (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)
Kent State at Drexel (ESPNU, 9 p.m. ET)
Saturday, February 19
Hofstra at Wright State (ESPNU, 11 a.m. ET)
Austin Peay at Fairfield (ESPNU, 1 p.m. ET)
Iona at Liberty (ESPNU, 3 p.m. ET)
Missouri State at Valparaiso (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET)
Vermont at Charleston (ESPNU 5 p.m. ET)
George Mason at Northern Iowa (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)
Utah State at St. Mary's (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET)
Montana at Long Beach State (ESPN2, 11:00 p.m. ET)
Sunday, February 20
Cleveland State at Old Dominion (ESPN or ESPN2, 1 p.m. ET)
There are five huge games on this year's BracketBuster schedule. Here's our quick take on each one:
1. Utah State at St. Mary's
St. Mary's is the class of this year's BracketBuster crop, and unlike most other teams in the field, their at-large status does not necessarily depend on how well they do in this event. That said, a victory over Utah State would be a nice addition to a resume that already has two quality wins on it (St. John's and at Gonzaga). Utah State has a nice RPI and looks to be on cruise control on its way to a WAC title, but the Aggies have a grand total of zero Top 100 wins, which puts their at-large hopes in some doubt. A win here plus a WAC regular season title would almost guarantee Utah State an at-large if they needed it; a loss would leave them little margin for error going forward.
2. VCU at Wichita State
Old Dominion might have the best at-large resume in the Colonial, but don't sleep on VCU as an at-large candidate as well. The Rams beat UCLA, they are two games better than ODU in conference, and they've already beaten the Monarchs on the road. A win here over a Wichita team that is currently tied for first in the MVC would put VCU in great shape down the final stretch of the season. Wichita needs this game not only because they are at home, but more importantly, because they have no Top 100 wins. A victory over VCU plus a top-two finish in conference would keep the Shockers very much alive in the at-large mix.
3. Cleveland State at Old Dominion
With Butler struggling, Cleveland State has emerged as the team to beat in the very competitive Horizon. The Vikings have a gaudy record and a Top 30 RPI, but they've also lost all three games they've played against real quality competition this season (at West Virginia, at Butler, and at Valparaiso). A win on the road against ODU would work wonders for their resume, and it might get them a bid if they finish no worse than second in conference. ODU, meanwhile, has compiled arguably the best OOC resume of any BracketBuster team (wins over Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, and Clemson), but they've already lost three conference games with road games at George Mason and at VCU still left. A win here plus a top-two finish in the Colonial would put ODU in very, very good shape for an at-large.
4. Missouri State at Valparaiso
Is Valpo for real? The Crusaders didn't do anything OOC, but they've been great at home in conference play, knocking off Cleveland State and Butler en route to an 8-2 mark. If they can win at Cleveland State this week and then beat Missouri State, they'd have to be considered a serious at-large contender. Missouri State has been great on the road this season (they have wins at Wichita and at Northern Iowa), and another quality road win here would continue to strengthen the MVC's best at-large resume.
5. George Mason at Northern Iowa
This match-up wouldn't have seemed that big a couple of weeks ago, but both teams have now won seven in a row and are just a game back in their respective conferences. Northern Iowa's recent run has included road wins over Wichita and Missouri State, and Mason's seven-game streak has left them sandwiched in between VCU and ODU in the Colonial standings. The loser of this game is going to be hard-pressed to get an at-large, while the winner will put themselves in great shape with a couple weeks to go in the regular season.
For a list of all the non-televised BracketBuster games, click here.