A Viewer’s Guide to BracketBusters: Ranking the TV games


Over the last couple of seasons, BracketBusters has become less and less relevant. Between the lack of marquee games and the fact that the losers of the matchups tend to be hurt more than the winners are helped, there has been a fairly strong reaction to the event. Some have even dubbed it BracketEliminators.

This season isn’t all that different. With the notable exception being that the two marquee games are quite appealing, ESPN once again put together a schedule that doesn’t necessarily help all of the teams involved. Those with slim at-large hopes are putting them at risk for a game that won’t be the answer to their NCAA Tournament problems.

Putting all that aside and focusing on what will happen on the court, there should be plenty of excitement in February’s third weekend. Without further ado, here are the 13 TV games, ranked in order of watchability.

You can find the full schedule of the BracketBuster games here.

Find a way out of the date you scheduled to watch these games unless you’ve been waiting more than a month to take her/him(?) out or its your girlfriend and you just got back from a three week roadtrip, in which case … utilize that TiVo, yo!

1. Sat. 6:00 pm: St. Mary’s at Murray State (ESPN or ESPN2): This was the best possible matchup we could have gotten out of BracketBusters. We all know the story of Murray State — the darling of the Ohio Valley, the Racers are the nation’s last remaining undefeated team. While the chances of them entering the postseason without a blemish on their resume decreased dramatically when they drew the Gaels, this game, particularly if they come out victorious, will not only get them to a higher seed line come Selection Sunday, but it should help them hedge on the off-chance that they slip up during conference play’s stretch run.


St. Mary’s, on the other hand, has proven themselves as road warriors in the past week, winning at Loyola Marymount and BYU while remaining in control of their own destiny in the WCC. The Gaels are a member of a much stronger conference that Murray State, which means that their ability to earn an at-large bid won’t be as compromised should Murray State remain undefeated.

All the bubble talk aside, this should be a terrific basketball game. Both Murray State and St. Mary’s are lead by star guards. Where Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan is more of a pure scorer, St. Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova is a playmaker, one of the top assist men in the country. Throw in the fact that Ivan Aska is healthy again to bang with Rob Jones up front, and we will have ourselves quite the battle.

2. Sat. 10:00 pm: Long Beach State at Creighton (ESPN2): Creighton has won ten straight Missouri Valley games and, thanks to a triple-overtime loss by Wichita State, the Bluejays are now in sole possession of first place in the conference. They also have a top 15 ranking, wins at San Diego State and Wichita State and a handful of victories over teams in the bottom half of the power conferences. Its safe to say that, barring a collapse down the stretch, Creighton is going to be headed to the NCAA Tournament this season.

source: AP

That’s great news for Long Beach State, who needs every win that they can get. The 49ers put together one of the toughest non-conference slates in the country, and while they picked up a couple of solid wins — at Pitt, over Xavier on a neutral court — the recent struggles of those two teams have put a damper on how good those wins look. LBSU needs this win if they are going to have any chance of getting an at-large bid.

Creighton has one of the most potent and efficient offenses in the country. They have a number of weapons capable of getting their own shot, they are loaded with capable shooters and they push the ball. That makes for exciting basketball. You know what makes for even more exciting basketball? The fact that LBSU plays the same way. Doug McDermott of Creighton is a national player of the year candidate, but the most exciting player on the floor is going to be Casper Ware of LBSU.

Make sure to record these games and watch them as NCAA Tournament prep work

3. Sat. 4:00 pm: Nevada at Iona (ESPN or ESPN2): Both Nevada and Iona are on the longshot end of the bubble spectrum, but they have a shot. And that, frankly, is why this game is a bit frustrating. Nevada, who is currently undefeated in WAC, does not have a strong enough non-conference schedule to warrant an at-large bid unless they run the table in league play. That fact probably isn’t going to change even if they win at Iona, but a loss will be a black mark on their resume. Iona is in a slightly more desperate situation — that’s what happens when you blow two 18 point leads in league play — but there story is just about the same as Nevada’s: a loss hurts more than a win helps.

The bubble talk, however, is overrated when you consider just how entertaining this matchup should be. Both teams like to get up and down the floor and are led by talented point guards — Scott Machado for Iona and Deonte Burton for Nevada — and a pair of high-major transfers — Mike Glover and Momo Jones for the Gaels and Malik Story and Olek Czyz for the Wolf Pack.

4. Sat. 11:00 am: Drexel at Cleveland State (ESPNU): The odds of either of these teams earning an at-large bid is fairly slim. Both are sitting at or near the top of a competitive mid-major league; the Vikings currently lead the Horizon while Drexel is tied with three other teams at second place in the CAA. Where this game gets interesting is on the defensive end of the floor, where both teams thrive. Cleveland State thrives with a trapping pressure defense where Drexel is more equipped for grind-it-out half court games, winning games based on their ability to force tough shots and clean the defensive glass.

5. Sat. 12:00 pm: Wichita State at Davidson (ESPN or ESPN2): This may have been the most controversial game in the BracketBusters selection process. Wichita State is, arguably, the third best road team in the event. But they ended up with Davidson? With all due respect to the Wildcats, they are coming off of a loss to Samford and have … well … not much more than a win over Kansas on their resume. The problem? There really isn’t a much better option. The Shockers weren’t going to be sent to conference rival Creighton and if the Shockers were headed to Murray State, we would be having this same conversation about St. Mary’s.

A win over Wichita State isn’t going to make Davidson a tournament team and a win over Davidson isn’t going to be much of a boost to Wichita State. But if WSU loses? That would put them in jeopardy of getting an at-large bid should they stumble again in league play.

These may not be the best teams in the country, but there will be some of the best players in the country on the floor

6. Sat. 2:00 pm: Akron at Oral Roberts (ESPN or ESPN2): Akron is not exactly in a position to earn an at-large bid despite beating Mississippi State earlier this season, but they are currently sitting in first place in the MAC with a 6-1 record. ORU is in a similar position, with a solid RPI and a couple of decent non-conference wins. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, Akron doesn’t quite have the pop that, say, Wichita State would.

7. Sat. 7:00 pm: UNC Asheville at Ohio (ESPN3): This may be the best individual matchup of the weekend. Ohio’s point guard, DJ Cooper, is one of the most electric players in the country, a defensive playmaker that is one of the best creators in the country. But the Bulldogs have a pair of back court studs in JP Primm and Matt Dickey.

8. Sat. 5:00 pm: Old Dominion at Missouri State (ESPNU): Missouri State has kind of fallen off the radar a bit, as they have struggled during Missouri Valley play. But given the fact that they were essentially rebuilding their roster this season, that was not necessarily unexpected. What the Bears did bring back was Kyle Weems, the reigning MVC player of the year, who will have his hands full with Kent Bazemore of ODU. The Monarchs are not exactly playing for an NCAA Tournament bid, but they are currently sitting tied for second in the CAA.

9. Sat. 8:00 pm: UT-Arlington at Weber State (ESPN3): If you have never seen Damian Lillard play, you are doing yourself a disservice. He’s one of the most efficient, high-volume scorers in the country. And he’ll be going up against a UT-Arlington team that likes to get up and down the floor.

10. Sat. 1:00 pm: Buffalo at South Dakota State (ESPNU): Both of these teams are well off of the radar from a national perspective, but they have two of the most intriguing players in the country in Nate Wolters and Javon McCrea.

11. Sat. 3:00 pm: Drake at New Mexico State (ESPNU): NMSU has fallen back into second place of the WAC after losing to Nevada at home, but Wendell McKines has a legitimate shot to be the league player of the year. Drake’s Rayvonte Rice has thrived as a sophomore, going for 23 points, 14 boards, eight assists and four steals in a win over Wichita State.

I’ll be watching, as always, but that doesn’t mean that you have to as well. Just make sure to check out the box score at 3:00 am while you are crushing that late-night pizza

12. Sat. 7:00 pm: Northern Iowa at VCU (ESPN2)
13. Sat. 9:00 pm: Valparaiso at Loyola Marymount (ESPNU)

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.