Here’s a quick preview of the ESPNU O’Reilly Bracket Busters games this weekend that will not be shown on television involving northeast teams. In most cases, the organizers of this event have done a better job of limiting the travel for non-television games, with the exception of UC Davis visiting Loyola (MD) among games involving northeast leagues. Bracket Busters, originally put together to provide schools in non-BCS leagues one last opportunity to add to their resume, now involves some 100 schools from sixteen conferences.
Niagara @ Appalachian State (Saturday, 1 PM)
The nation’s leading scorer, Charron Fisher, takes his act on the road as the Purple Eagles visit the Mountaineers of the Southern Conference. Fisher has eclipsed the forty point mark in two of his last three games, including 45 and nine rebounds against Loyola (MD). Niagara (with help from Tyrone Lewis, Stanley Hodge and an improving Benson Egemonye) will look to run and put up a lot of points, but the Mountaineers are also capable of scoring some points. Six players score at least seven points per game, led by senior forward Donte Minter. I’ll take the Mountaineers due to the home court advantage.
Northeastern @ Holy Cross (Saturday, 4 PM)
The Huskies make the short trip to Worcester to take on a Crusader team still trying to recover from a slow start in Patriot League play. Tim Clifford is Holy Cross’ best offensive option, but it’s been the health of PG Pat Doherty that has been the concern. His Achilles injury at San Francisco was the catalyst for a five-game skid early in 2008, and the team has been up and down ever since. Northeastern, looking to end their two-game skid, will counter with a balanced scoring attack led by wing Matt Janning. Normally, I’d go with the home-court advantage, especially with an environment as hostile as the one awaiting NU’s arrival. But I’m going to take the Huskies due to the fact that they’re a more balanced team on offense.
Bucknell @ Old Dominion (Saturday, 7 PM)
The Bison, like their Patriot League rivals, have uncharacteristically struggled in league play this year. But given the number of losses due to graduation over the last two seasons, you can understand why this team isn’t in its usual perch atop the conference standings. Guards John Griffin, Justin Castleberry and Stephen Tyree are the main men on the offensive end of the floor, and they’re going to have their hands full in Norfolk. Forward Gerald Lee leads the Monarchs in scoring, but they have seven players averaging at least six points per game. In their last four games, all wins, three different Monarchs have led the team in scoring (Lee twice, Brian Henderson and Abdi Lidonde once apiece). I like the Monarchs to win this one.
Vermont @ UNC-Wilmington (Saturday, 7 PM)
If you’re looking to find a candidate for the most improved player in the country (yes, country), look no further than Vermont’s Marqus Blakely. After averaging 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season, the sophomore forward is up to 19.8 and 10.8 this year. And only two players have a 30/20 game to their credit this season: Michael Beasley and…Marqus Blakely. Mike Trimboli and Kyle Cieplicki are also more than capable of scoring from the perimeter. As for the Seahawks, four players average at least twelve points per game, led by senior guard T.J. Carter’s 15.8. Possessing a home record of 11-2, UNCW comes into this one riding a four-game win streak. Expect this one to be a close one, but I like the Seahawks to come out on top.
UC Davis @ Loyola-Maryland (Saturday, 1 PM)
Well, this one could get ugly as the Greyhounds host the Aggies. UC Davis, currently dead last in the Big West, has lost their last nine and are the league’s worst defensive team (opponents shoot 48.1% from the field). And when you’ve got to stop a player like G Gerald Brown, that could be bad news for the Aggies. Brown will have some help on the offensive end, supplied by Michael Tuck and Marquis Sullivan. The Aggies are led by guards Vince Oliver and Shane Hanson, but they have a road record of 1-11 for the season. I like Loyola to win this one.
Hofstra @ Iona (Saturday, 2 PM)
The Gaels host one of the nation’s best scorers in Hofstra’s Antoine Agudio, and with Iona preferring to quicken the pace this could be a game in which Agudio puts up some points. But the trend all season has been that the Pride are only as successful as Agudio’s supporting cast, and a group led by Charles Jenkins has become more confident as the season has progressed. On the other side, Kevin Willard’s first year as head coach has been streaky in regards to results, with a three game win streak followed by a short losing spell. Iona ended a two-game skid with a win at Canisius on Monday night, and five players averaging about eight points per game (Kyle Camper averages 7.8 to be exact). The key to this one will be how well Hofstra takes care of the basketball, something they haven’t done well on the road this season (3-9 away from home). I’ll take Iona by a basket.
Fairfield @ Drexel (Saturday, 4 PM)
The Stags, winners of five in a row, take their on one of the CAA’s worst offensive teams in the Dragons of Drexel. Center Frank Elegar leads Drexel in both scoring and rebounding, but the points have been few and far between for a team looking to replace the likes of Bashir Mason and Dominic Mejia from last season’s team. Fairfield, on the other hand, has received a boost from the likes of seniors Marty O’Sullivan and Mamadou Diakhate, two players who weren’t expected to see much playing time throughout the remainder of the season. But the team runs based on the play of PG Jonathan Han, the MAAC’s assist leader. With six road wins already to their credit, I like the Stags to pick up a seventh.
Youngstown State @ Buffalo (Saturday, 4 PM)
With two of the bottom feeders in their respective leagues on display, you have to dig a little deeper to figure out who to watch in this one. How about guards Andy Robinson (Buffalo) and Byron Davis (Youngstown State)? Both lead their teams in scoring, but truth be told each team has a couple of places from which the points can come. I’m taking Buffalo for one simple reason: The Penguins are 1-11 on the road this season.
Binghamton @ Manhattan (Saturday, 4 PM)
One of three matchups between America East and MAAC schools, this one will be an interesting affair due to the age difference between the backcourts. Manhattan, led by Antoine Pearson and Devon Austin (Austin’s a wing), rely primarily on sophomores while Binghamton’s backcourt is manned by seniors Mike Gordon and Richard Forbes. The Bearcats’ leading scorer, however, is sophomore forward Lazar Trifunovic (14.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg). I like the Jaspers to move their three-game win streak to four due to the fact that they’re at home (Binghamton is 3-10 on the road this season).
Albany @ Canisius (Saturday, 7:30 PM)
There’s no Jamar Wilson, but the Great Danes are still in third place in America East. The leader this season is Brian Lillis, a wing currently averaging sixteen points per game. In all, five Great Danes are averaging at least 7.7 points per game. Their opponent has one of the quickest guards in the MAAC in Frank Turner, but little has gone right this year for the 4-22 Golden Griffins. Losers of five straight games, I don’t think Canisius plays good enough defense (allowing 73.1 points per game) to end the skid in this one.
Boston University @ St. Peter’s (Saturday, 2 PM)
The Terriers have won six of their last seven, while the Peacocks have lost eleven of thirteen. SPC has one of the toughest competitors in the MAAC in senior Todd Sowell, but as a team they simply don’t defend well enough or take good enough care of the basketball (averaging sixteen turnovers per game). When you have four players scoring in double figures, turnovers are a sure way to keep your win total low. Corey Lowe, one of the best guards in America East, leads BU with eighteen points per game, but the improved play of freshman John Holland has been the catalyst for their recent run of good play. I like the Terriers to get a road win in this one.