Bison find out bracketbuster opponent todayCracking the top 100 in a national poll known as RPI on Sunday, North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team saw its chances improve for playing in a nationally-televised game later this month.
By: Kevin Schnepf, The Forum
FARGO -- Cracking the top 100 in a national poll known as RPI on Sunday, North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team saw its chances improve for playing in a nationally-televised game later this month.
The Bison will find out today when the pairings will be announced for the Seventh Annual ESPNU-Bracketbuster event. The Bison are one of 102 mid-to-low-major Division I teams who will be paired for 51 games to be played either Feb. 20 or 21.
The 16-5 Bison, riding an eight-game winning streak, are hoping to be selected for one of the 13 games that will be televised nationally on either ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN360.com.
“It would mean everything, that’s why we signed up for this,” Bison head coach Saul Phillips said about a possible nationally-televised game. “It would be a huge deal for this program. When we made this move to Division I, the idea was to market the university through athletics. What a great way to do that.”
NDSU’s recent climb in the collegerpi.com poll has Phillips optimistic that his team could play on national television. The ratings percentage index poll, which ranks Division I teams based on overall records and opponent’s records, is one of the major criteria used for the Bracketbuster pairings according to Bill Trocchi, a writer who covers mid-major Division I men’s basketball for SI.com.
“As far as I know, it’s based basically on the straight RPI,” Trocchi said.
If that is the case, the Bison are right on the bubble of being selected for a televised game.
With wins over Oakland and Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne last week, the Bison climbed from a collegerpi.com ranking of 117 to 98. That ranks 14th among the 51 visiting teams designated for the Bracketbuster – one shy of that 13th and final television spot.
But Phillips believes other criteria other than RPI will be used for the television pairings. Factors Phillips thinks would be hard to ignore include: upsets over Wisconsin and Marquette in the last four years, Ben Woodswide’s 60-point performance in December and NDSU’s current first-place standing in the Summit League.
“I have a hard time believing that anybody who follows college basketball closely wouldn’t want to see this team play and play against a good team on TV,” Phillips said. “I think we are pretty marketable. I would be pretty disappointed if ESPN didn’t see it that way.”
The 13 visiting teams that currently have a higher RPI ranking come from five different conferences: Butler, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Cleveland State of the Horizon League; Northeastern, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason of the Colonial Athletic Conference; Illinois State, Northern Iowa and Bradley of the Missouri Valley Conference; Miami (Ohio) and Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference and Utah State and Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference.
“Will they take three teams from the Horizon, Colonial or Missouri Valley and none from the Summit?” Phillips said. “A lot of those teams aren’t leading their league.”
The 13 home teams with the highest RPI rankings come from nine different conferences: Siena, Niagara and Fairfield of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; Evansville and Creighton of the Missouri Valley; Wright State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee of the Horizon League; Davidson of the Southern Conference; St. Mary’s of the West Coast Conference; Nevada of the Western Athletic Conference; Drexel of the Colonial Athletic Conference; Portland State of the Big Sky Conference and Vermont of the American East Conference.
With or without a televised game, NDSU’s men’s basketball director of operations Dan Weisse will be busy today lining up a travel schedule for the Bracketbuster game. Each school is required to cover costs for the road game, knowing it is guaranteed a home game next season with this year’s Bracketbuster opponent.
“Even if we don’t get on TV, this gives you a chance to play against a team that will be similar to you this time of year,” Phillips said. “It gives you a chance to play in a hostile environment and gives you a chance for a little more exposure. It’s a unique, fun thing.”