The BracketBusters 2012 schedule of games will feature a number of mid-majors bidding for high seeds in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. But some of the games are better than others, and some teams have more to lose than others. Here's a quick look at the games you should remember to circle on your calendar.
Best game: No. 18 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 Murray State (6:00 p.m. ET, Feb. 18, ESPN or ESPN2). Of course it's the undefeated Racers that should be in the best game — they could, and perhaps should be 26-0 by their date with the Gaels — but St. Mary's will be more than a test for them. The Gaels are ranked No. 22 by Kenpom.com's ratings, and boast a more efficient offense and defense than the No. 47 Murray State team that has been merely very good against a lot of bad Ohio Valley Conference squads. At least, the Gaels will be the best test for Murray State since a mid-December game with Memphis.
Best player: Creighton's Doug McDermott (Long Beach State vs. No. 13 Creighton; 10:00 p.m. ET, Feb. 18, ESPN2). McDermott's led the Bluejays to their gaudy ranking by being the best player on a very good team, but he's the best player on that team by some margin. He's a fantastic shooter (50 percent on threes, 65 percent on twos) despite taking seven of every 20 Creighton shots, and a stellar rebounder, and he's going to be a tough match-up for any Long Beach State defender. But the 49ers haven't lost in 2012, and will get Creighton at home.
Best brand names: Northern Iowa vs. VCU (7:00 p.m. ET, Feb. 17, ESPN2). The 2011 Final Four VCU team trumps the 2010 Northern Iowa team (though both beat Kansas!), but this year's editions of each team are slightly less imposing, and are trending in opposite directions. VCU lost three of its first six contests this season, but has recovered and is 9-2 in conference play; Northern Iowa opened its year 10-1, with its lone loss coming at Saint Mary's, but the Panthers have nose-dived in the Missouri Valley Conference, compiling a 4-7 record. VCU may be playing to solidify an at-large tournament resume, but Northern Iowa may need a win to serve as its crown jewel.