ESPN’s Bracketbusters showcases potential NCAA Tournament Cinderellas

We’ve all had our NCAA Tournament pools shattered by some team we’ve underestimated simply because we never saw them play. Raise your hand if you had George Mason knocking off UConn in 2006, or Siena upending Vanderbilt in 2008, or Murray State toppling Vanderbilt in 2010, or VCU taking down Kansas last year.

Those winning teams are all deemed mid-majors due to not playing in the BCS conferences, but the reality nowadays is there really isn’t a lot of distance between the power leagues (such as the ACC, Big East, SEC and Big 12) and the mid-majors from leagues like the CAA, Horizon League, WCC and Missouri Valley.

That said, it is getting more and more difficult to feel bad for people who underestimate these so-called Cinderellas, because ESPN for the past seven years has featured BracketBusters weekend — which showcases the teams you need to know about as the NCAA Tournament gets closer. Consider it your crash course on March Madness, because you are likely to see several Davids who will be knocking off some Goliaths a month from now.

The weekend kicks off tonight with Northern Iowa traveling to Richmond, Virginia, to take on 2011 Final 4 participant Virginia Commonwealth. VCU was a controversial at-large selection last year, but it made the most of its bid by knocking off BCS programs in USC, Florida State, Georgetown, Purdue and Kansas before eventually falling to Butler.

The premiere BracketBusters matchup, however, is two nationally-ranked teams squaring off on Saturday at 6pm ET as #16 St. Mary’s of the WCC travels to #14 Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. Other games that could have major NCAA Tournament ramifications are Wichita State vs. Davidson and Long Beach State vs. Creighton.

So get out your notebook and start planning ahead, because today and tomorrow provide a great sneak peak at the teams that can and will bust your brackets next month. Following is the schedule of games that will be airing on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3 (all times ET):

Friday, Feb 17
7pm: Northern Iowa at Virginia Commonwealth (ESPN2)
9pm: Valparaiso at Loyola-Marymount (ESPNU)

Saturday, February 18
11am: Drexel at Cleveland State (ESPNU)
Noon: Wichita State at Davidson (ESPN2)
1pm: Buffalo at South Dakota State (ESPNU)
2pm: Akron at Oral Roberts (ESPN2)
3pm: Drake at New Mexico State (ESPNU)
4pm: Nevada at Iona (ESPN2)
5pm: Old Dominion at Missouri State (ESPNU)
6pm: Saint Mary’s at Murray State (ESPN)
7pm: UNC Asheville at Ohio (ESPN3)
8pm: Texas-Arlington at Weber State (ESPN3)
10pm: Long Beach State at No. 12 Creighton (ESPN2)