First takes on the BracketBusters matchups

Here's a first look at the 14 TV games in the 2007 O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters:

Friday, Feb. 16
Winthrop at Missouri State
The visiting Eagles get one more chance to bag a high-RPI catch and get back to the periphery of the bubble after missing out on their four chances vs. current Top 25 teams. They'll have to figure out how to stop one of the best pure shooters in the country, Blake Ahearn.

Albany at Boise State
The America East is first and foremost a guards league, and if the Great Danes can survive a title challenge by resurgent (yet Buster-idle) Vermont, this western test will toughen them up for the NCAAs, where Connecticut's size wore them down last year. The Broncos feature Matt Nelson and Reggie Larry, two double-double machines who average 17.5 rpg between them.

Saturday, Feb. 17
Southern Illinois at Butler
A dream matchup between two nationally ranked, giant-killing at-large candidates in the place where Hollywood shot the "Hoosiers" title game. Will Butler's best-in-the-nation ball control vs. SIU's sticky, sweaty pressure defense produce the best 35-33 game ever? Best to film this one in black and white.

Northern Iowa at Nevada
The Panthers have excelled with a floor-spreading frontcourt that's muscular and quick, yet undersized (topping out at 6-foot-8); how will they handle the dynamic all-around game of 6-11 Nick Fazekas? You'll also see two extremely skilled point guards who need more exposure: Valley assists leader Brooks McKowen and the Pack's heart and soul, Ramon Sessions.

Bradley at VCU
This game should have enough intensity with the floor burns alone to power the VCU campus for the weekend. Both squads are hard and scrappy with appetites for 3s and steals. With a place in the at-large conversation on the line, this one has the capability of sparking a long-distance rivalry.

Holy Cross at Hofstra
VCU currently is the hottest team in the CAA at 10-0, but the Pride has kept pace at 9-1 and has a home shot at the leaders later this week. If the 7-0 Crusaders continue to roll, this could be a real red-hot Colonial-Patriot Challenge. Hofstra appears to have the market cornered on backcourt play; Holy Cross' resurgent inside game should provide a good counterbalance.

Appalachian State at Wichita State
Definitely the day's mystery game. The SoCon's Mountaineers are the nation's most mysterious team: look at their boxscores, and you'll see that they rarely win the same way twice. They'll be paired against the Syracuse- and LSU-beating Shockers, whose six Valley L's have been investigations into new and interesting ways to lose. Not even Peter Falk could have this straight.

Old Dominion at Toledo
A real Robert Louis Stevenson matchup. Toledo snuck into the 2006 MAC title game as a No. 7 seed, but has plundered the weak West Division this season like the pirates from "Treasure Island." Old Dominion's season has been like "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde": The Monarchs upset Georgetown and thrashed Drexel, but lost badly at CAA laggard James Madison.

Utah State at Oral Roberts
NCAA perennial Utah State has had a tough time keeping up with the WAC race, but owns a mid-60s RPI; Mid-Con champ Oral Roberts currently is unblemished in their its defense at 7-0, and might get a better seed than last year's 16 with a home win here. The two schools aren't exactly strangers: The Golden Eagles and Aggies held an in-season home-and-home last season (swept by Utah State).

Drexel at Creighton
Promises to be a tough, gritty battle featuring two teams that stand out more on the standings table than the stat sheet -- already, a combined 29 wins between them. We're just looking forward to the chess match between CU's Dana Altman and DU's Bruiser Flint -- two masters at using their pieces in whatever way is necessary to win, regardless of aesthetics.

Austin Peay at Akron
Surprise OVC leader, powered by sophomore sensation and league POY candidate Drake Reed, would improve its RPI dramatically if it finds a way to beat the not-much-of-a-surprise MAC East leader and its inside-outside combination of LeBron's old pals, Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce.

Ohio at New Mexico State
Ohio is tied for third in the competitive MAC East, but it has five double-figure scorers and is the league's RPI leader. NMSU already has beaten WAC-leading Nevada once and showed signs that it may be able to do it again when it counts. Watch and take notes.

Cal State Fullerton at Wright State
This'll be an exciting battle between pint-sized seniors who can fill it up. Big West contender Fullerton brings Bobby Brown, a 6-0 guard who shoots 50 percent and averages around 20 a game. WSU (which has been hanging around with Butler at the top of the Horizon) has 5-11 Dashaun Wood, who pops in 19 a contest.

Kent State at George Mason
It's a game for the historians in the house: the mid-major Final Four squad from the CAA versus what had been the most recent Elite Eight mid out of the MAC. Though neither is setting their respective leagues on fire this season, both have 12 wins at this point, are dedicated to solid defense, and provide interesting case studies on building mid-major legacies.

Kyle Whelliston is the founder of midmajority.com and is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.