It could be argued, with little or no exaggeration, that the coming BracketBusters matchup between Saint Mary's and Murray State (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3) is the most significant game in the 10-year history of the event. The historic significance has waned somewhat since the Racers are no longer in pursuit of a perfect regular season, but this game's importance to the 2012 NCAA tournament bracket cannot be understated. Another loss by Murray, followed by the possibility of a third in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, would put the Racers at ground zero in the annual "mid-major" vs. "middling majors" debate. And Murray would be even less than the typical mid-major in such a scenario. We're not talking George Mason or Northern Iowa or VCU or Butler. We're talking about a potential at-large candidate from a conference in which no current member has ever, as in E-V-E-R, earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Let's play it out and assume Murray State loses at home to a very good Saint Mary's team Saturday. Then the Racers go on to win the OVC regular season at 15-1, but lose the championship game of the conference tournament on a neutral floor. That would put Murray State in the NCAA at-large pool with an overall record of 29-3.
My quick take, provided the Racers are competitive in each loss, is that the selection committee would be hard-pressed to deny a Murray State team once ranked in the Top 10 of both major polls. Having said that, there are several inconvenient facts -- past and present -- which work against a successful at-large candidacy.
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