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BracketBusters takes center stage once again

February 19, 2012 Columns No Comments

Every year, there is a lot of talk about how to make BracketBusters better, or if it should just go away entirely. While teams have undoubtedly benefited from it over the years of its existence, the feelings on it seem a bit mixed, and it’s debatable whether or not it has been good as a whole. Right now, it’s what we have, and on Saturday it was center stage.

Proponents have talked about teams getting an extra national television appearance for people to see them. They have also cited the chance to get an RPI boost. Certainly, some of the teams that have benefited can look back and argue that they would not have made the NCAA Tournament if not for a win in the BracketBusters, including Final Four teams from George Mason and VCU. In 2006, George Mason beat Wichita State (and then beat the Shockers again in the NCAA Tournament), while last season VCU also beat the Shockers in Wichita as part of this. It’s also one less game to worry about in terms of putting together a schedule, and at a time when it’s well-documented how difficult scheduling has become for many schools – especially the better mid-majors.

That is all well and good. But only a handful of teams get to play on television against a team that may give them an NCAA Tournament profile boost. Some of the other teams pay a price if they get matched up with a team at the opposite end of the country from them. (At least if it is a televised game, like Nevada at Iona this year, it takes the sting off the travel part.) Some good matchups are tough to make happen because teams are designated as home or road teams in advance. As one example, Long Beach State couldn’t play St. Mary’s because bother were designated as road teams. This also impacts conference scheduling, as it’s one reason why a number of conferences have games in the midst of non-conference play in December.

And while the boost some teams have had from it is nice, they don’t make the NCAA Tournament if they don’t win other games in addition to the BracketBusters game they play. George Mason and VCU needed to win a number of other games along the way to be in position to get the at-large bids they received in 2006 and last season, respectively.

In the past, one proponent talked about how a team has some incentive to play well enough to get a televised game in the BracketBusters. While that sounds good in theory, the NCAA Tournament is a far bigger prize, and if a team is good enough to be in the discussion for a televised game in this there’s a chance they will be in the discussion for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. I highly doubt a televised BracketBusters game against one of the best teams in the field moves the needle much in terms of motivators for teams.

So what can be done? Not much with this format, really. Teams have to be designated as home and road teams for it in advance because arena dates need to be booked well in advance. Schedules have to be done, and the only way to ensure a large number of the best mid-majors play each other is to have a large pool of teams. Hands are tied, in other words. This year’s event is the 10th annual, and it’s undergone a few changes in that time, but it is what it has been all along: a decent but flawed idea with big pros and cons.

BracketBusters was surely never intended to solely solve the problem of good mid-majors getting games against good opponents, or getting chances to be seen by members of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. But how much it has helped in that regard is debatable, and other issues with it raise a serious question of whether or not it is good for college basketball in the aggregate. This isn’t to say it needs to be done away with, only that its impact is limited and there are bigger problems that aren’t solved so easily.

Drexel blew out Cleveland State 69-49 in a game that may have lost some luster due to recent losses by the Spartans. It’s a big win for Drexel to come into their arena and win with a very early start (11 a.m. Tip), but the RPI boost the Dragons get is likely to be negligible since Cleveland State’s RPI was 80 entering the week and Drexel’s was 82.

Wichita State handled Davidson 91-74 for a nice road win in another early game. That will help the Shockers only marginally; they’re already in good shape with an RPI of 17, while Davidson entered the week with an RPI of 72. Wichita State has wins over UNLV and Creighton and no bad losses, so the Shockers would likely have been okay if they didn’t play this game.

In one matchup mentioned earlier, Iona beat Nevada in a game pitting two teams whose RPI was separated by three entering the week against each other.

In what was probably the most anticipated matchup, Murray State cruised to a 65-51 win over Saint Mary’s, which will boost the Racers in the event they don’t win the Ohio Valley Tournament.

Late in the evening, Creighton beat Long Beach State in a game that they hope will help them get back on track. Long Beach State, meanwhile, could have used the win since they lack one over a top 50 team in the RPI.


We take you coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

Florida State went to Raleigh and took care of North Carolina State, but the talk of the game is the ejection of Wolfpack greats Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta. The Seminoles needed another good win to be in a good place, while this loss hurts NC State’s NCAA Tournament hopes as they are running out of chances for significant wins.

Meanwhile, just down the road from there, Clemson still has never won at the Dean Dome.

Michigan held off Ohio State, which puts Michigan State all alone atop the Big Ten.

Marquette got a big game from Jae Crowder (29 points, 12 rebounds) to beat Connecticut, and simply put, the Huskies don’t look good at all.

Notre Dame rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat Villanova in overtime.

New Mexico blew out UNLV to give the Lobos the signature win they have lacked thus far. The real stunner in the Mountain West was San Diego State losing at Air Force, the Aztecs’ third straight loss.

Kansas State got a much-needed win at Baylor.

Washington knocked off Arizona 79-70 to keep pace with California, who knocked off Oregon State 77-63, atop the Pac-12.

UTEP beat Memphis at the FedEx Forum, but they weren’t alone in Conference USA as Houston beat Southern Miss to keep the Tigers and Golden Eagles tied at 9-3 atop the conference.

Bucknell looked like they were in control of the Patriot League a week ago. After a second straight loss, this one at arch-rival Holy Cross, along with American and Lehigh winning, the Bison are now just a game up on the Eagles and Mountain Hawks. Bucknell still has to play at American.

Middle Tennessee clinched at least an NIT bid by way of winning the Sun Belt’s regular season title.

Sunday’s key matchups:

  • Michigan State at Purdue
  • Indiana at Iowa
  • South Florida at Pittsburgh
  • Oregon at Stanford

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