Bracket Buster becomes too inclusiveWritten by Matt Sussman | | email@example.com
Oh boy, the Bracket Buster is almost here. Mediocre NCAA basketball teams playing other mediocre teams. What a way to break the rhythm of conference play! I’m so glad they do this every year!
Actually, there was a time when the Bracket Buster was meaningful and somewhat anticipated. It began with a simple premise: those mid-major teams like Toledo, Bowling Green and others in the MAC that had a puncher’s chance of kicking in the door to March Madness would prove themselves to the tournament’s selection committee weeks before they adjourned by playing another mid-major team in the same boat. And it worked, until the amount of mid-major teams playing increased. So now we have every single MAC team playing such a game, meaning cellar-dwelling UT and BGSU get involved.
On Feb. 23, UT plays Delaware, a sub-.500 team in the Colonial Athletic Association. Meanwhile, BGSU, which ranks somewhere in the middle this year in the MAC, plays at the University of Detroit Mercy, a team that’s dead last in the Horizon League. Whether the pairings make any sense is irrelevant because none of these four teams will likely make dent marks in this year’s postseason brackets.
Granted, many of the Bracket Buster games will be very good, like Kent State’s trek to play the ranked St. Mary’s Gaels of the West Coast Conference. Other quality MAC-involved Bracket Buster games include Miami at Valparaiso, Ohio University hosting George Mason and Akron welcoming Virginia Commonwealth. These four games will be broadcast on national television. (Although it might be a little presumptuous to air Miami-Valpo on ESPN Classic. Let us, the fans, decide what is and isn’t a classic game.)
UT/Delaware and BGSU/Detroit on the other hand, well, they’ll be on local radio, as always.
The Bracket Buster is a good concept, but like the college bowl system, it’s gotten a little out of hand. And unlike the bowl system, which is deeply embedded in corporate sponsorship, the Bracket Buster games have very little marketing tie-ins, save for some decals on the court.
With 14 games on television and the other 36 just sort of “there,” perhaps there’s a better way to organize these mid-major teams into playing each other.
Can you say another NCAA postseason tournament?
In November, the Gazelle Group announced a third postseason tourney to be conducted starting next month. This means that after 65 teams are picked for the national championship bracket and 32 more play in the National Invitation Tournament, 16 more will play in the blandly titled College Basketball Invitational (CBI). So if you thought the NIT was filled with underperforming teams, just wait’ll you see what the CBI drags in!
If we can assume a tournament involving no team in the top 97 will have substandard ratings, let’s at least use those expectations to create an all mid-major tournament. Since the CBI invites 16 teams, it’s only fitting that with 16 conferences tethered to the Bracket Buster games, each conference gets one delegate in this proposed mid-major tournament.
Were this plan in motion this year, teams like the Rockets and Falcons would likely not be included. But in all fairness, given their records they really didn’t earn the right to play additional games. Perhaps their punishment for lousy seasons should be to play each other. Anything, anything to bring that second UT-BGSU basketball game back to the season.
Visit Matt Sussman’s sports blog at futonreport.net.