Tuesday, February 5, 2013
The storm that is conference realignment in college sports has left a lot of destruction in it's path but one of the least talked about casualties of all these changes is the ending of ESPN's Bracketbuster event. This February 22 and 23rd will be the 10th and final edition of the event. It started as an 18 team event that swelled to as high as 142 teams last year.
I'm sure I'm a little more biased towards this event as University at Buffalo graduate who attended most of the home games when I was there as well as making the trek to Cleveland for the MAC Conference tournament whether or not Buffalo even advanced to the Gund. After college I moved back to Long Island so it was tough to get to see many games so the potential of getting a game on ESPN was always exciting. It gave me a reason to care about their RPI despite a zero percent chance of an at-large NCAA Tournament birth. I believe that this is the 9th year that Buffalo is participating. They were far away from a televised game this year but in their 9 years they were good enough to get three of them televised. So that was always a treat.
The spirit of the event was to get the mid-major schools a chance for one more opportunity to get a quality win before the season ended. A lot of these higher quality mid-majors are the class of their conference and probably wouldn't have another opportunity for another good win once non-conference season ends. In a few instances it was really useful and really worked. Look at VCU's run to the Final Four in 2011. If they don't get that win at Wichita State during Bracketbuster weekend then they don't even make the tournament.
The other benefit of Bracketbusters was getting rare exposure to see some of the mid-major tournament teams before the brackets come out. Look at last year's tournament teams. Wichita State, New Mexico State, Long Beach State, Davidson, Iona, VCU, Ohio, Creighton, South Dakota State, Murray State, UNC-Asheville and St. Mary's all got televised games. Three of those teams won a game in the tournament and Ohio went to the Sweet 16. If you watched the UNC-Asheville/Ohio game, you're on the Walter Offutt and DJ Cooper bandwagon before someone like Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale tell you Ohio is potential upset pick. Maybe you know who J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey were before they almost became the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed (Syracuse).
It was a great and useful event and it's a shame it's ending.