Friday, March 12, 2010

BracketBusters - Busting the Brackets?

The BracketBusters were created by ESPN to give mid-major conference teams some time in the spotlight to impress the NCAA Selection Committee. ESPN has done a decent job of giving some good match ups the past couple of years. This year's premier game was between Butler and Siena. Butler and Siena had the two longest winning streaks going until Siena lost the weekend before the BracketBuster game. However, are the BracketBuster games a chance to shine or are they ruining the chance for mid-major teams to earn an at-large bid?

Think about it. Butler and Northern Iowa were ranked at the time of the BracketBuster games and most likely would not have been hurt by a loss. However, the teams they beat, Siena and Old Dominion, respectively, had everything to lose. Granted those losses probably still helped their RPI rankings, but it still leaves a black-eye on the teams. Had they won, it becomes probably their best win and looks good on an at-large bid resume. So frankly, teams that lose the BracketBuster game and lose in their conference tournaments, will tend to have almost no shot at an at-large bid unless they've ran the table otherwise in their conference.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, unless it pertains to the NBA and the Indiana Pacers in the mid-90's, but that's a different story altogether. [Say it with me now, "That's different story altogether."] Yet, it seems like the BCS schools benefit more from the top mid-major clubs beating up on each other than the mid-major clubs gain from the victories. You win, and the media look at your team like, "Yes, but you were supposed to win." You lose, and it becomes, "If you can't beat another top mid-major team, your not as worthy as the #8 team out of the Big East. "

There is already enough of a mid-major bias within the NCAA Selection Committee. I have had a hard time tolerating mid-major teams that win their conference regular season, but lose in their conference tournament finals that get passed over for the #7 team out of the Big Ten or the Pac-10. Can you really tell me that a team that went 8-8 in a BCS conference is really more worthy than a mid-major team that went 16-2 in their conference but lost in their conference finals?

Butler seems to be the poster child for the mid-majors right now. Last year they were being listed as a 6 or 7 seed, yet they lost their tournament final to Cleveland State and get dropped to a 9 seed? Get real! This week they were getting listed as a 6 seed on most sites until the media started noticing. Suddenly, they are now a 5 seed on most sites. It will be interesting to see if the Selection Committee follows suit or if they try and drop them down...again. The Bracketologist also seem to have a selective set of criteria it seems. I have heard more than once this week:

  • That Butler plays in a weak conference, but the Horizon League currently ranks 14th out of 31. I don't really list that as weak.
  • That Tennessee's RPI of #16 warrants a #4 seed, yet Butler's RPI of #14 does not warrant a #4 seed.

Do you want to know what I would really like to see in the BracketBuster games?

How about having mid-major teams play BCS-conference teams, some good ol' David vs. Goliath games. Let's have another Butler-Duke match up or Cleveland State-Wake Forest or Murray State-Michigan State. Actually, since most of my issues tend to revolve around mediocre BCS teams getting the nods over mid-major teams, why not have games between the top teams of the mid-major schools versus the middle echelon BCS conference teams? Obviously, the BCS schools would not want to go with that since they have everything to lose and not as much to gain. Yet, it would really give credence to a mid-major's resume if they did win.

Sorry, it's Friday and I'm rambling. Time to head by to my parent's basement for the weekend. Sunday evening will bring me another round of headaches I'm sure. Stay tuned. We'll see if we can round up the gang to publish our picks for the tournament. I'm sure it will be worth some laughs.

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