Come Dancing…

And now we begin to fall into the college basketball Neverneverland…Middle December features whetted appetites by great early season matchups (Gonzaga/Michigan State and ODU/George Mason) and an inkling into the good, bad, and ugly of our favorite teams. Now the kids get a break for exams and a couple of days of good cheer and a chance to be regular 20-year olds. Coaches, bless their hearts, get to recruit some more.

I personally cannot get my focus off of the Poinsettia Bowl and the Navy/Colorado State football tilt.

Okay, maybe I can…

Hofstra, as expected, rolled Stony Point. The Pride opened the game on a 17-0 run and cruised. Not much to say from this barnburner other than it gave Pecora’s troops a chance to get comfy (Loren Stokes) and get on the court (insert name of HU freshman here).

Because this time of year most often offers us matchups like Hofstra/Stony Brook, college basketball heads, and if you are reading this you are one, need something to occupy their time. A subject. Banter.

I’ve noticed in the past couple of days a flurry of rhetoric regarding ESPNs Bracket Busters “tournament.”

The inaugural Bracket Buster Saturday in 2003 featured 18 teams and was played under great fanfare as a way for mid majors to both get noticed on television and garner a late season victory over a quality opponent to “impress the committee.” Southern Illinois, with a last-second victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee, was perhaps most symbolic of the event’s desired result, as that victory, on national television, was credited with going a long way to garnering the Salukis an at large berth in the NCAA tournament.

The Bracket Buster event was the brainchild of Burke Mangus, ESPNs director of college basketball programming. Mangus discussed the idea with a handful of mid major conference administrators, all of whom resoundingly endorsed the idea, and the event was born.

However, as with many well-intentioned ideas, it has grown beyond its borders. Its original purpose is also its greatest flaw.

In its second season, Bracket Busters grew to 46 teams. That number jumped to 64 in 2005, and television was no longer an option for most teams. In addition, when you look at the match ups, only three had a legitimate bearing on the NCAA tournament field: Vermont lost to Nevada (both teams made the field); Pacific defeated UTEP (both teams made the field); and Southern Illinois beat Kent State (SIU made it but Kent State did not).

In 2006, BB Saturday encompasses 100 teams. The number makes is impossible, based on the number itself, to call the tournament Bracket Busters. Eight CAA teams are participating in the event. Eight!

And this brings into play the biggest disservice an event like this could impose on a mid major: a lesser mid major with no shot at an at large beats a mid major who is on the bubble. That would be disastrous.

Coaches and administrators, however, are most put off by its timing. While it is understandable in terms of compelling programming for ESPN to stage the games in late February, most any mid major athletic director and coach will tell you that if it is going to be played, it should be done so in the preseason.

Remember, the mid majors already have a full slate of conference games to worry about. Conference games that mean far more than those in the ACC or Big East. To toss a somewhat random game into the mix, when you don’t even know your opponent until three weeks prior to the game, is, in the opinion of most, an undue hardship.

Keep in mind that a Saturday in February originally had a conference game scheduled. That game must be moved. This is why VCU will play Georgia State on Tuesday, December 20. At noon.

Hofstra rescheduled its game against William & Mary for two days later, Feb. 20. So now HUs late February schedule, when they will be tired and need to gear up for the conference tournament, looks like:

Thursday, 2/9: at Georgia State
Saturday, 2/11: home vs. Northeastern
Wednesday, 2/15: at UNC Wilmington
Saturday, 2/18: home vs. Bracket Buster
Monday, 2/20: at William & Mary

That’s five games in 11 days, and no two games are back-to-back home or road games. In fact, of the three road games, the closest destination is Williamsburg, VA, a full 410 miles (according to from Hofstra’s campus. Factor in schoolwork and practice time and sleep and it’s a busy two weeks for the Pride.

This is another reason why administrators fear Bracket Busters, now that the participation level has gone far beyond teams vying for a potential at large bid. They see the noticeable lack of an upside if they get a game against a weaker opponent, you travel, and you are not on television. Why would a mid major risk the possibility of going on the road, with little preparation, in the middle of conference races, with no television? If you can’t get an attractive game, and you have to travel, why bother?

It would be a panacea, for mids, to have schools from major conferences involved in Bracket Busters. That would bring the event back to its true roots.

You’re not going to learn a lot, and certainly not impact at large berths, by seeing the fourth place MVC team square off against the third place Horizon team.

But line up a slate of: Wisconsin-Milwaukee versus Alabama, Vermont versus Syracuse, UAB versus LSU, or Bucknell versus Kansas, and you likely have some interest and you can tell a few things about a few teams. Majors need to prove their tournament worthiness just as much as mid majors. This can be accomplished by playing teams other than other majors.

Note: these were all 2005 NCAA tournament first round match ups won by the mid major.

But even under the Bracket Buster umbrella you would be asking a major to play a mid major in a no-win situation.

Which is why we’ll probably never see this occur.


~ by mglitos on December 15, 2005.

2 Responses to “Come Dancing…”

  1. Insert HU Freshman here…how about Zygis Sestokas who had 10 points and 2 3’s…he actually looked good for once and could provide something getting some momentum…I thought you’d like to type his name too

  2. Anytime I can type a y, z, and g in the same word I am thrilled. I almost became a biologist solely on the word zygote.

    But seriously, HU is loaded in the backcourt, and Playstation Johnson seems to be adapting quickly. Gadley or Davis-Sabb need to progress or Uter will have nothing in the tank come February.

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