That’s Debatable: BracketBust?

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at

This Week’s Topic: It’s BracketBuster weekend on ESPN and its family of networks.  What seemed like a great idea when it originated a few years ago has gotten stale with so few games actually seeming to impact the brackets.  How would you suggest ESPN tweak this model to make it more interesting to college basketball fans and more meaningful for the schools involved?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

A quick check of the BracketBusters website reveals there are actually 114 teams participating in this event, the largest number ever. It was created solely for television purposes so I have to ask, why are only 19% of the games televised? This is called “BracketBusters,” but arguably only five or six teams participating have any chance of an at-large berth. Should we call it NIT BracketBusters? CBI BracketBusters? BracketBusters? Come on now. This event is a joke except for a select few teams. To be completely honest, I’ve never been a fan of it. The only games I’ll watch are George Mason @ Northern Iowa, Utah State @ St. Mary’s and maybe Cleveland State @ Old Dominion. I will give ESPN some credit here because they clearly recognize the importance of the Utah State @ St. Mary’s matchup. This game could have major NCAA implications and I wouldn’t be surprised if it draws a solid rating against the Saturday Prime Time game, Illinois @ Michigan State. Another issue with BrackeBusters is it has the potential to end a team’s at-large dreams. It has been a concern in the past and will remain so going forward. I’d either: a) eliminate it all together, or b) limit it to five games between teams with legitimate NCAA aspirations. 

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor

While ESPN’s BracketBusters may give the illusion that the network cares about non-BCS conferences, it’s a cop out. In reality, the event televises only 11 games, appearing on ESPN2 or ESPNU. Those channels already feature mid-major games every Saturday. If ESPN wants to make this event truly special, then put Utah State and St. Mary’s on ESPN at 8 p.m. Saturday– not ESPN2. Don’t send the College Gameday crew to East Lansing; designate this weekend as a mid-major site and choose the top BracketBuster game to attend. Televise 30 games, not 11, and use regional coverage and to switch between games when necessary like CBS does for the NCAA Tournament. In short, ESPN’s problem is that it only goes through the motions with regards to giving BracketBusters the attention it deserves. The public relations team talks a big game, but the network still sends College Gameday to the Big Ten and televises only a handful of games on secondary channels. I’ve seen Michigan State and Illinois play so many times on national television that I could recite their starting lineups in my sleep. Can’t we give the prime-time limelight to someone else for a change?

John Stevens, RTC editor/contributor

Scrap it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about the event as it is now, but I don’t think it has the effect that it’s intended to have. And the smaller conference schools don’t want to play each other. If the most important criterion for NCAA Tournament admission is who you played and how you did against them, that underscores the much-discussed problem of how large conference schools refuse to play games in the home gyms of some of the really tough small conference (mid-major) programs. If ESPN really wants to try to impact the eventual bracket more than it already does and if it wants to continue to give mid-majors the spotlight for a day, come up with a BracketBusters-type of scheme that incentivizes power conference programs to get out on the road and let some of these smaller guys take a shot at them. I don’t know how you’d do it (large amounts of cash seem to influence people), and they may even have to move it back on the schedule a bit, but if they could come up with something, it would be much more compelling to watch a series of games in which some of the big boys have to travel to, say, Utah State or George Mason, or even St. Mary’s. Aside from the NCAA Tournament, that’d be the most watched college basketball event of the year.

Walker Carey, RTC contributor

To reinvigorate the Bracketbuster event, I believe that ESPN should move it from February to the first weekend in December. I think this move would be effective because it would expose top mid-majors early in the season and it would allow for fans to really gain a grasp for what mid-majors can make some noise as the season goes on and which ones will not. For example, if a game between Butler and George Mason was played on the first Saturday of December, it is not illogical to assume that George Mason would win. Such a game would prove to the basketball world that Butler is not the team they were a year ago and that George Mason has a solid squad that could do some damage in March.

Kevin Doyle, RTC contributor

While it would be nearly impossible to accomplish due to an overlap in team’s schedules, the BracketBuster event could become much more attractive to the casual fan if teams of a certain RPI and record were obligated to participate in a BracketBuster game. This year there are a few teams that I am sure would love to have one final opportunity to attain a signature non-conference win—Gonzaga, Butler, and Oakland immediately come to mind. In fact, Oakland’s head coach Greg Kampe is on record saying that he wished his Golden Grizzlies were playing in a BracketBuster game. For instance, if a team was in first place in their conference, had a top 150 RPI, or a certain number of wins then they would automatically take part in the BracketBusters. Again, this is a real long-shot, but it would unquestionably heighten the interest in the weekend, as well as place all Mid-Major teams on an equal playing field as it would not be determined before the season began who would play in it.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

The BracketBuster idea is one whose time has passed at this point. So let me offer another option. Block off the same weekend, but make it an exempt tournament involving the top eight teams from the leagues they currently draw the pool from. Tonight’s VCU and Wichita State game could be a great first round matchup; tomorrow’s Utah State-St. Mary’s game another. Include four other teams such as Cleveland State, Belmont, George Mason and Oakland, and all of a sudden you have a compelling reason to watch these games this weekend. It also helps fans who are gearing up for tournament basketball next month to learn about those teams, many of which they’ll be seeing again soon. It would give the mid-major schools a major boost to their RPI by playing other really good mids for up to three consecutive days and it would potentially leave the Selection Committee with an indelible impression based on their performance in this BracketBuster tourney. It would also give the schools themselves a big incentive to get picked for this tournament — there could be a selection show and everything.

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BracketBuster Weekend Wrapup

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2010

Ryan Restivo is the RTC correspondent for the CAA and an occasional contributor. 

I don’t think this is a news flash but the BracketBusters format is broken. The teams that really could have benefitted from BracketBuster games such as Cornell and St. Mary’s chose not to participate.  Both of those schools could have used another chance to prove their strength against the at-large field in an effort to bolster their resume for March Madness.  Until the tournament expands to 96 or 100 or 347 teams, there were only two headline games in BracketBusters this year and both were a resounding dud. Northern Iowa blew out Old Dominion and Siena could not hang with ranked Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse. However, if you are a fan of mid-major college basketball, you probably got to see teams that will be showcased in this year’s NIT or other postseason events.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the winners and losers of this past weekend’s BracketBusters.

Winner: Missouri Valley Conference. The Valley quietly went 7-3 in the event starting with a Northern Iowa crushing of Old Dominion at home on Friday night. There’s a good chance that Northern Iowa clinched an at-large berth should they fall in their conference tournament and the Valley could benefit from the lack of major conference at-large bids by bringing in two. It will likely not match the four it put in 2006 but the winner of this conference will be a dark horse for an upset come mid-March.

Loser: Siena. The Saints had the lead at halftime against Butler but could not find the basket in the second half, eventually falling by 17 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Siena lost every game against top-50 RPI opponents this year, and unless Siena wins the MAAC Tournament, the Saints are off the bubble.

Winner: Utah State. The Aggies are going to be on the fence for an at-large bid only because of their weak non-conference schedule. But their tournament resume got a little stronger Saturday with a 10-point win over visiting Wichita State. Utah State’s claim to fame this year is a 10-point home win over BYU. One statistical reason the Aggies should be in? They are the nation’s best (43%) from behind the arc and are fifth in the nation in free throw percentage at 77%. The only problem they have, other than a weak schedule, is that five of the six Aggie losses have been on the road so it will be interesting to see how they handle a road-neutral environment.

Loser: Colonial Athletic Association. The CAA went 3-9 in BracketBusters and blew two games in almost the same way over this weekend. George Mason’s Ryan Pearson drove too hard to the hole and got called for charging late with a chance to tie the game against Charleston, and GMU lost by two. Northeastern’s Matt Janning got called on a similar charge with a chance to take the lead in their game against Louisiana Tech and also lost by two. This was a weekend where if the CAA could grab a few of their five TV games it would have given the conference a great chance at getting multiple bids for the first time since in several year. However, the CAA managed to win only one of their TV games and the non-TV games weren’t any better. Every CAA team that went on the road lost, and lost by an average of 11.5 points. Unfortunately, it looks like the CAA will be a one-bid conference again this year

Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video! When not covering the CAA for Rush The Court, Ryan writes about Fantasy Baseball on, on his own website and at  Ryan will take your questions here.

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ATB: Who Ya Got for NPOY?

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2010

Weekend Wrap. We just looked at the calendar again to make sure it was late February, and sure enough it is.  We’re currently just three weeks away from Selection Sunday, and yet this weekend didn’t have the feel of one so close to the end of the year.  Part of the reason is that we’ve come to expect more insanity at this point, as teams who are safely heading to March Madness let their guard down a little to the benefit of those who are not feeling as secure.  Put in short, where are the upsets?  In the top 25 alone this weekend, there was, what, one?  #25 Wake Forest went to Raleigh and lost to the Wolfpack, who are quickly going nowhere.  Who else?  #3 Villanova losing at #21 Pitt – arguable, at best.  If you remove the OSU-MSU game from consideration, in sixteen other games involving ranked teams only Baylor’s road loss at Oklahoma State is even up for discussion.  And it’s really not.  That said, even though there weren’t a bunch of upsets this weekend, there were a lot of good games.  Still, with twenty-one days leading up to the Soiree, we’re ready to start seeing a little more mayhem.

Shades of Redick vs. Morrison.  We’re loving us some NPOY discussion this late into the season, reminding us of the season four years ago when Duke’s JJ Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison played ‘top this‘ from opposite ends of the country throughout the year.  This season the two primary contenders only reside about 200 miles apart, but each is incredibly important to his team’s fortunes and as of now, the college hoops world is falling squarely into rival camps — you’re either a John Wall or an Evan Turner guy.  Arguments pro and con are filling up the airwaves and bandwidth and we expect that with each passing game the intensity of partisanship will get stronger.  This weekend didn’t solve anything, and in fact, may have exacerbated the dissension — depending on whom you ask, both Turner and Wall helped their case this weekend in big road wins for their teams.

Wall for NPOY? (AP)

  • #2 Kentucky 58, #19 Vanderbilt 56.  For about 38 minutes of yesterday’s game in Memorial Gymnasium, John Wall was the invisible all-american.  He had eight points on 2-10 shooting, and had effectively been shut down by the tough, physical Vanderbilt defense.  But when it came winning time, he once again made just enough plays to give his team the win — first, by driving to the hole and somehow securing the ball after it got stripped so that he could still find his head to lay it in to put UK up three, and second, by blocking a last-second three attempt (a terrible decision, btw) by John Jenkins that could have tied the game with four seconds remaining.  He was also 3-4 from the line in the final minute to give the Cats just enough cushion to survive yet another close finish.  By our count, that was no fewer than the fifth time this season that Wall has saved his team in the clutch.  Whether it’s luck or skill that he keeps making plays in these pressure-packed situations, or some combination thereof, we are absolutely certain that he embraces them.  And all the great ones do.  Vandy will be kicking themselves over this loss for some time, as they had multiple chances to make open shots and really put Kentucky in a tough spot, but the shots wouldnt fall (2-20 from three), and UK effectively wrapped up the SEC regular season title with this one.

Or Turner for NPOY? (Kirthmon Dozier)

  • #12 Ohio State 74, #11 Michigan State 67.  Evan Turner used the Breslin Center to do his best Michael Jordan vs. the Jazz impression, fighting off flu-like symptoms to the point where he was unable to eat anything prior to the game on Sunday morning.  After a listless first half where he only scored four points and missed seven of his first eight shots, he was able to come through when his team needed him most in the second half, scoring twelve  points in the final nine minutes to hold off MSU.  Like Wall, Turner (20/10/6 assts) was picked up by his teammates prior to his strong finish, with William Buford offering 18/10 and David Lighty 13/9 themselves.  The scary part for OSU fans is that Thad Matta only used six players today, and four of those played the entire game.  As for the Spartans, defending conference POY Kalin Lucas had a rough night, shooting 3-13 for only nine points today.  The Buckeye win ties OSU with Michigan State one-half game behind Purdue with three games left to play in the Big Ten race.  While the rest of America is entranced with the talents of Mr. Turner, the question we have is: does anyone in Columbus care?

Conference Recaps.

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RTC Live: Wichita State @ Utah State

Posted by rtmsf on February 20th, 2010

Grab a cup of coffee or a red bull, because we’ve got a great one for the nightcap of an RTC Live quadruple-header when Wichita State visits Utah State to end ESPN’s Bracketbuster weekend. The Shockers come into Logan on a bit of a slide, going just 1-4 in their last five road games (including a terrible loss at previously MVC-winless Evansville) but could get back into the bubble discussion with a win here. Wichita State will look to get it done with their fantastic defense (30th in the nation in points per possession at just .914) and a balanced offense led by guards Toure Murry and Clevin Hannah (averaging 12.4 and 12.3 points per game, respectively). Utah State comes into the game red-hot, winning their last 11 games and will counter the Shockers’ defense with the nation’s fifth most efficient offense, including the eleventh best FG% (48.6%) and nation’s best 3-point shooting (42.4%). Tai Wesley gets it done for the Aggies underneath leading the Aggies with 13.3 points per game and they will look to Pooh Williams, the WAC’s best perimeter defender, to slow down the Shocker guards. A win for the Aggies would add another much-needed quality win to the resume should they falter at the WAC Tournament in Reno next month. The loser of this game will likely have its odds of making it into the bracket as an at-large candidate busted. Can Wichita State turn it around? Or will Utah State continue its recent dominance? Make sure you have enough caffeine in you to stay up with us on RTC Live tonight and find out.

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RTC Live: Siena @ Butler

Posted by rtmsf on February 20th, 2010

Both Butler and Siena are setting themselves up to be bracket busters in a few weeks, but for one Saturday they will face each other at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The host Bulldogs have mowed through Horizon League play with a spotless 17-0 record and are on a 16-game winning streak overall. Their opposition in this made-for-TV event is Siena. The Saints scored a first round NCAA victory a year ago against Ohio State and are the class of the MAAC. A recent loss to Niagara, however, has left their NCAA at-large chances in some doubt if they don’t win their conference tournament. Butler is playing for a seed, while you’d have to figure that a Siena win in a tough road environment such as this would secure their place in the field of 65.  Join us on RTC Live to analyze and discuss the action. 

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Morning Five: Groundhog Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

  1. It’s Groundhog Day 2010, and just for a little perspective, let’s look back one year ago.  On February 2, 2009, the nation’s #1 team in the AP poll was UConn (ok), #2 was Oklahoma (alright), #3 was UNC (definitely ok), and #4 was Duke (um, no).  The other two Final Four teams besides the Huskies and Heels — Michigan State and Villanova — were #13 and #17, respectively.  Look at a few of the other names in the top ten… #7 Wake Forest, #8 Marquette, #10 Clemson.  There’s a lot of season left, folks.
  2. We always love this… when conference officials admit to a bad call or calls that impact whether a team wins a game by stating there were “procedural and communications errors” without giving specifics as to what those were (as Big East officials did after the Louisville-West Virginia game).  Maybe they should just start going back and disallowing baskets based on the replay, similar to how they vacate wins for using an ineligible player?
  3. Jameson Fleming at the Bleacher Report recently interviewed ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb about his somewhat abrasive honest style of analysis, which endears him to few fans other than lonely bloggers who appreciate hearing something beyond Team X is “getting it done” and Player Y has the “total package.”
  4. A lot of people are understandably focusing on the small rift that seemed to manifest over the weekend between John Wall and his coach, John Calipari, but the underlying truth of the matter is that Wall’s play has fallen off considerably in 2010.  The question we have is not whether there’s some kind of problem between player and coach, but whether Wall has the ability to bounce back for the last 6-8 weeks of the season.
  5. We hope to have an analysis of these up later today, but the Bracketbuster matchups were announced last night, and the obvious choice for the best game on the docket is Siena visiting Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Some other games of major interest in our book are: 1) Old Dominion @ Northern Iowa; 2) Charleston @ George Mason; and 3) Wichita State @ Utah State.
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Buzz: ESPN Bracketbusters to be Announced at 6:30 pm

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2010

In less than a half-hour from now, ESPNU will be broadcasting their ESPN Bracketbusters Selection Show, hosted by Lowell Galindo and analyst Mark Adams.  Will this year’s schedule give us some choice matchups such as Siena-Cornell or New Mexico-Northern Iowa?  What about a St. Mary’s-Radford matchup so we can see Omar Samhan battle with Artsiom Parakhouski?  Check back in later as we’ll have a comprehensive analysis of the best games to keep an eye on as part of your viewing schedule in three weekends (February 19-20).  As if you didn’t already have enough good hoops to watch this month!


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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.21.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2009


It’s BracketBuster Saturday, and we’re back with another compelling edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  We don’t know how it is where you live today, but it’s rainy and chilly here at the RTC Western Compound, which means it’s a great day for huddling up on the couch, firing up the three tvs, ordering up some pie and watching hoops all day.   There are some pretty strong games on the slate today, starting with Butler v. Davidson early and finishing with BYU v. UNLV late.  Settle in and feel free to make your own observations in the comments section.

12:08pm. Oh no, Steph Curry’s mom is NOT at the Davidson game today!!!!  Who will the cameras show in the crowd?!?!!?  Oh yeah, Dell’s there.  Ok.  Whew.

12:10pm. Wonder how ESPN decides who gets to host these games?  Seems like a pretty big decision considering Butler and Davidson are so tough at home, and the loser could drop a seed line or two based on this game.  Curry doesn’t like quite as quick as normal so far – the ankle is probably a little tender.

12:17pm. Our new uber-intern sent over some interesting news today – looks like Patrick Patterson might go for Kentucky today against Tennesee (coming up at 1pm), and surprise of all surprises, the NCAA is investigating USC with respect to recruiting Daniel Hackett.   His dad is the strength and conditioning coach at USC (which is legal, btw).

12:30pm. There are a couple of other BB games that started at 11am, and the most interesting one is Northeastern at Wright St., which is on ESPN2.  NE is leading by six right now, while CAA sibling ODU is crushing Liberty and Seth Curry.

12:46pm. How many games this year have we watched Davidson only to hear some announcer talking about Steph Curry having an “off” game.  It would be nice if he’d just come out and blow up one of these nationally-televised games.   As it now stands, he’s 1-10 and 0-6 from three.

12:50pm. Interesting stat from Brad Nessler there – that if Curry continued his 30 ppg pace for another season-plus at Davidson, he could conceivably catch Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring total record.  Of course, Pistol Pete did it in three years, but that would be a phenomenal record to approach.  We’ll see if we can figure the math and get back on that.

12:52pm. Early afternoon bubble watch.  Miami is smoking BC in S. Florida at halftime (up 12) and ND is also up 12 at halftime on Providence.  These are both pretty much must-wins, although Notre Dame needs it a little more than Miami.

12:57pm. Somehow three of the top four CAA teams drew road games in the BracketBusters event.  So far, the CAA looks good.  VCU only lost by one at Nevada last night, and Northeastern is finishing off Wright St.  ODU already won, and it’ll be very interesting to see what George Mason can do at Creighton later this evening.

1:02pm. Wow, Doug Gottlieb just eviscerated Jay Williams as to why Georgetown was going to make the tournament.  He must have thought he was back on that motorcycle there.  No inside presence?  Except the best freshman big in the country, Greg Monroe.  We get his point about frontcourt depth, but we’re with Gottlieb here – we think Georgetown makes a run to get to 9-9 in the Big East.

1:06pm. We’ve got some 1pm games starting here, incl. Bruce Pearl’s orange blazer at Kentucky (speaking of bubbles), Buffalo at Vermont on the deuce, and the second half of ND-Providence on ESPN FC.  Oh, and did we mention Gus Johnson is in Lexington today.  Oh yes.

1:11pm. Thanks CBS for showing me a graphic telling me that UK is on a 5-0 run in the last 3:20…  or, to start the game.  Brilliant.

1:18pm. Ok, here’s the deal on Curry catching Maravich.  Curry had 2414 coming into today.  Maravich ended with 3667 pts.  If we assume eight more games this year (three regular season; three SoCon Tourney; two NCAA Tourney), and 35 games next year, that’s 42 games.  He’d have to average 29.84 over that stretch to pass him.  Since he’s averaging 29.0 already this season, this is eminently possible should he stick around another season.  That would be fairly cool to track next season – let’s hope he returns.

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