Conference Realignment Ends Reign of Exciting Bracket Busters Event
As a mid-major college basketball program, national television exposure is always a struggle. The annual Bracket Busters event helped out more schools as March approached.
Conference realignment, however, has not had a positive impact on mid-major conferences. The impact was felt as the event will no longer take place on ESPN after this year.
With teams such as Butler and VCU that helped gain even more exposure for the yearly event moving to the Atlantic 10, a more prominent mid-major conference, teams such as Creighton, St. Mary’s, Belmont, and Murray State were expected to be must-see TV.
The Atlantic 10 and Mountain West conference recently withdrew admission into the Bracket Busters and with prominent members in Conference USA, such as Memphis and Southern Miss, and in the West Coast Conference, such as Gonzaga and BYU, not a lot caught the eye of the casual basketball fan this year.
With all that being said, there were a couple of unique matchups that will have helped some teams come tournament time. After the unbelievable success of Murray State last year, finishing this year at 20-8 and heading into the Ohio Valley Conference tournament third has been a little bit of a disappointment. Matching up with South Dakota State and sharpshooter Nate Wolters turned out to be a tight game all the way through.
Belmont has been on every analyst’s list to make an NCAA run similar to George Mason and they have lived up to those expectations so far. Finishing with two conference losses and first in the Ohio Valley regular season standings, a senior-led Bruins team throttled Ohio, who is first place in the Mid-American Conference. Leading Ohio this year has been DJ Cooper, who was a main contributor for the Bobcats last year in their tournament run to the Sweet 16.
With 11 matchups being aired on ESPN networks, the majority of the games were little to none of significance for tournament building teams. Matchups such as Bradley vs. Illinois-Chicago, Northern Arizona vs.Hawaii, and SIU Edwardsville vs. Central Arkansas didn’t involve teams with hopes of an at-large bid.
Those matchups only seemed to be breaks for teams that have struggled in conference play so far. The possible added strength of schedule the following year for teams that had to go on the road has been an extra incentive. Other than that, the ending of the Bracket Busters means only one thing now; the event has run its course.
The success in 11 years for this annual event has been more than the NCAA probably initially envisioned.The Final Four runs of George Mason, Butler, and VCU only made the event stronger. Maintaining the layout of the Bracket Busters in still in discussions for something else in the works for college basketball. Involvement from the BCS conferences could be an idea to increase the national exposure element.
Imagine if a Duke or Kansas had to go on the road this year to face a team like an Arizona State or Villanova in dire need of another prominent resume building win? Sure it would take a lot of convincing to do, but something involving the BCS conferences as well as the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West could be the official “start” to March Madness.
Even though conference realignment has been about college football all along, the ending of great rivalries in the recent years of college basketball will only continue to grow. The Bracket Buster event has probably lost a little bit of its luster, but this was a move that had to be made. Just add it to the growing list of rivalries falling victim to conference realignment.
Ryan Stevens is a freshman majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Ryan is a senior from Bloomington, Illinois majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in english. He has been involved with numerous radio shows, play-by-plays, beat writes and producing various Penn State athletics events since his first days of being on campus in the fall of 2012 with ComRadio. Since the fall of 2013, Ryan has been involved with State College’s ESPN Radio 1450 as an assistant producer intern and high school football reporter.
During the summer of 2014, Ryan co-hosted Sports Central with Cory Giger streaming over Altoona, Pa. and State College Pa. markets. Ryan also assisted USA Basketball media coverage in New York for World Cup of Basketball exhibition games.
Ryan was the marketing & communications intern for USA Track & Field at the national office in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the media contact for the 2015 USATF Hershey Youth Outdoor Championships as well as the 2015 National Junior Olympics.