Tuesday, February 1, 2011

BracketBusters: Where's Oakland?

Each year, ESPN puts on an event known as BracketBusters in late February in an attempt to highlight the year's best mid-major schools. Games are generally determined by RPI, and the top eleven matches of the bunch are televised on some combination of ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU. For the teams involved, it offers some quality exposure and a chance to boost their respective resumes for at-large hopes or higher seeds come NCAA Tournament time. Additionally, the games are set up as home and home series, so each team gets a guaranteed home game out of the event.

On the surface, BracketBusters can be a great event for the best mid-major schools. However, for those toiling in the bottom quarter of the RPI, it can create tough situations like this year's match of Southeast Missouri State and Sacramento State. Neither team is having a particularly good season, and now in the midst of conference play Sacramento State has to make arrangements to travel all the way to Missouri for a meaningless game. Some schools will avoid partaking in BracketBusters for the uncertainty in travel, while others are presumably so focused on the conference season that it isn't sound scheduling practice to disrupt the stretch run.

The Summit League has never been a staple of the event as typically only one or two teams represent the conference (usually Oral Roberts). ORU is the only team involved this year, and the team will welcome Pacific of the Big West in this year's version. That's not exactly a marquee match-up, but it nonetheless gives the Golden Eagles a chance to see where they stand against a similar school from a similar conference. However, it's not a game that will draw a lot of exposure to the conference during this event.

The team that would have sparked some interest for The Summit League this year would have been Oakland. In fact, during the BracketBusters Selection Show on ESPNU yesterday, both Joe Lunardi and Andy Katz noted OU's absence prior to announcing any of the pairings. Now Oakland has never participated in the event, but there's no doubt that this year could have offered the program some great exposure. Oakland's RPI puts the team squarely in the group of teams that will have televised games, and in fact if RPIs would have held, Oakland might have been playing Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley in primetime on ESPN2 in a few weeks. That would also mean a school like UNI (or VCU, Kent State, Drexel, etc) would have made a return trip to the O'rena in 2012-13. Not a bad gig.

Instead, schools like Valparaiso, Wright State, and Austin Peay will be a part of those eleven television games (all teams the Golden Grizzlies played this season). While there is something to be said about staying within the conference during conference season - after all, that's the only way OU is getting an NCAA bid - I can't help but think as a fan that OU is having just as great of a season as any of the other elite participants this season. It would have been great to see the team compete in such an event while securing a solid mid-major to come to the O'rena down the road from now.

Next season, The Summit League has made room for BracketBusters weekend in the schedules of every school in the conference. Oakland is listed as being a participant in a road game. While it'll be neat to see how the cards fall for the team next season, I wonder if there wasn't a missed opportunity this season.


  1. I think they changed the rule. There is no guaranteed return game anymore.

  2. I know at least for this season that there still is. From the about section on the BB website:

    "As part of the agreement, all 11 of the BracketBusters home teams in televised games, as well as the remaining 46 home squads, will play a “return” game at the home facility of their opponent in November or December of the 2012-13 season."

    The change, at least this year, was that the return game was no longer in the next season but in two seasons. There is no information on their site about the return game in future seasons.