Monday, January 30, 2012

Too Many Good Home Teams Spoil the BracketBusters

Later today is the announcement of the thirteen televised BracketBuster games.  As I noted in a post last October, like them or not, the BracketBusters have made a difference for mid major teams.  You can make a strong case that neither George Mason or VCU would have made the NCAA Tournament in 2006 or 2011 had it not been for their road BracketBuster victories over Wichita State.

This year, the BracketBusters have more teams than last year (142 compared to 111 last year). The problem with the BracketBusters is that occasionally that depending on the schedule you have too many good home teams as opposed to road teams.  That was the case in 2006, and it is the case again this season.

Below are a list of what I think are the top teams that are home teams and the top teams that are road teams for the BracketBuster games

Definite Televised Game Home Teams - Murray State, Creighton, VCU, George Mason, Davidson, Oral Roberts, Iona, Weber State, Ohio, Cleveland State.

Home Teams in the Televised Game Mix - Loyola Maryland, South Dakota State, Montana, Manhattan, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Kent State, Georgia State, Illinois State.

Definite Televised Game Road Teams - St Mary's, Wichita State, Long Beach State, Akron, Drexel, Nevada, ODU, UNC Asheville, Texas Arlington, Stony Brook.

Road Teams in the Mix - Valparaiso, Buffalo, Wofford, UTSA, Drake.

As you can see from above, there is much more depth in the home teams than the road teams.  In fact with the "definite televised game home teams" you have nine teams that lead their conferences.  Only VCU is not in first place in their conference; they are tied for second with Drexel.  But the Rams are a no brainer after making the Final Four last season, plus they have strong KenPom and RPI numbers.  Had Butler not imploded in the last few weeks, they would have been a televised game as well due to their history.

Now look at the road teams.  Only seven of the teams lead their conferences.  There are also very few road teams with solid resumes.  Three of the five should get a televised game.  Compare that with the home teams in the mix.  Only three of the nine will get a televised game.

If I was a betting man, my guess is that of the home teams in the mix, South Dakota State and Loyola Maryland will get televised games.  That will leave one home team spot available.  As for road teams, I am going to say they take the second Horizon team, Valparaiso, another MAC team, Buffalo, and Wofford, since Wofford made the NCAA Tournament last year.

I think the definite game is St Mary's vs. Creighton.  The games that I see are likely are Wichita State vs. Murray State, Long Beach State vs.VCU, Akron vs. George Mason, Nevada vs. Oral Roberts and Drexel vs. Iona.  We'll see come later tonight.

But here's what I would do to fix the BracketBusters in the future.

  1. Get rid of the home and home requirement of the BracketBusters.  Teams that are selected to play each other are supposed to schedule a game on the other's home court in the next season or two.  Well, some teams aren't thrilled with that idea, especially East Coast or West Coast teams that will have to schedule a return game and travel across country.  Rumor has it that Iona is balking at the notion of hosting Long Beach State because they will have to travel to California for the return game.   Get rid of it and just make it a one time game.
  2. Have all the teams reserve their home gym the third weekend of February.  This way, you can guarantee the best games and not have to worry about too many home teams or too many road teams.  For teams that say "Well we could travel across the country to play in a BracketBuster game and it could affect our conferenc play the week after."  As Colonel Potter on MASH used to say "Horse Hockey!"  These teams want to make the NCAA Tournament.  It's very possible if they make the NCAA Tournament they could be sent all the way to the west coast or vice versa to the east coast.  Best to get used to it now.
If the wonderful, brilliant people at ESPN (author says that with sarcasm) would make those two changes, the BracketBusters would be even better.  Remember, before the BracketBusters there was no exposure for mid major teams.  Yes, regional networks like the Horizon and CAA have helped out.  But for teams like Oral Roberts or UNC Asheville, the games on ESPNU are few and far between.   The BracketBusters gives those teams exposure.

Remember, a little exposure is better than no exposure at all.

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