After a night that earned Murray State their 3rd straight outright Ohio Valley Conference championship, a night that saw Eastern Illinois win their 3rd straight conference game after a 2-9 start, and a night that saw Austin Peay struggles continue, we now turn our attention…to a day that doesn’t matter for most of the conference.
Bracketbusters Saturday was introduced as a way for the best mid-majors to showcase themselves just weeks before Selection Sunday, but in return of asking most every mid-major team and most every mid-major conference to take the same Saturday off, instead of just the best of the best playing, all mid-major teams are given a game.
The problem: now the game is just a distraction for most every team, in the heart of conference play. We’re down to the final week of the OVC, but instead of looking at possible matchups or seedings, instead of teams focusing on preparing for the OVC tournament, they’re focused on…Presbyterian, IPFW, and Youngstown State.
As has been the case for most every argument made about the OVC as a whole this season, Murray State stands as the exception. The complaint from the national media on the Racers all season is that they haven’t had enough quality wins; they get a chance at another on Saturday. But there’s a downside as well. Whereas every other OVC team can lose on Saturday with little to no consequence, a loss for the Racers could end their chances of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, forcing them to win the OVC tournament. (Which is their goal anyway, as head coach Steve Prohm has informed us media types often throughout this season)
While the goal of the event is great, Bracketbusters may be far from achieving that goal, and could do more harm than good. It’s a distraction to the non-elite mid-majors, and while would help the elite team, a loss could potentially be another reason to keep a mid-major team out of the NCAA tournament in a world where one loss from them is magnified two-fold, if not more.
There are travel concerns as well. St. Mary’s is making a near cross-country trip for one single game. The game requires the Racers to make a return trip in 2 years, and will likely having the Racers scrambling to find games against teams on the West Coast, whether they’re beneficial games or not, so as to validate more the cost of the trip, which could possibly cost the Racers a home game. It creates a domino effect that likely wouldn’t have been created otherwise.
Those in agreement that Bracketbusters isn’t the boon to mid-majors that ESPN would lead us to believe, often blame the Worldwide Leader for allowing the event to expand to the monstrosity it has become, but some blame must be placed on the conferences so desperate to possibly earn a TV game, no matter how poor the slot or exposure may be, that they jumped on board.
Bracketbusters has provided a marquee matchup for the Racers this season, as it does for a few mid-major schools every season. But it’s far short of being a marquee day for mid-majors everywhere. Getting fans to show up for a team they’ve never heard of, for a game that has no importance, sandwiched between games that have major significance, is a chore. One created for 10 other OVC teams, and over 100 nationwide, so Murray State, along with 5, maybe 7 other mid-major teams actually get a moment in the spotlight.
Assuming Ohio State-Michigan is a dud.