Butler joins expanded Bracket Buster
Last year's Sweet Sixteen surprise Butler is among 46 teams from 11 conferences that will play in the 2004 Bracket Buster Saturday, an event that has more than doubled in size since debuting a year ago.
The second-year spotlight on mid-major teams will be held on Feb. 21, 2004. But while the 46 teams who will play single games were announced Tuesday, the matchups for the 23 games won't be decided until Feb. 1.
Ten of the 23 matchups pitting potential NCAA Tournament hopefuls against each other will be televised nationally, highlighted by five games on ESPN or ESPN2. The other five televised games will be produced and distributed in the markets of the competing teams through ESPN Regional Television.
"We have taken a big step this year, as far as expanding the field. These 46 teams have a chance to play their way into the (televised) Bracket Buster games," said Mid-American Conference commissioner Rick Chryst.
"We know these are teams, at that time of the year, that people are going to be talking about. And teams that will win games in the NCAA Tournament."
This year's Bracket Buster Saturday field features 21 teams who've appeared in the last two NCAA Tournaments, including three Sweet Sixteen squads -- Southern Illinois (2002), Kent State (2002) and Butler (2003). Of those three appearances, Kent State made it to the Elite Eight in 2002.
Last year's inaugural Bracket Buster Saturday featured nine games representing seven conferences.
This year, only the "home" and "away" teams were determined prior to the season. The 23 matchups -- including which five games will be televised nationally -- will be determined by ESPN, in conjunction with the conferences. As part of the agreement, the predetermined home teams will play a "return" game at the home facility of their Bracket Buster Saturday opponent in November or December of the 2004-05 season.
This year's event will feature 13 teams from the Mid-American Conference, as well as all 10 Missouri Valley Conference squads, eight from the Horizon League, and five from the Western Athletic Conference. The Sun Belt will have three teams represented, while two Southern Conference teams were invited.
"From a scheduling aspect, it's so difficult to schedule (non-conference games)," Bowling Green head coach Dan Dakich said. "When you sit in the MAC, it's a unique conference. I'm excited that it's getting this kind of exposure. I applaud our commissioners and ESPN, something had to be done. (The MAC) is 7-6 in the NCAA Tournament, but I wonder what our record would be if we had two teams in NCAAs ... and God knows what it could be if we got three teams in the NCAAs."
Rounding out the field will be the University of California-Irvine (Big West), UNC-Wilmington (Colonial), Manhattan (MAAC), Austin Peay (OVC) and Gonzaga (WCC).
"As someone who spent six years in the MAC, as well as four years at Manhattan as a head coach, I'm tickled to see this kind of event," said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. "As I looked at the field, it's obvious the Gonzagas, Butlers and Western Kentuckys jump out at you. But teams like Akron or Illinois-Chicago, and other teams down the list, are ready to have breakout seasons.
"These kinds of teams will be discovered because of events like the Bracket Buster. It's a cutting-edge event. I'm really looking forward to this."
The home and away teams will be as follows:
Home: Butler, Cleveland State, Illinois-Chicago, UW Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State, Marshall, Miami (Ohio), Bradley, Evansville, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, Indiana State, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico State, Fresno State, Nevada, Rice, Tulsa.
Away: Detroit, Loyola, Youngstown State, Buffalo, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan, Creighton, Drake, Northern Iowa, Southwest Missouri State, Wichita State, Western Kentucky, Hawaii, Gonzaga, UC Irvine, UNC-Wilmington, Manhattan, Austin Peay, College of Charleston, East Tennessee State,
MORE MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL HEADLINES
- UNC not applying for Hairston reinstatement
- No. 2 Syracuse runs away from High Point
- Oglesby (foot) ready to return for No. 25 Iowa
- Heels' James out 2 weeks with knee injury