A T.O. with TH: ESPN Bracketbusters … the stupidest thing in sports?

Taylor Howsmon

Sports Editor

Since 2003 ESPN has set aside one weekend during the college basketball regular season so that they can match up the top non-BCS school teams in the country to play one another in a series of glorified exhibition games.

When it started, the idea was that the “Bracketbuster” series would give exposure to those lesser-known teams in the country to give fans different “Cinderella candidates” for March Madness.

In my opinion, what started as a great idea in theory has become a ridiculous stunt in which only ESPN, the one to blame, benefits.

With “magical” runs through the NCAA tournament for teams such as Gonzaga, Creighton, Butler and George Mason, among others, the Bracketbuster game was a logical way to get teams national television before we hit the big tourney.

But since 2003, this good idea has completely lost its luster and has even become somewhat of a hindrance for the teams it is supposed to help.
The major reason for this is the timing.
For some odd reason that this particular journalist will never understand, “the evil four letter” (ESPN) decided that playing these games at the end of February would be something positive.

Obviously for any true basketball purist this sucks because ESPN schedules random games in the heat of the conference schedule.
From a VCU perspective, the Rams, who should be focusing on the JMU game Wednesday, had to step outside the CAA and play Akron in a game which gives no benefit to either club.

In the 2010 series I believe that no team was benefited by these games.

In fact, with the exception of one Bracketbuster game in 2006 (George Mason’s win over Wichita State), nobody has been helped into the NCAA tourney by a win and in some cases has destroyed any chances for some.

Akron coach Keith Dambrot said it best Saturday.

“In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter … but the next three (games) do (referring to the three remaining Mid-American Conference games left on Akron’s schedule) … we need to move on,” Dambrot said.

Dambrot also gave the example of his 2005-2006 team which had to play at Nevada and because of the trip, the team never recovered.

That team had won 19 games coming in and looked to have a legit shot at the NCAA tourney in mid February. Then they lost four of their last seven games, including the one in Reno, and ended up in the Nation Invitational Tournament, a lesser post-season tournament instead.

To me, it makes no sense.

The brass at ESPN is so bold that they decided to put this irrelevant non-conference game right smack in the middle of the most important part of the season.
Why can’t these games be played in mid-January? It is still an important enough time that it could benefit teams, but it is not at a time where they are thinking primarily of conference tournament seeding.

I know the bottom line for ESPN is money, but to openly hinder some of these teams should be criminal.
It gives no benefit to anyone in any capacity.

The pro-ESPN guy could say, “but what about the exposure for these teams?”
I understand that point, but I believe exposure is less important than the conference season because we all know that 95 percent of these teams would have to win their conference tournaments to get a bid to the tournament.

Way too many games are televised to begin with to justify that argument.
For example, in VCU’s case, four games have been or will be nationally televised this season, with the ODU game next Saturday being on ESPN 2.
So the “exposure idea” is a croc.

That is why, in my opinion, Bracketbusters is possibly the stupidest thing in sports along with the World Baseball Classic. Both serve as terrible distractions to the athletes of each sport and they grow stupider and more irrelevant by the year. Again, good idea in theory, but I just don’t understand how it helps anyone.

However, I shouldn’t be surprised that it is ESPN who is doing something that I just don’t get.
The same network that beat a dead horse to powder on the Tiger apology, the Terrell Owens suicide rumor and the Brett Favre un-retirement crap, has again shown that they have no sense or shame.

If I have say that the “evil four letter” should be ashamed of itself again, I might go hoarse.

As an avid sports fan, I have been banging on ESPN for a long time because I see what they are doing to “the little guy.”
Do you think for one second that ESPN gives a crap about VCU’s CAA tournament thoughts?
The answer you’re searching for is no.
ESPN cares about the promotion of itself and itself alone.

I just hope no more teams have to be left out in the cold, or even slightly hindered in their dreams because some idiot wants to make a buck.
Let the disagreements come raining down, but I think it is the stupidest thing in sports.

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