MEN’S BASKETBALL: Buster a bust for Tops

Danny Schoenbaechler

The NCAA Tournament selection committee has long been criticized for favoring teams from major conferences.

ESPN is trying to help out the little guys with the inaugural Bracket Buster Saturday on Feb. 22. The station announced Sunday night that Western will play host to Ball State.

“I’m really excited about how this has turned out and I think it is going to be a great event,” ESPN Director of Programming Burke Magnus said.

The term mid-major is almost a curse word around smaller programs. But this Bracket Buster is supposed to help teams from smaller conferences get a late season game against a quality opponent.

“These so called mid-majors play an old time brand of basketball, because they have pressure on them every game,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “When you have so many teams vying for those 32 at-large bids, it becomes very difficult for those smaller schools.”

Western coach Dennis Felton said he thinks the Bracket Buster is a fantastic idea.

“We’re honored, and we feel fortunate to be invited to it,” he said. “I think it is an event that can make a big impact on college basketball. It should become part of the college basketball landscape.”

The Hilltoppers will play at Ball State next year but not as part of the Bracket Buster. If Western is invited again next year, they would be paired against a different opponent.

Bilas said the Bracket Buster is something that college basketball needs.

“Until there is a time when big schools have to play mid-majors, the NCAA needs an event like this,” he said.

Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]