So Dickie V. didn’t make a cameo at the Thunderdome. Can anyone blame him?
ESPN’s publicized and well-anticipated Bracket Buster Saturday roared in like a gap-toothed lion and yawned out like an alley cat mewling for fish heads.
So it’s finally official: Bracket Buster Saturday was a bust. A day isolated from the rest of the college basketball madness with hopes of delivering positive national exposure for mid-major teams ended up helping nobody, except maybe the airline industry. No team will gain a higher seeding for the Tournament after this weekend.
What did the Detroit Mercy men’s basketball program gain in travelling across the country in the middle of its nitty-gritty Horizon League schedule to knock heads with UCSB?
Nothing, nada, zilch, zip, bubkis, diddly-squat. Even a convincing 75-59 mutilation of the Big West’s pride and joy couldn’t get the Titans a free T-shirt that says, “I won on Bracket Buster Saturday and all I got was this lousy shirt.”
Even Vitale, former Detroit head honcho in 1973-77, could figure out a way to fix the disparity of college basketball. The following three adjustments to the Bracket Buster would improve men’s college basketball more than hurt the game.
Have eight to 10 of the top mid-majors play nationally ranked teams in the major conferences.
Force the big schools to travel and play in the smaller, more intimate environments. Many of the students in smaller schools never get a chance to see the hotshots. Can you imagine what kind of reception the Thunderdome would give the University of Arizona, UCSB’s first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament in 2002, if the Wildcats came here in the middle of February? The response would be tremendous.
Match teams based on region. For example, pit Arizona at Gonzaga in the West or Illinois-Chicago against Purdue in the Midwest. Maybe new, refreshing rivalries can be born.
Even though the Bracket Buster enjoyed several competitive and exciting games, the only way for mid-majors to gain respect and keep it would require defeating or hanging tough with the giants. This would take time and sacrifice from the bigger schools.
And maybe one day, the Gaucho Locos will rub Dick Vitale’s bald dome like a genie’s lamp for good luck before UCSB plays Duke.