Any Luster to ESPN's BracketBusters?

February 19th, 2009

Any Luster To ESPN’s Bracket Buster?


My wife thinks I’m a College-Hoop-aholic.  The evidence is somewhat convincing:


*On February 14th, she asked, “Do you have any idea what today is?  I responded, “Yeah, it’s Wisconsin’s turn to host College GameDay.”


*When purchasing a tie last week I uncontrollably asked if it came with a matching highlighter.


*The minute the Advent Calendar comes down it’s replaced with my “Countdown to Selection Sunday.”


*I’m unable to be in bed with my wife without uttering, “Send it in big fella!”


And - I’m excited for ESPN’s upcoming BracketBusters Weekend.


If you haven’t heard of BracketBusters then you haven’t turned on ESPN since November.  It’s 51 games between mid-major schools.  Why is it called BracketBusters?  Because no one would watch if ESPN called it “Games That You Couldn’t Care Less About.” 


Amongst the marquee BracketBusters match-ups are:


Butler at Davidson – ESPN Saturday 12pm

This would be a great game if it could be rescheduled for – the 2008 season.  You know, when Davidson was actually good.


Buffalo at Vermont – ESPN2 Saturday 1pm

I’m anti-UVM because of their nickname, the Catamounts.  Western Carolina has had the same moniker since 1933.  Vermont should really change to something that honors the state’s most famous residents: Ben & Jerry.  I propose the Vermont Chunky Monkeys.


Utah State at Saint Mary’s – ESPN2 Saturday 5pm

ESPN’s web site touts this as a great chance to see St. Mary’s stellar guard, Patrick Mills. Though that’s true, the site should probably also mention that he’ll be clad in a suit and sitting on the bench.  Yes, the Gaels’ star player is injured.  So ESPN might be better off replacing St. Mary’s with St. Clete’s School For Wayward Girls.  (Most famous alum – Carla Tortelli.)


There are a few ways that ESPN could improve its BracketBusters Weekend:


1. One Underdog Per Game – When there’s hoops on and I don’t have a clear rooting interest, I, as a red-blooded American, pull for the underdog.  So, what am I supposed to do with the Bracket Buster game of Illinois State v. Niagara?  It’s like if there were a wrestling match between Eva Mendes and Eva Longoria.  No way to choose who to root for, so why even watch?  Actually, that’s a horrible example.


2. Make It Truly Bracket Busting  - You lose and you go home, for good.  That’s right, the rule should be that if you lose a Bracket Buster game, your season is over.  No NCAAs. No NIT.  Not even that ridiculous CBI.  You’re talking tons of misery for the losers.  Who would want to see that? Everyone.  These games would become NCAA’s version of a NASCAR pile up.  


3. Bracket Busting Cheerleaders – I am always trying to find ways for more cheerleader involvement and any word that includes “bust” clearly lends itself to my goal.  (God, I miss Beavis.)  Here’s what I’m thinking: the cheerleaders replace their sports bras and halter tops with  - a set of brackets. Wouldn’t that be quite revealing?  I truly hope so.  ESPN should also slightly change the name to Bracket Bustier Weekend.


Yet despite all of the problems with ESPN’s slate of games, I’m still excited to tune in this weekend because:


1. I Believe The Hype  - I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good pitch.  Probably the reason why I currently own two cases of TAG body spray.  But the folks at ESPN have almost complete control over my little brain.  Simply put, I’m watching BracketBusters because ESPN says I should.  Heck, ESPN has gotten me to watch soccer even though I’m, well, a man.


2. I Don’t Care – Yes, I watch because I don’t care.  I swear this makes sense.  See, the two teams I root for in college hoops are my two alma maters: St. Bonaventure and BC.  When they are playing, it’s truly an un-enjoyable emotional roller coaster ride for me.  Granted, with St. Bona’s that ride is usually over after about 5 minutes.


But that definitely was not the case back in March of 2000.  It was Selection Sunday.  I’m waiting, and hoping and praying and - then it happened: Greg Gumble said, “The next spot goes to the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.” I immediately ran around my apartment, out the door and through the streets screaming, “The Bonnies are in the Tournament!”  With my arms raised in victory, I felt like the guy in Chariots of Fire.  My wife, however, had a different vision.  She claims I looked more like Julie Andrews in her “Hills are Alive” scene from The Sound of Music.  I much prefer my recollection.  Apparently the neighbors heard something all together different.  See, the next day the paper comes and I’m in there. Well, sort of.  In the police log it stated, “Man heard running through street yelling, ‘Johnny needs a tourniquet.’”


My beloved Bonnies drew Kentucky in the first round.  After not one but two overtimes, St. Bonaventure lost.  I then lay immobile on my living room floor.  Phone rang but I couldn’t move.  Answering machine picked up.  While contemplating suicide, I heard the voice of my buddy Rick saying, “Dave, question for you.  Why’d it take St. Bonaventure so long to lose? Later.” 


None of that will happen with Saturday’s Northeastern-Wright State game.


If I’m honest, the main reason that I’m watching BracketBusters is that my wife’s right.  My name is Dave Barend and I’m a College-Hoop-aholic.  The evidence just keeps mounting:


*It infuriates me that not a single contestant on American Idol has chosen to sing “One Shining Moment.”


*I read everything I can about college basketball – even columns written by Doug Gottlieb.


*I think I might actually miss Billy Packer.


*I despise people who don’t watch any games all year and then win my pool.


*To me, the greatest movie of all time is the college basketball classic, “Fast Break” staring the one and only Gabe Kaplan.  Those of you who think it’s Citizen Kane are just wrong.


*I refuse to let my wife leave the bedroom without saying, “That was Awesome, baby.”


And finally - I’m truly pumped to watch Northern Iowa at Siena, which will be part of a fantastic BracketBusters Weekend.


Take it easy,



Next set of Rankings & Irrelevant Comments coming Monday.  If you’d like to add a comment about any team, just email it to me at by Saturday night.