Creighton and Long Beach State met in one of last year's marquee BracketBusters games (Getty Images)
Aside from the potential at-large hopeful fortunate enough to draw a visit from Creighton when ESPN announces the matchups Monday, none of the 122 teams participating this year will benefit much.
Like every year, participants are designated home or road teams before the season on an alternating basis. Wichita State, Indiana State, Saint Mary's and Belmont are among the designated home teams in contention for an at-large NCAA tournament bid this season, but the only potential visiting team formidable enough to boost any of their stock is 21st-ranked Creighton.
Since the Shockers and Sycamores are both fellow Missouri Valley teams, it's likely either WCC-contending Saint Mary's (18-4, 7-1) or OVC-leading Belmont (18-4, 9-0) would draw Creighton. The more high-profile Gaels are probably the obvious choice, as ESPN.com's Andy Katz noted Friday, but both teams are in similar positions.
Saint Mary's boasts a win over BYU in Provo and still has cracks against the Cougars and Gonzaga left at home, but the Gaels badly need a marquee non-conference victory to boost their No. 57 RPI. Belmont has to be taken seriously as an at-large threat thanks to an RPI that's shockingly hovering around No. 15, yet a closer look at the Bruins' profile reveals their best wins were over Stanford, Middle Tennessee and South Dakota State.
The best that a potential home team can hope to draw besides Creighton is probably Ohio, Montana, Detroit or Stephen F. Austin, all quality teams yet not realistic at-large threats. Victories over any of these teams won't do much to help Saint Mary's, Indiana State and Belmont bolster their NCAA tournament profiles, but home losses to any of them will be disastrous.
That format issues are hampering the final edition of BracketBusters is fitting for an innovative but unwieldy event that has outlived its usefulness.
Though ESPN created the event to help top mid-majors get the marquee games and TV exposure needed to receive NCAA bids, more teams have been eliminated from at-large contention because of losses than boosted into the field because of big wins. Furthermore, most of the more than 100 teams that participate every year don't get a marquee game or any additional TV exposure yet still have to return the game the following year, often to a school well outside their region.
What probably really killed the event in the eyes of ESPN, however, was not enough elite teams are participating these days.
Gonzaga, Butler and teams in the Mountain West or Atlantic 10 have long avoided the event because they can schedule better games on their own and they want no part of the mid-major label. And this year, BracketBusters lost the CAA because ESPN did not include the league after it signed a TV deal with NBC Sports Network.
As a result, BracketBusters will go out with a whimper rather than a roar. The team that draws Creighton will have a chance to strengthen its at-large hopes with a marquee win on national TV, and every other NCAA contender will simply hope to avoid a damaging loss.
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