What BracketBusters did for Wichita State

BracketBusters’ influence on Wichita State basketball isn’t over, despite Tuesday’s announcement that the ESPN’s helping hand to the little guy will end after this season. WSU has a February game and return games (it appears) with Davidson (next season) and this season’s opponent.

With ESPN booting the CAA, BracketBusters clearly took a major hit. Its death will not be mourned because of the slippage in competition as marquee teams such as Gonzaga and Butler opted out. Before we say farewell, it’s important to look at BracketBuster’s legacy and think about how WSU and the MVC can schedule in the future. BracketBusters helped WSU immensely since it first participated in 2004, even though it went 3-6. It got more value out of the return games, in which it is 8-0 after last month’s win at Virginia Commonwealth.

As for the memories, WSU fans watched Final Four teams George Mason and VCU come through Koch Arena. Without BracketBusters, that isn’t happening. Winning at Mason and VCU in the return games helped push Shocker teams into the national rankings.

As for the numbers, they demonstrate how valuable the BracketBusters was:

  • Since the 2003-04 season, WSU played 36 non-conference games against top-100 RPI teams. BracketBusters provided 10 of those games. WSU played 19 teams in the top 50, with five coming from BracketBusters-related games.
  • WSU played 13 top-100 non-conference games at home in the past 10 seasons, six of them provided by BracketBusters (with the potential for another this February).
  • Of those 36 top-100 matchups, two (both top 50) came from the MWC/MVC Challenge Series, meaning 12 total came from out of WSU’s control (although the Shockers did earn those opponents). Thirteen came from tournaments, leaving nine games that WSU scheduled as a standalone event. Some, such as games against Northwestern State and UAB, were buy games that added an RPI bounce. Some, such as the series with LSU and Texas Tech, changed sites.

What does this tell us?

  1. WSU made the most of the BracketBusters era by winning and earning TV games and good opponents.
  2. Without BracketBusters, WSU’s schedule likely slips during the past 10 seasons. How would WSU fill those two dates without BracketBusters? We don’t know. There is no guarantee it would be able to schedule top-100 teams under normal circumstances. The consistent top-100 teams in this region largely decline to play WSU in a home-and-home series.
  3. It’s good to take scheduling out of the school’s hands on occasion. Some coaches schedule tough. Some don’t. BracketBusters (and the MWC Challenge Series) forced good matchups on schools and helps the conference.
  4. The MVC needs to pursue more inventive ways to juice schedules. I don’t know what is out there, but crafting some sort of alliance with similar schools should be a priority.