Oct. 25, 2004
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Indianapolis - All nine of the Horizon League's men's basketball teams will participate in the pool of teams eligible for the third annual Bracket Buster Saturday, a one-day college hoops extravaganza pitting potential NCAA Tournament hopefuls against each other just before the start of March Madness, it was announced Wednesday (Sept. 8) by ESPN.
This year's event will be held Feb. 19 and will feature 11 nationally televised games selected from an expanded pool of 64 teams representing 13 Division I conferences. Those numbers compare to 46 teams and 10 television games last season and 18 teams and nine games in the inaugural event in 2003.
ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to televise six of the 11 Bracket Buster Saturday contests. The other five televised games will be produced and distributed in the markets of the competing teams through ESPN Regional Television and will be available nationally on ESPN FULL COURT, the network's out-of-market pay-per-view service.
Bracket Buster Saturday, named because of the success of the teams in NCAA Tournament play during the past few years, will provide the 22 televised teams an opportunity to play other top non-conference opponents three weeks prior to Selection Sunday. The 42 teams not selected for the event will compete against each other on the day. Home and road teams have been predetermined for scheduling purposes, and teams may be matched with any team outside of their respective conferences.
"Bracket Buster Saturday is a great opportunity for our league and our teams, particularly in positioning ourselves to play important, national-level games at a very meaningful time of the year," said Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan B. LeCrone. "The concept also addresses some of our scheduling issues in that it creates competitive and entertaining home-and-home series on an annual basis. In addition, through Bracket Buster Saturday, we are able to solidify our long-term relationship with our broadcast partners at ESPN."
The Horizon League is one of only two conferences whose entire membership will participate in the 2005 Bracket Buster Saturday, joining the 10-team Western Athletic Conference. The 64-team field also will include 12 teams from the Mid-American Conference; nine from the Missouri Valley Conference; four from the Sun Belt and Southern Conference; three from the Big Sky, Colonial Athletic and Metro Atlantic Athletic; and two from the Big West, Mid-Continent and Ohio Valley Conferences; plus the University of Vermont from the America East Conference. Three new conferences join the pool this year: America East, Big Sky and Mid-Continent.
"I am encouraged that all nine of our schools have the willingness to participate in this year's Bracket Buster Saturday, which strengthens our league's commitment to the event," LeCrone said. "By agreeing to be in the 64-team field, all of our teams will have the opportunity to qualify for the 11 televised games."
While each conference selects their participating teams prior to the beginning of the season, the 11 match-ups for Bracket Buster Saturday will be determined from the pool of 64 teams by ESPN in conjunction with the conferences on Jan. 30, 2005. As part of the agreement, all 11 of the Bracket Buster Saturday home teams, as well as the remaining 21 home squads, will play a return game at the home facility of their opponent in November or December of the 2005-06 season.
"We continue to receive a tremendous amount of commitment, cooperation and passion from the conferences and their member institutions," said Burke Magnus, director, ESPN programming and acquisitions. "The purpose of this event remains to provide national exposure to NCAA Tournament hopefuls; however, now there will be additional season-long interest as fans can track each team's quest for one of the 22 Bracket Buster Saturday bids."
The 64 teams in this season's Bracket Buster Saturday have combined for 47 team appearances in the last five NCAA Tournaments, including two Elite Eight Appearances. Three others, including Butler University of the Horizon League in 2003, have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
Six of the Horizon League's nine teams will play host to Bracket Buster Saturday games this season: Butler, the University of Detroit Mercy, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wright State University and Youngstown State University. Designated road teams from the conference are Cleveland State University, Loyola University Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In its inaugural year, two of the three participating Horizon League teams won their Bracket Buster Saturday games as Detroit won at the University of California-Santa Barbara 75-59 and UIC defeated Bowling Green State University 83-72 at home, while UW-Milwaukee lost at Southern Illinois University 66-64. Last season the Panthers lost at home to Manhattan College 83-76 in the League's lone televised game. UIC and Detroit both won their games that day as well, beating the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Ball State University, respectively.