For ten years, ESPN’s BracketBusters event has provided mid-major basketball programs with significant national exposure and quality opponents. This weekend will mark the end of the event, however, as ESPN has elected to discontinue the games after this season.
It began in 2003 with 18 teams representing six different mid-major conferences. By 2005, the program had grown to include 100 schools. In 2012, the two-day event featured an immense field of 142 teams from 17 different mid-major conferences.
“It’s disappointing that it’s ending because, you know, even the last three or four years we’ve had nationally televised ESPN games,” Head Coach Steve Prohm said.
BracketBusters is a two-day event that happens each February. It pairs similarly ranked mid-major teams from different conferences against each other for a final non-conference game late in the season.
Additionally, two years after the BracketBusters matchup is played, teams are obligated to schedule a return game. In this game, the team who hosted the initial matchup travels to the opponent’s home court for a rematch.
Murray State was first invited to take part in 2005, and has participated with success ever since. The Racers have competed in a total of eight BracketBusters games, hosting six and posting a 6-2 record. “It’s always a good opportunity to put our team out there against another great mid-major team,” senior guard Isaiah Canaan said. “It’s also another opportunity for us to showcase on national television how good of a team we are.”
When asked about his initial reaction to hearing this year’s pairing with South Dakota State, Prohm said he was worried about the nearly 900-mile trip his team will have to make in two years when they play in the return game.
Long before they have to worry about making the trek to Billings, S.D., however, Prohm’s team will have its hands full with a 21-7 Jackrabbits team which currently leads the Summit League.
The team is led by senior guard Nate Wolters, who is a finalist for the Bob Cousy award for the top point guard in the country – an award Canaan was nominated for last season.
Wolters is currently fourth in the nation in scoring, averaging 22.8 points per game. The matchup between Canaan and Wolters is sure
to draw much attention as two of college basketball’s premier scorers face off.
“It’ll be a fun game,” Canaan said. “A lot of people talk about (Wolters). I don’t really know too much about him, but I’m going to go in like it’s just another game with another good player on their team.”
The Racers will end their run as a BracketBuster on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the CFSB Center. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer.