SoCon BracketBusters on Feb. 18
Wichita State at Davidson, noon, ESPN
Wofford at Charleston Southern, 7, no TV
Winthrop at Appalachian State, 2, no TV
College of Charleston at Kent State, TBA, no TV
The BracketBusters is celebrating a birthday, and the Southern Conference has been invited to the party.
Feb. 17-18 marks the 10th anniversary of the ESPN college basketball series that pits top NCAA tournament hopefuls from mid-major conference across the country against each other with the goal of improving tournament resumes about three weeks before Selection Sunday.
Davidson will be featured in one of nationally 13 televised matchups for the second time in three seasons. ESPN sent Dick Vitale to provide color commentary for Davidson versus Butler in 2009. This year, the Wildcats will face Wichita State at noon on Feb. 18 with the game airing on ESPN or ESPN2.
"It's been a bit of a mixed bag for us," SoCon commissioner John Iamarino said. "There have been real positives for us in terms of getting national exposure like Davidson is going to get. On the flip side, it really messes with your regular-season scheduling."
The remaining 116 teams in the pool to play on TV were typically matched up with regional opponents for the weekend.
Wofford will play at Charleston Southern, the College of Charleston will play at Kent State and Appalachian State will face Winthrop. The host team is obligated to return the contest next season per BracketBusters rules.
"It's a chance to step out of conference to play a team with a pretty good RPI," ASU coach Jason Capel said. "It's a chance for us to get a home game.
"BracketBusters definitely has some benefits, especially if you're a team that needs a resume booster to be one of those last four teams in."
Iamarino said 11 of the last 15 non-televised BracketBusters games involving SoCon schools have been played against teams from the Big South and Ohio Valley conferences.
"Games we could book ourselves," Iamarino said. "We're not seeing the variety of opponents we'd hope to see."
Not all SoCon coaches are in favor of playing in the series, which is a reason the SoCon selects four of its 12 schools to participate. Iamarino said he's never had to beg for a third or fourth team.
But he won't look to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman to fill one of those spots.
The Mocs had a bad experience with the BracketBusters in their 2009 championship season. On Thursday they beat Western Carolina. On Friday they flew to Omaha. On Saturday they lost 100-68 at Creighton. On Sunday they flew back to Tennessee. On Monday they played at East Tennessee State to win the division.
"I'm not a big fan of, during conference races, stepping out of league play," Shulman said. "Your goal is to win the regular season and to win the tournament.
"I just think, that at that moment, it's hard to switch gears.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...