Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sears BracketBusters 101: What's in it for the EWU Eagles @ the UC Irvine Anteaters

What is the Sears BracketBuster?  The question has come up for me a few times in the last couple weeks and unfortunately now is the first time I’ve really had to sit down and prepare a post to answer it.  First let me give you the answer from the proverbial horses mouth (

“The Sears BracketBusters concept, named because of the success of participating teams from these conferences in NCAA Championship play through the years, provides programs with an opportunity to play top non-conference opponents roughly three weeks before Selection Sunday. Each conference selects its participating teams before the season, and the matchups for the event are determined by ESPN in conjunction with the conferences. Sears BracketBusters X is an example of ESPN college basketball franchise programming.”

Not very helpful?  Yeah I didn’t think so either.  In a nutshell the Sears BracketBuster series features dozens of non-conference match-ups scheduled for late in the season.  The hope is that the result will be match-ups between rising mid-major programs, highly ranked programs or programs featuring superstar student athletes that will draw a wide television audience and hopefully impact the NCAA tournament field.

EWU Head Coach Jim Hayford
knows wins are never meaningless
photo from
Eastern Washington vs UC Irvine this year offers none of those things and therefore will not be televised.  What this match up does do for both teams is provide an opportunity to play an additional game and as EWU Head Coach Jim Hayford put it, “We’re building a program, so we need to learn how to win, which is why we’re going down to play a winning team.”  The opportunity to travel to a non-conference opponent in a critical stretch of the conference season may not impact the conference standings, but it does represent a free chance to garner experience winning on the road against an unfamiliar opponent.  Which is essentially what teams must do to succeed in post season play.

So while a victory here won’t give either team a berth in the NCAA Tournament this year, it can like all victories help to develop winning habits, culture and provide a taste of a bigger stage.