The BracketBusters event ends for good today, and Wright State coach Billy Donlon would be clapping and waving goodbye at the same time if that were possible.
“I’m thrilled,” Donlon said. “I couldn’t be more happy. When it first came out, I thought it was an outstanding idea. Now almost every non-BCS conference is in it. There’s no real bracket busting in it. It’s not nearly as relevant as it used to be.”
An event that had 18 teams in 2003, its first year, will feature 122 teams from 15 conferences this season. Thirteen games will be televised on the ESPN networks. ESPN announced the end of the event in December, saying “the event in its present form has run its course.”
Said Donlon, “It’s an extra game on your schedule, and it’s also a problem because of where the game is. You can’t do it at the beginning of the season. We have two conference games left, and one of our last games is the BracketBuster.”
The Raiders, who are 5-3 all time in the event, host Evansville at 2 p.m. today at the Nutter Center. It’ll be an interesting matchup, but neither team has much to gain. Both teams are more focused on improving their seeding in the conference tournament.
Wright State is tied for third in the Horizon League. Evansville is fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference, a game back of fourth and one ahead of two teams tied for sixth.
That doesn’t mean the Raiders (18-9) won’t play to win or that they’ll rest players for Tuesday’s Horizon League game at Illinois-Chicago.
“We’ll come out and try to win the game,” Donlon said. “If you don’t, that sends a bad message to your team.”
Evansville is led by senior guard Colt Ryan, who averages 19.2 points and recently became the third in school history to surpass the 2,000-point mark in his career. Donlon said Wright State recruited Ryan heavily when he was a senior in Batesville, Ind.
The Purple Aces (15-13) pose a challenge for Wright State’s Horizon League-leading defense because they run a pure motion offense. Donlon said only two other programs in the country run an offense like it.
“We’re going to guard an offense we haven’t guarded,” Donlon said. “That’s going to be a great test. They’re as physical as any team we’ve played. They bang you. They bruise you. I’m not saying they foul you or anything like that. Our challenge is to get a game plan that makes sense for our team.”