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Published: Saturday, 2/22/2003

Bracket Buster slate lacks luster

Leave it to ESPN to try to put a new spin on the NCAA men's basketball regular season.

In case you missed it, today is Bracket Buster Saturday, thanks to the people calling the shots at the all-sports TV network.

And just what is Bracket Buster Saturday? Simply put, it's ESPN's attempt to try to offer a helping hand in determining which mid-major teams deserve to see their names on an NCAA men's basketball bracket in March.

ESPN invited 18 mid-major-level teams, including Bowling Green, to participate in an all-day lineup of games on ESPN and ESPN2. The idea is to give the little guys a little more exposure.

Good idea, but far from a perfect plan.

For one, the teams selected to play were determined before the season began, based upon how they fared a year earlier. As a result, only one of the 18 teams in this year's list of participants, including four Mid-American Conference schools, is ranked among this week's Top 25 in either the Associated Press or ESPN/USA Today rankings.

Creighton, which hosts Fresno State at noon on ESPN2, is the only ranked team in the bunch. Creighton ranks 17th in the AP poll, 18th in ESPN/USA Today.

The idea of seeing the same Tulsa, Gonzaga and Kent State teams that played well in the NCAA Tournament a year ago taking part in Bracket Buster Saturday games sounds good. But none of them is ranked and none has played up to the level it exhibited a season earlier.

A win over Illinois-Chicago (16-7) on ESPN2 today, at 5 p.m., will not make much difference in the Falcons' bid for postseason play. They're not a bubble team as much as a team which can reach the NCAA Tournament only by winning the MAC Tournament's automatic bid.

Nonetheless, BG coach Dan Dakich recognizes the positives of participating in a Bracket Buster game. It's the first regular season game the Falcons will play on national TV since they played host to Ohio University on ESPN2 in 1995.

“I think it's great for the kids because it's a chance to play on national television,” Dakich said. “When I was at Indiana, so many of the games were on TV that we couldn't really remember which ones were and which ones weren't, but it is a different deal here. We don't get a whole lot of television exposure, especially on a national basis.”

Dakich added: “It's a chance for everybody across the country to see you play, and you would hope to make the best of that opportunity.”

Even though it's unlikely that the selection committee will determine NCAA Tournament berths from these matchups, that doesn't mean the games won't be competitive.

Channel changing

Showtime cable channel subscribers will have a rare opportunity tonight to watch a Mike Tyson fight for no additional cost. Non-Showtime subscribers can see the fight between Tyson and Cliff Etienne for a pay-per-view fee. The heavyweight bout will air at around 10.

Purdue at Ohio State today at noon (TV5) looms large in the Big Ten race, at least for Purdue.

College Sports Television (CSTV) makes its debut tomorrow when it airs the women's basketball game between Connecticut and Notre Dame at 2. The game begins a six-week free look at CSTV, which becomes the first 24-hour cable channel dedicated exclusively to college sports.

However, CSTV is only available in a few locations; in Ohio it's only available in Dayton.



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