Pairings for the sixth annual O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters a multi-day men’s basketball event matching NCAA Tournament hopefuls against each other on Friday, Feb. 22, Saturday, Feb. 23 and a special telecast on Sunday, Feb. 24 -- were announced today. The selections are highlighted by #15 Drake (20-1 record) at #11 Butler (19-2), in a showdown between two teams with the best records and highest rankings in event history. ESPN2 (6) and ESPNU (5) will combine to televise 11 BracketBusters contests. ESPN Classic will air one, while ESPN360 will offer coverage of the remaining two. Game times and network assignments for the 14 matchups will be made Monday, Feb. 11.
O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters 2008 Television Schedule
Times and networks to be announced Monday, Feb. 11
Friday, Feb. 22
Marist (MAAC) at Cleveland State (Horizon)
Davidson (Southern) at Winthrop (Big South)
Saturday, Feb. 23
UC Santa Barbara (Big West) at Utah St. (WAC)
Creighton (MVC) at Oral Roberts (Summit)
Drake (MVC) at Butler (Horizon)
George Mason (Colonial) at Ohio (MAC)
Kent State (MAC) at Saint Mary's (WCC)
Nevada (WAC) at Southern Illinois (MVC)
Miami (Ohio) (MAC) at Valparaiso (Horizon)
Milwaukee (Horizon) at Bradley (MVC)
Rider (MAAC) at CS-Northridge (Big West)
Siena (MAAC) at Boise State (WAC)
VCU (Colonial) at Akron (MAC)
Sunday, Feb. 24
Wright State (Horizon) at Illinois State (MVC)
Saturday, Feb. 23 (non ESPN-televised games involving MVC teams)
Illinois Chicago at UNI, 7:05 pm CT
Wichita State at Northern Arizona, TBD
Central Michigan at Missouri State, 7:05 pm CT
Indiana State at Murray State, 6 pm CT
Evansville at Eastern Illinois, TBD
All 10 Missouri Valley Conference teams are participating, and five Valley teams are featured in the network’s 14-game telecast schedule. The Valley’s five teams selected by ESPN to play nationally televised games include Bradley (at home against Milwaukee); Creighton (at Oral Roberts); Drake (at Butler); Illinois State (at home against Wright State); and Southern Illinois (at home against Nevada).
This marks the third-straight year that five or more Valley teams have been selected for the O'Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters series television package. The selection of six Valley teams for the television package in 2007 established a record for the league, while the MVC had five teams on the ESPN family of networks in 2006. During the first five years of the BracketBusters series, The Valley has had 23 previous games featured on television and recorded a 14-9 record in those games. In fact, the Valley's 14 wins are more than any other conference (followed by the Western Athletic Conference-11 and Mid-American-10).
The 28 ESPNU BracketBusters teams were selected from a pool of 100 schools. This year’s event will mark the first time games will be televised over three days. The event began televising games over two days in 2006, while the first three years featured every game on a Saturday.
In addition to the 14 total games on ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN360, and ESPN Classic an additional 37 pairings, featuring 74 participating teams, including five from the Missouri Valley Conference, will be announced by Tuesday morning.
This year’s 28 ESPNU BracketBusters teams represent 11 conferences and:
Three ranked teams: #11 Butler, #15 Drake and #23 Saint Mary’s.
Six in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) top 50, including Drake at No. 8.
Ten 2007 NCAA Tournament participants, including two Sweet Sixteen (Butler and Southern Illinois) teams.
Seventeen with 15 or more overall wins and three undefeated in conference play.
Notably, The Valley has had good success in games resulting from the BracketBusters concept. Overall, The Valley is a combined 25-18 on previous games (including televised games and those in the pool that were not televised). In addition, Valley teams are a combined 30-13 in the returns the following season -- good for a combined 55-31 record in games resulting from the BracketBusters scheduling concept. Of MVC schools, Drake has had the most benefit, going 7-1 in games associated with the series. Until this year, the Bulldogs had yet to appear as part of the television package.
The ESPNU BracketBusters concept, named because of the success of teams from these conferences in NCAA Tournament play over the past years, provides participating programs with an opportunity to play top non-conference opponents approximately three weeks prior to Selection Sunday. Each conference selected their participating teams prior to the season and the matchups for the event were determined by ESPN in conjunction with the conferences.
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