Last week, ESPN announced the matchups for the annual BracketBusters, a men's college basketball event pitting potential NCAA tournament hopefuls from outside the power conferences against one another. It's a great, made-for-TV event, and in some cases, it really gives teams extra opportunities to score a big nonconference win late in the season.
Wouldn't a women's version of the BracketBusters be great too?
Don't get me wrong. The women's NCAA tournament has it right, playing with 64 -- not 68 -- teams. But this seems like such a good idea to steal.
The women's game is in position where some so-called mid-majors are making noise. This season, two are in the top 15 in the polls, and last March, one made it to the Elite Eight. Giving them a weekend with some national exposure would be a great way to continue growing some of those programs, which would help expand the game overall.
The big conference schools are the attraction for Play 4Kay (formerly Feb Frenzy), which takes center stage next weekend for the fifth straight year, raising money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. This always takes place the second weekend of February. The following weekend, when the men's BracketBusters is held, would be an ideal time for the women's version. The men play Friday and Saturday, so the women -- just as they do for Play 4Kay -- could play Sunday and Monday.
And just like Play 4Kay, the women's BracketBusters could be tied to a charity. Although Tennessee would not be directly involved in the games, what better choice would there be than the Pat Summitt Foundation to raise money to fight Alzheimer's? Call it the "We Back Pat BracketBusters Weekend."
This is just brainstorming out loud. For all we know, the concept would be impossible to pull off or too ambitious. But while we're pretending I would pick 10 games -- four to be played in two time slots on Sunday with coverage on the ESPN networks and the two most attractive matchups as part of a Big Monday doubleheader. Unlike the men's version, which draws teams from 16 conferences, the women's blueprint would also include teams from Conference USA, the Mountain West and the Ivy League.
A look at the games we'd love to see if the women's BracketBusters existed this season:
Delaware (20-1, 11-0 CAA) at Green Bay (20-0, 10-0 Horizon): Both schools are locks for the tournament, but this would give them each a step into the spotlight, something that rarely happens once conference play starts, especially for Green Bay. Delaware's Elena Delle Donne is starting to get some national attention, but how many fans have actually seen her play? This is the chance. The same holds for Green Bay, a model program over the past few seasons that most fans will only see for a few minutes of one game during the NCAA tournament. This marquee matchup of ranked teams would be the perfect fit for Big Monday.
Fresno State (19-4, 7-0 WAC) at Florida Gulf Coast (21-2, 13-0 Atlantic Sun): Bombs away. These two are ranked 1-2 nationally in 3-pointers per game. That makes this matchup fun all by itself. Without this kind of game, an at-large bid wouldn't be terribly likely for either because their conferences don't offer enough opportunity for the necessary quality wins the rest of the way. A win here would fill that need.
Princeton (15-4, 5-0 Ivy) at Gonzaga (21-3, 10-1 WCC): Game No. 2 of Big Monday would pit teams that no big conference school wants to see in its part of the bracket come March. The Tigers' Niveen Rasheed and Lauren Edwards and Gonzaga's Kayla Standish and Katelan Redmon are players the country should see. Issues might arise if the Ivy League is unwilling to have one of its schools play on a Monday or travel that distance. But nothing happens unless you ask, right? Amendments to this schedule to account for the economics are certainly possible, but these matchups would be a bit more fun than Fresno State versus Gonzaga and Princeton versus FGCU.
Hofstra (16-6, 8-3 CAA) at Middle Tennessee (19-5, 11-0 Sun Belt): The Blue Raiders already have a major résumé win over Kentucky, and the Pride have a shot at one Feb. 16 against Delaware. Both are in the mix for an at-large bid this season but could really use a RPI-boosting win such as this.
Bowling Green (20-3, 10-0 MAC) at Marist (15-7, 10-1 MAAC): Any chances the Red Foxes had at an at-large bid should they not win the MAAC disappeared with the loss to Manhattan. Bowling Green's gaudy record and MAC dominance would seemingly have it in the mix for an at-large berth, but a poor nonconference SOS makes that a long shot. This could help.
UTEP (20-2, 9-0 C-USA) at James Madison (17-5, 8-3 CAA): The Miners don't have any marquee wins but do have a sub-200 RPI loss, which means a game such as this in a season like this would be absolutely necessary. As it is, running the table until the conference tournament title game would be the only possible way UTEP would get any at-large consideration. James Madison has a better shot, and this kind of game could be the enhancement the Dukes might need.
Other games to round out the 10-game package:
• BYU (21-4, 9-2 WCC) at Wichita State (15-7, 9-2 MVC)
• Miami (Ohio) (17-6, 7-3 MAC) at Memphis (17-5, 7-2 C-USA)
• Missouri State (15-6, 8-3 MVC) at San Diego State (17-5, 7-1 MWC)
• South Dakota State (16-7, 11-1 Summit) at Boston University (17-6, 10-0 America East)
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.