When you take a look at the 13 conferences and 122 teams represented in this year’s Bracketbuster field, there’s one conference and more specifically one team, that jumps off the page as not participating–Sun Belt Conference leader Middle Tennessee State.
Why is the Sun Belt not participating, and why isn’t the No. 2 mid-major program in the country involved? The conference hasn’t been part of these games since the 2006 season and was part of the first Bracketbuster games way back in 2003, when there were only nine games (as opposed to 71 a year ago).
Stony Brook, the America East leader at 11-2, is another team not scheduled to play a Bracketbuster game. Although the Seawolves and Blue Raiders should both garner serious consideration by the committee regarding at-large bids if they don’t win their respective league tournaments, they can’t do anything else to bolster their resume.
Is the Sun Belt a one-bid league? Probably.
The argument can be made that the MAAC is also a one-bid league, yet they have a team like Manhattan (10-16, 8-8 MAAC) playing a Buffalo Bulls team from the Mid-American Conference that is 11-15 (6-6 MAC). It doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Another case is Northern Colorado (9-15, 7-9 Big Sky) traveling to UC Davis (11-13, 6-7 Big West). Do either of these teams warrant an invitation to a mid-major game that is supposed to have some semblance of an impact come selection Sunday? Absolutely not.
The Bracketbuster selection process is flawed and it couldn’t be more evident than this season. It’s going by the wayside following this year’s games (hopefully), so it’ll be the last time a team like Middle Tennessee State will get snubbed at a chance to bolster an already solid resume.
The Sun Belt as a whole has a conference RPI of 14 (of 33) while the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (30th RPI) has three teams playing who have a combined record of 34-38. The Sun Belt could have just as easily sent MTSU (23-4), Arkansas State (17-9) and South Alabama (15-9).
It is what it is and it’ll serve as no distraction for the Blue Raiders, who have a game with South Alabama in their crosshairs. Their non-conference schedule (9th in Division I) will have to serve as their Bracketbuster, they’ve got bigger fish to fry, like running the table in the Sun Belt.