Moccia discusses potential pairings

By Joe Ragusa

BracketBuster match-ups announced later today

ESPN’s BracketBusters, played during three days in February each year, adds a wrinkle to the scheduling process for hundreds of college basketball programs.

“BracketBusters is a pain,” Athletic Director Mario Moccia said.



The BracketBusters pairings will be announced today, and since SIU hosted a BracketBusters game last year, the Salukis will have to go on the road this time around. Moccia said he has a general idea of which team the Salukis might be paired up with.

“Eastern Illinois looks good to me. Austin Peay looks good to me,” Moccia said. “(University of Missouri-Kansas City) looks good to me. Ball State, Bowling Green, Miami of Ohio, those are the schools within (our RPI range).”

The Missouri Valley Conference is one of 16 conferences that participate in BracketBusters, which pairs teams with similar Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to play each other in an effort to give teams a chance to play top non-conference opponents before the NCAA Tournament selections in March, according to the BracketBusters website.

Rating Percentage Index is a way to measure a team’s record against the quality of the teams they’ve played, and SIU is 228 out of 345 teams according to Real Time RPI. Missouri-Kansas City is the closest to the Salukis with an RPI of 226, while the other teams range from 176 to 284.

Last year, SIU was matched up against University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and won 61-60 by a last second layup from then-junior forward Mamadou Seck. But UW-Green Bay wasn’t on the list of the five teams Moccia suggested to ESPN for their BracketBuster game.

“The individual schools have no input in who they get,” Moccia said. “You ever seen The Matrix? It’s like the illusion of control. They let us fill it out and every year we’re like ‘Hey, we didn’t get our top four choices, again.’”

Moccia said BracketBusters lets the athletic directors suggest five teams they’d like to play, but it’s used more as a guideline and SIU rarely gets its first or second choice. UW-Green Bay wasn’t on Moccia’s list because he said they had to travel several hours to reach Carbondale.

“It’s not California, but it’s not Indiana or Missouri. You try to stay as regional as you can,” Moccia said. “Six hours is the longest we want to put our team on a bus.”

According to the BracketBuster website, the home team has to play at the away team’s arena sometime in the next two seasons. The Salukis traveled Dec. 11  to Western Michigan this season because they traveled to Carbondale for BracketBusters in 2010, and SIU will travel to UW-Green Bay next season.

“We said we’re not coming back to Green Bay next year (this season), we’re going to come back the year after that,” Moccia said. “They weren’t happy about that, but it’s within our right to do that.”

Sports information director Tom Weber said the BracketBuster game is still part of the 29 game limit the NCAA imposes on basketball programs, but Moccia said it’s hard to plan for because they don’t tell the individual programs who they’re playing before today’s announcement.

See Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Egyptian for more on who SIU will face off against in BracketBusters.