Bulldogs In Inaugural Bracket Buster Saturday

Aug. 8, 2002

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    SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University will be one of 18 teams to participate in Bracket Buster Saturday as ESPN, Inc. has reached a multi-year agreement with several top college basketball conferences and programs to present a new one-day, nine-game men's basketball event matching potential NCAA tournament hopefuls against each other.

    The Bulldogs will host the University of Tulsa on Feb. 22, 2003, in The Kennel on the Gonzaga campus in a game to be televised nationally by ESPN. The Gonzaga-Tulsa matchup is the only pre-determined game with the other pairings to be announced Feb. 3. Gonzaga (1999) and Tulsa (2000) are recent Elite Eight participants in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga was 29-4 last season and ranked sixth in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. Tulsa finished 27-7 and advanced to the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament. The Golden Hurricane tied for the Western Athletic Conference title with Hawaii at 15-3.

    ESPN and ESPN2 will present five live games highlighted by the Gonzaga-Tulsa game. In addition to those five, there will be four games produced and distributed in the markets of the competing teams.

    The Bracket Buster Saturday concept, named because of the success of these teams in NCAA Tournament play over the past few years, will provide participating teams with an opportunity to play top non-conference opponents three weeks prior to Selection Sunday.

    The 18-team field will feature four teams each from the Mid-American Conference, Missouri Valley Conference and Western Athletic Conference and three from the Horizon League, plus UC Santa Barbara from the Big West Conference, Western Kentucky from the Sun Belt Conference and Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference. While each conference selects their participating teams months prior to the beginning of the season, the match-ups for Bracket Buster Saturday will be determined by ESPN in conjunction with the conferences approximately three weeks prior to the event.

    Of the 18 competing teams selected for 2003, 14 participated in post-season play last year, including nine in the NCAA Tournament. The home teams in addition to Gonzaga will be Creighton, Illinois-Chicago, Kent State, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky and UC-Santa Barbara. Joining Tulsa as visiting teams will be Ball State, Bowling Green State, Detroit, Fresno State, Hawaii, Illinois State, Northern Iowa and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    "It's a great opportunity for us. We are excited," fourth-year Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. "Anytime we have the opportunity to accomplish two things on our schedule - play a great team and a great program and get the game on national television with ESPN - then we have to take a look at it. ESPN has done so much for college basketball and the truth be known done so much for our program that I tip my hat to everybody involved. They were diligent in their efforts. Scheduling is a bear in college basketball, and I was glad to keep our Tulsa game on the schedule."

    The Tulsa game was originally scheduled for Jan. 7 in Spokane, but the switch was approved by both schools for Bracket Buster Saturday.

    "Bracket Buster Saturday is a great new event for sports fans across the nation," said Burke Magnus, ESPN, director, programming and acquisitions. "We have the flexibility to create match-ups in mid-season, which should generate additional interest in these conferences and programs leading up to the NCAA Tournament."

    Karl Benson, WAC commissioner, said, "Bracket Buster Saturday will be a tremendous opportunity for the teams to receive some national exposure prior to the NCAA Tournament. College basketball fans across the country will get the chance to see some great non-conference match-ups that are not normally played at this time of the year and to watch the outstanding players and coaches from these teams."

    Below are statistics of this year's 18-team field in NCAA Tournament play from 1999 - 2002:

    1999 NCAA Tournament: five berths - Tulsa, Kent State, Detroit, Creighton, Gonzaga. A 6-5 overall record: Detroit defeated UCLA; Tulsa defeated College of Charleston; Creighton defeated Louisville; and Gonzaga defeated Minnesota, Stanford and Florida to advance to Elite Eight.

    2000 NCAA Tournament: five berths - Fresno State, Gonzaga, Tulsa, Creighton, Ball State. A 5-5 overall record: Gonzaga defeated Louisville and St. John's to advance to Sweet Sixteen; and Tulsa defeated UNLV, Cincinnati and Miami to reach Elite Eight.

    2001 NCAA Tournament: six berths - Hawaii, Fresno State, Western Kentucky, Creighton, Gonzaga and Kent State. A 4-6 overall record: Fresno State defeated California; Gonzaga defeated Virginia and Indiana State to reach Sweet Sixteen; and Kent State defeated Indiana.

    2002 NCAA Tournament: nine berths - Kent State, Gonzaga, UC Santa Barbara, Hawaii, Illinois-Chicago, Tulsa, Creighton, Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois. A 7-9 overall record: Kent State defeated Oklahoma State, Alabama and Pittsburgh to reach the Elite Eight; Southern Illinois defeated Texas Tech and Georgia to reach Sweet Sixteen; Creighton defeated Florida; and Tulsa defeated Marquette.

    Composite Totals:
    ? Three Elite Eight appearances: Gonzaga (1999), Tulsa (2000), Kent State (2002)
    ? Six Sweet Sixteen appearances: Gonzaga (1999, 2000 and 2001), Tulsa (2000), Kent State (2002) and Southern Illinois (2002)
    ? Twenty-one of the 22 NCAA Tournament victories by this year's 18-team field were against higher-seeded teams.

    Bracket Buster Saturday joins other ESPN college basketball franchise programming, including Rivalry Week, featuring top intra-conference battles in a series of games between college basketball's fiercest foes, and Championship Week, wall-to-wall coverage of conference tournament action of more than 55 tournament games.



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