ESPN put the final nail in the coffin of its annual mid-major love fest on Tuesday morning, announcing that this will be the final season of the BracketBuster event.
The event started in 2002-03 and promised exposure for mid-major programs that had a chance to bust brackets in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Personally, I always thought the event was shrewd way for the higher-ups to ensure that half the talented mid-major teams lost a game late in the season, which would ultimately tarnish their resumes.
The BracketBuster event has had some ups-and-downs as far as Valparaiso is concerned. With just one more game to be held in the event, here is a look back at Valparaiso's eight BracketBuster games in order of relevance.
8. Feb. 20, 2010 -- at Bowling Green L 87-70
How much difference a year makes. Cameron Witt went from starting the BracketBuster game in 2009 to playing just one minute against Bowling Green. Brandon McPherson had 16 points and seven assists, but the Crusaders had 18 turnovers and trailed 49-24 at halftime.
7. Feb. 17, 2007 -- at Western Michigan L 89-80 (OT)
Urule Igbavboa had 21 points and nine rebounds, but couldn't make a potential game-winning shot with 36 seconds left in regulation as the Broncos won in overtime. Joe Reitz led Western Michigan with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Sam Haanpaa had 19 points off the bench for the Crusaders.
6. Feb. 21, 2009 -- vs. Akron W 74-66
Howard Little had 17 points and seven rebounds to lead six players in double figures for Valparaiso. Cameron Witt started and had 11 points. Jake Diebler had 10 points, six rebounds and four assists. Beas Hamga sat on the bench.
5. Feb. 17, 2012 -- at Loyola Marymount L 61-53 (*televised)
The Crusaders earned their second straight televised game (and third in BracketBuster history), but they simply went through the motions in the game. Kevin Van Wijk didn't travel to California and Hrvoje Vucic earned the start. Richie Edwards had 17 points and five rebounds and Ryan Broekhoff topped 1,000 points in his career with 16 points. No player went more than 30 minutes.
4. Feb. 19, 2005 -- at Butler L 72-69
Ron Howard had a game-high 20 points, but couldn't overcome Butler's starting five scoring all 72 points. The teams combined for 90 second-half points. This game was notable because it was the only way Butler would agree to play Valparaiso, because it was forced to.
3. Feb. 18, 2006 -- vs. Niagara W 88-82
Dan Oppland has 18 points and 12 rebounds in his final game at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Ron Howard added 15 points and six assists while Ali Berdiel had 10 points and four assists. Clif Brown scored 25 of his game-high 32 points in the second half for Niagara. The teams combined for 100 second-half points.
2. Feb. 23, 2008 -- vs. Miami (Ohio) W 99-94 (2OT) (*televised)
The seniors came to play against Miami. Shawn Huff scored seven points in the overtime sessions and finished with 32 points while Jarryd Loyd scored the last five points of the game to pull out a 99-94 double overtime victory. Kenny Hayes had 30 points for Miami, including a 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game. One of the more exciting atmospheres at the ARC in the last 10 years.
1. Feb. 19, 2011 -- vs. Missouri State W 80-67 (*televised)
Dick Vitale came to the Athletics-Recreation Center and the Crusaders blew out a very talented Missouri State squad behind Brandon Wood's 24 points and four steals. Valparaiso shot 58.2 percent from the field. This game perhaps illustrates how dangerous the BracketBuster event was. Valparaiso was coming off a crushing 79-76 loss to Milwaukee in which Mike Rogers blew an open layup in the closing seconds that would've given the Crusaders the league title. Because of the BracketBuster game, the Crusaders had to leave Milwaukee to travel back to the ARC, play in the game and then immediately turn around and head to Green Bay during a blizzard. The Crusaders dropped that game in overtime as Howard Little traveled after grabbing a rebound. A fatigued Valparaiso team then lost by 20 points to Loyola the following Thursday. Any one of those games would've given Valparaiso the league title. But hey, they won a BracketBuster game!