How awesomely appropriate is it that the Flying Dutchmen’s opponent in today’s Bracket Buster has the acronym F.U.? The Bracket Buster concept has spent four years alternately annoying the Dutchmen and extending the longest finger on the human hand in their general direction.
The matchup against Fairfield University (snicker snicker snort snort) today marks three straight years the Dutchmen have neither been on the NCAA bubble nor played anyone remotely interesting. It was abundantly clear well before the Dutchmen edged NCAA-bound Holy Cross 64-63 in 2007 that only a CAA Tournament title would put the Dutchmen in the Big Dance. Last year, the Dutchmen blew out fellow sub-.500 also-ran Iona, 81-63.
The first year Hofstra was selected to participate in the BB was the one in which the Dutchmen needed to record the type of win that could, you know, ACTUALLY GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO MAKE THE NCAA TOURNAMENT AND BUST THAT FREAKING BRACKET.
Instead, Hofstra gets Siena, which went 15-13, while George Mason gets fellow mid-major power Wichita State. Hmm. Funny how that works.
Hofstra ended up beating Siena, 76-62, in a game most memorable for the wife of Siena coach Fran McCaffrey getting booted from the building for unleashing the seven words you cannot say on television to an official. Seriously, you’ve never seen anything funnier than that: Coach’s wife walks to the bathroom just to scream at the ref. Awesome.
Of course, three years later, Siena is one of the handful of mid-majors with a legitimate shot at an at-large bid and, of course, is not playing Hofstra. So I guess that means Fairfield will host Northern Iowa in 2012 while Hofstra travels to Central Connecticut State for a thrilling reunion of former ECC foes.
As Litos noted earlier this week at Basketball State, the Bracket Buster idea has long outlived its usefulness. It’s a watered-down product that exists largely for ESPN to further Spread The Brand and serves as a giant annoyance for 98 percent of the teams in the field. Who really wants to play a non-conference game during the late-season push for valuable conference tournament seeding?
But of course, when one or two mid-majors get the at-large bid, ESPN will remind us, on multiple platforms, that said mid-majors really built their case with a Bracket Buster victory. Really, it’s a lot like politics. Pound us over the head with the idea that something is universally helpful when, in fact, it only helps a sliver of the population.
The Fairfield game promises to be anticlimactic on an epic level. Like having a front row seat to a four-hour show by Bruce Springsteen one night and hitting a bar for a fourth-rate cover band called Darlington County the next. Or, perhaps more accurately, like having your first slow dance at the eighth grade class dance only to have her tell you the next day she likes you, but only as a friend. I don’t want to talk about it.
All that said, this matchup probably screws Hofstra the least. The school didn’t have to fork over a ton of cash to fly the team to this game. An overnight trip two hours (or six hours, depending on the traffic) up I-95 isn’t going to screw with the bottom line.
The Dutchmen could certainly use a game that doesn’t count after the epic double-overtime win over James Madison Wednesday. Tom Pecora told Mike Francesa (who is so awesome he apparently managed to watch on television a game that wasn’t even televised Wednesday, more on that tomorrow or the next day) Thursday that he won’t play Greg Washington (flu) or Greg Johnson (shoulder) if they aren’t 100 percent.
And the red-hot Dutchmen should be able to find a way to extend their winning streak to five against a Fairfield team that started well but is falling apart. The Stags’ top three scorers are out for the year due to injury or disciplinary reasons and a fourth double-digit scorer, Greg Nero, sat out their most recent game due to a back injury.
Plus, you know, it’s fairly convenient for me, and that’s all that counts. Playing Fairfield reminds me of the days when Fairfield was the only team in Connecticut capable of making the NCAA Tournament as well as the days when Fairfield was the most popular college among teenaged boys in the Nutmeg State. That’s right. The coolest kids strutted around school wearing F.U. hats. Damned if I can find an image, though. (Alas, F.U. eventually proved to be no match for Oregon State)
Fairfield plays its home games The Arena at Harbor Yard, right off the Bridgeport ferry I use so often to travel to the birthplace of Defiantly Dutch. Only a sadist would risk driving I-95 on a Saturday, so we’ll take a nice ride out to Port Jefferson and make the five-minute walk to the Arena.
Hopefully we’ll see you there. I’ll be the guy yelling for Fairfield to rehire Mitch Buonaguro…whose old gigs, by the way, include stints as an assistant to Rollie Massimino. Sound familiar?
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