MISSOULA — The University of Montana Grizzlies will play the Davidson Wildcats on ESPNU in the 11th annual Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters on Saturday, Feb. 23, in Davidson, N. C. Tip-off in Davidson’s John M. Belk Arena (5,223) is at 1:00 p.m. (Mountain Time).
“It’s an exciting deal,” said Griz head coach Wayne Tinkle. “We get to have a game on ESPNU, which is nationwide coverage, which is great for our program. Obviously it speaks a lot to the success that we’ve had, and it’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be tough travel and it’s an early afternoon game at three in the afternoon Eastern time, but it’s great exposure for our program and a nice reward for the effort that our team has put in so far this year.”
The Grizzlies are one of 26 teams selected to be a part of the 11th (and final) ESPN BracketBusters event, which features a total of 122 teams and 13 conferences.
Montana, which is ranked 14th in the recent (Feb. 4) Mid-Major Top 25 Poll, is 16-4 overall and 12-0 and in first place in the Big Sky Conference. The Griz currently have the second longest winning streak in the nation at 12 games (Akron has the longest at 13).
After this week’s two home games this Thursday against Northern Colorado and on Saturday against North Dakota, the Grizzlies will be on the road for three straight weeks, playing four league games and then the solo contest at Davidson.
“It could have implications if we were to have success there and make the NCAA Tournament,” Tinkle said. “Those are two very, very tough tasks – I understand that. But, that is one of the good things with the BracketBusters. If you do get a win, especially on the road, it could enhance some things for us later in the season.
“We’ll think about it down the road when it’s appropriate,” Tinkle continued. “Right now our sole focus is ourselves and Northern Colorado.”
Davidson, which is ranked 19th in this week’s Mid-Major Poll, has won eight of its last nine games, is 15-7 overall and 10-1 in the Southern Conference, which puts the Wildcats in first place in the South Division in that league.
The game features two of the best free throw shooting teams in the nation, as Davidson currently leads the country at 80.7% from the line, and Montana is fifth (77.0%).
As part of the BracketBusters agreement, Davidson will play a return game in UM’s Dahlberg Arena against Montana in November or December of the 2013-14 season.
Last season the Grizzlies hosted the University of Hawaii Rainbows in a BracketBusters game, the Griz winning 94-79, as UM guard forward Kareem Jamar registered a triple-double with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Montana plays the return game against Hawaii next season.
The rest of the Big Sky teams playing in the BracketBusters and their schedule:
North Dakota at Nebraska-Omaha
Northern Arizona at Hawaii
Northern Colorado at UC Davis
Sacramento State at UC Santa Barbara
Weber State at Oral Roberts
Sam Houston State at Eastern Washington
Idaho at Idaho State
Cal State Northridge at Southern Utah
UC Riverside at Portland State
Sunday, Feb. 24
South Dakota at Montana State
— UM Sports Information