College Basketball is trending a certain direction. The power conferences are moving away from playing high level mid-major schools, and toward a 20 game conference schedule.
The selection committee rather have a mediocre ACC team in the NCAA Tournament than a regular season champion from Conference-USA.
This leads to a system that is benefiting the Power-5 and leaving scraps for the rest of the NCAA.
The Sun Belt has an out of the box solution.
They have introduced a new way to schedule that can change the landscape of mid-major basketball.
Align with another conference in the region for a challenge series. The most likely candidate will be C-USA. The preseason standings of both leagues would match up and the top teams would play each other for more quality chances.
“With larger conferences expanding their conference schedule, there are over 100 out-of-conference games that could be opportunities for Sun Belt teams that are being eliminated,” said Mark Adams, an ESPN broadcaster and former collegiate head coach. “By working with each other, conferences can set up games between top teams that will give them the maximum benefit when being considered by a selection committee.”
This where the real fun comes in, conference play. The league will split in two divisions of six teams, East and West. In these divisions, the teams will play home-and-home against their division opponents and will play the other divisions opponents once, three at home and three away.
The standings freeze after these 16 games, and the top three teams at this point are guaranteed the top three seeds in the conference tournament.
The 12 schools will then be put into four pods based on the standings. For example, the top three teams would be grouped together, and so on. This will be each teams end to the conference slate, two home-and-home series against their equals.
“You look at Louisiana losing to Little Rock after they had already clinched the regular season,” Adams said. “That destroys their RPI, but there’s no reason that game should be played. By utilizing the pods, the best teams will continue to boost their ratings by playing other good teams.
Make the lower level pods meaningful, and the way to do this is to drop the conference tournament from 12 teams to 10 teams. This means that only the winner of the final pod makes the conference tournament.
What this could mean
The number one goal for this proposal is to even the playing field to get at least two teams from the Sun Belt in the big dance.
A popular phrase used in mid-major basketball is quality loss. Which essentially means they scheduled big name schools on the road to boost their RPI, but were easily defeated. The hope for scheduling like this is to help the strength of schedule heading into conference play where it will take a major hit.
“We have to think out of the box, we can’t think like the SEC or the ACC,” Adams said. “Maybe it comes back to where we try the same model for a year or two, but I think we need to be able to see things in a different light.”
This will allow for quality wins to be a legitimate force in the Sun Belt. N0w having the possibility of playing top-50 RPI squads that they can accumulate wins against rather than losses.
This is to improve the footprint of the Sun Belt. To allow itself as a league to have higher seeds and multiple teams in the field.
“There’s a big difference between a 14 seed and their ability to advance, and an 11 seed and their ability to advance further,” Adams said. “That’s what we’re working to do, to bring a higher profile schedule across the board to the Sun Belt.”
There's a future Sun Belt Basketball scheduling idea that according to rumor, will be brought up next week at the annual meetings in Mobile. It involves not knowing your final four regular season games until right before they happen. (1/)
— Thomas K (@tkhighcountry) May 17, 2018
“The conference needs to put its best foot forward,” Adams said. “They need to take every advantage and opportunity to promote their best teams and show that they are deserving of more than a random 13 or 14 seed in the national tournament.”
The major conferences are leaving the rest of college basketball behind. Now one league has decided to do something about it, to catch up.