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HUNTINGTON — Commissioner Judy MacLeod thinks Conference USA men's basketball is better than the national perception and she wants it to get more respect.
To try to achieve that, C-USA went with a unique scheduling format.
"It's really just one of our strategic initiatives to improve basketball, MacLeod said in a Monday interview at the C-USA Basketball Tip-Off event in Frisco, Texas. "I know our basketball is better than what some perceive it to be. We've had great success in the NCAA tournament. We had half our programs win 20-plus games last year.
C-USA actually had six 20-game winners last season among its 14 members, but MacLeod's point was made.
Of the six big winners, only Marshall University (25-11) got into the NCAA tournament, and the Thundering Herd received an automatic ticket as the conference tournament winner. C-USA was represented by only one NCAA tournament team for the sixth consecutive season. There is a 68-team field playing for the national championship — 32 automatic qualifiers and 36 at-large picks by the NCAA Selection Committee.
Marshall's victory in the 2018 NCAA tournament against Wichita State made it five out of six years C-USA had a first-round winner.
"We embarked on some strategic initiatives, hired Mark Adams [TV analyst and former coach] as a consultant and this year we are trying a new schedule, MacLeod said.
The goal of the scheduling format is to enhance resumes of teams by playing additional quality games within the conference season, a C-USA release said.
Each team will play every other team in the conference once and play their designated travel partner twice in the first 14 games of the conference season before a reset that ranks the teams based on the standings. C-USA's best five (1 through 5), middle five (6-10) and bottom four (11-14) will be grouped together for four games in the final three weeks of the regular season for an 18-game conference schedule.
"We don't get enough Top 50, Top 100 games and so now we're going to make sure our Top 50 and Top 100 conference members play each other twice instead of once, MacLeod said.
For conference tournament seeding purposes, teams will be locked in within their group. For example a team in the middle (6-10 group) will be seeded no higher than six and no lower than 10.
She mentioned some other reasons for the new wrinkle, such as having good television games late in the season and excitement for fans. Also, only 12 teams get in the C-USA tournament and the bottom four are playing for those spots.
The C-USA tournament returns to Frisco, Texas, for the second year March 13-16 at the Dallas Cowboys' training facility at the Ford Center at The Star, and once again two courts will be set up side-by-side with two games going on at the same time.
MacLeod said the rare setting had a real championship feel.
"It didn't look like you walked into an AAU tournament gym, which some people were saying, she said.
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