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C-USA Plans Scheduling Tweak, Aims for NCAA Tourney

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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

 

NORFOLK

When it comes to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Conference USA believes it has been doubly wronged.

Not only has C-USA been a one-bid league in recent years, its lone representative has been saddled with a low seed.

In an effort to fight back, C-USA is trying something radical among college conferences - a "smart" scheduling model in which the top teams play each other down the stretch.

The league announced the plan Tuesday .

"With the goals to improve seeding and increase the number of teams that advance to the postseason, we viewed this as a great opportunity to enhance our top teams' resumes by providing them additional quality games within their conference schedule," C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a news release.

Under the plan, which was endorsed by athletic directors and coaches at last week's league meetings, teams would be re-seeded into three pods after the first 14 conference games, and the top five would square off over the final three weeks.

Having teams from the league's upper tier play each other would boost their RPI, with an aim of securing a higher seed for the league champ and more bids overall.

"I think we've hit upon a concept that could make a lot of sense and have the desired impact for our league," Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig said.

C-USA hasn't received an at-large bid since 2012. Its automatic qualifiers have been seeded no higher than 12th and as low as 15th, twice.

Despite the seeding, C-USA teams have won four straight opening round games.

"We've been under-seeded, and we've proven it by winning," Selig said.

Still, with most power conference schools refusing to play mid-majors home-and-home, building a resume worthy of a higher seed or at-large bid has been an uphill battle.

The league last year hired former college coach and ESPN commentator Mark Adams as a consultant, to look at ways of increasing its chances of landing at-large bids. A smart scheduling model was among his proposals.

"It combines a traditional schedule with an exciting end-of-season format that will surely catch the attention of college basketball fans and the NCAA Tournament selection committee," Adams said in the news release.

Adopting such a model would require that teams make last-minute travel arrangements - a potential challenge in geographically-strewn C-USA. Fans also wouldn't know in advance which teams a school would play over the final four games.

Selig said the logistics can be worked out. And that the benefits outweigh any inconvenience.

"I think it's going to be very well-received by fans across C-USA," he said. "When college basketball is peaking, and in the national spotlight, we're going to guarantee across our league the best matchups coming down the home stretch of February and leading into march madness."

By contrast in recent years, ODU and other top-tier teams have played conference foes with RPIs of 300 or worse. Even winning those games did little to boost their power ratings, and losing them could be disastrous to at-large hopes.

"What we're doing is we're trying to insulate our best within our conference so they're protected," Selig said.

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May 30, 2018
 
 
 

 

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