Catch-22…

Note: Warning, this is a VERY long read but it is worth it. Beach would be proud. Also, we’ll get to the wrap up and preview portion later today.

Let me get this over quickly: I am proposing, and backing and seeking like-minded inviduals, the move to a 22-game regular season in the CAA. Everybody plays everybody else home-and-home.

Before you laugh, read on and keep an open mind. Most of all, think.

We all know scheduling nonconference games is, to put it mildly, a bear. We’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s deal with how this improves in-conference schedules. This is a far easier and more straightforward task.

The current 18-game, unbalanced schedule isn’t easy or fun. Whether its the convoluted travel partners set up or unpredictable year-over-year schedule for teams (who do we have at home) or the uncontrollable flukes of playing the “strong” teams and whether you play them at home or on the road, the set up does not seem to work for anyone.

We’re about to enter the final two years of the six-year rotation developed when Georgia State and Northeastern entered the league. I’m sure you are with me thinking: what the heck happens in two years? I’m sure more than one AD and coach will rifle through his desk for the paperwork that explains it.

Please don’t misunderstand. The set up we have is as good as it could be; there are simply inherent problems that you cannot avoid.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got:

A balanced schedule ensures equal competition and a more pure league race. Though the NCAA Selection Committee likely does look at the makeup of a Major Conference’s teams to see how easy someone got to 9-7, it isn’t that way for a mid major. You are either 15-3 or playing in the NIT. How you got to 15-3 isn’t on the radar.

This season VCU only plays Northeastern and George Mason once. Both games are in Richmond, a building VCU wins in more than 80% of the time. Northeastern, meanwhile, has a home-and-home with Mason and with ODU, and travels to play VCU. What’s more, Northeastern’s only game against the current #4 JMU Dukes was in Harrisonburg. This was a far easier assignment last season. If both teams finish 14-4, whose is more impressive?

You may begin arguing relative strength and any finer point, but MY point is this: a fully balanced 22-game slate removes all arguments. Every year.

But we’d never be able to fit in all the games, right? Wrong. We’re adding four games at the expense of nonconference matchups, so the dates are available. All we need to do is find them.

Game #1 and #2: The CAA already plays one December date. Make it three. I’ll stab and say the conference picks Saturday 12/5/09 in the upcoming year. Give me Wednesday 12/9 and Saturday 12/12 to go with it.

Sure, we’ll miss out on thrill-a-minute mid-December matchups like this year’s Towson/High Point barnburner or NC Central/ODU locking horns, but I think we’d all survive.

Game #3: The full season starts the first full week of January. In 2010, this is Wednesday, January 6. Give me Festivus Saturday on January 2. Are you watching the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl between a crappy MAC and crappy Big East team, or heading out for Mason/ODU or Drexel/Delaware?

Game #4: This is the most controversial but I’m saying it: dump BracketBusters. There is an outside chance that a CAA team (or two) may get on one of the ESPN networks, playing a similarly sketchy Valley or MAC team. They may or may not win. For the other 11 teams, BracketBusters is a pain to schedule, and what one coach told me really “BudgetBusters.”

You want a great game against a top mid major? Schedule it in November.

Staying in BracketBusters to protect a television deal? I’m fully understanding of that concept and I buy into it. Fine. There’s a week between the last Saturday of the regular season and the start of the tournament. Give me a Monday game. No? Give me another early December game. It exists.

Problem solved.

Now, there’s the whole matter of the nonconference slate. Your Team’s math may differ by a game but let’s use this baseline to work from:

You are allowed 29 games, which leaves us with seven nonconference games to schedule.

(The exempt tournament rules allow you to head to some exotic locale like Cancun or Des Moines and play three or four games, but you are only “charged” one game. As you will see this is not insignificant.)

The immediate argument is that you can’t properly build up a nonconference schedule to help your RPI or construct your team and its psyche/identity. You have no flexibility. I’m not buying that, for two reasons.

First, the last game or two on everyone’s schedule is a last-minute fill in. Think Blaine Taylor wanted NC State instead of Winston Salem State? Heck, Tom Pecora scheduled a D3 team beacuse he had no choice. There is a desperation to the final couple of scheduling spots. There is a reason you didn’t get your season tickets until late October and some unknown Sun Belt team was on it.

What’s more, if there’s a tremendous amount of pain for a coach to schedule 11 nonconference games, isn’t an easy solution to only force him to schedule seven?

Here’s what I mean by that: coaches constantly complain they cannot get the games they want. “Nobody will play us.” But somehow there are games on the schedule anyway. Therefore we can only infer that those MUST be games the coaches DON’T want to schedule but have to in order to fill out their ledger. The nonconference games I’m saying to dump are the ones nobody wants.

My argument is that the problem is too much flexibility, not too little. If you can get what you need with seven games, again, why do you need 11? And coaches get a guaranteed two more home games. A 22-game conference schedule guarantees 11 homers. You only need two or three to get to a manageable home slate for your ticket base.

Second, we can get there:

Game #1: we’ll slot the exempt tournament here. You will/should get a good RPI mix, as well as a test for your team. Most of them set you up for an easy game, a medium game, and a hard game. Coaches like that mix for their development, and it is mostly an RPI-friendly approach.

Game #2 and #3: these are your local/regional rivalry games. You have to have these and there is no statistical measure that matters, because you play these two games every year anyway.

Game #4 and #5: These are your strong RPI games. Can’t get a top 25 team? Fine, go get Creighton or some other BracketBuster-ish team to bolster your RPI. Can’t get a strong RPI game? Fine, go get a medium RPI game, or make it a flex game (next item).

Game #6 and #7: These are your flex games. Make them buy games if your budget dictates. Make them strong RPI or weak RPI or middle RPI. Home, away, rival, etc. It doesn’t matter. This is the flexibility you crave and it is far easier to schedule two or three of these than six or seven.

***

In the end I may not be right. But I know I’m not wrong. The major conferences are making policy and we all need to embrace that concept because it isn’t changing.

What “we” collectively need to figure out is “our” best possible path given these unfair and restrictive realities. Hoping for the best and importantly making minor changes to a flawed situation isn’t going to get it done. “We” need something bold that sends the message that we’re going to do what’s best for us, and conventional thinking isn’t going to limit us.

Kentucky holding its Midnight Madness a week early because it chose to use its allotted two hours of practice time for that purpose was utterly brilliant. We could use a dose of brilliant and I wonder if this isn’t step one.

Was it Einstein that said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome was the definition of insanity?

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~ by mglitos on January 15, 2009.

6 Responses to “Catch-22…”

  1. Maybe you’re onto something. Maybe not. But, I agree that the current system just doesn’t work. I could be wrong, but I think ODU has played the other top 4 teams twice per year, every single year of the rotation.

  2. I keep coming back to this–we can get to the specifics, but it can happen. And the theory isn’t as crazy as people may think. In my mind, it makes sense.

  3. […] MNFC Gem… Published January 15, 2009 Uncategorized So wrapped up in scheduling, we missed this dandy from MNFC. Thanks to Dopirak for the […]

  4. I wouldn’t mind going to Trask every year to watch the dance team, I mean see the beach and the Seahawks and Huskies play. 😉

  5. […] One more stat for you, and later today we’ll hear what the coaches had to say about playing home-and-home. […]

  6. […] Published January 19, 2009 Uncategorized There’s been a patter of bluster since this foray into strategery. (Somehow, today is the day to use that word.) We’ve been stuck in the mode of: it makes […]

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