Bigger conferences and non-conference blowouts means College Basketball scheduling must change

by Kent Sterling

All these members of Big Blue Nation were asked to pay real money to watch UK destroy UT-Arlington last night.  How is that right?

All these members of Big Blue Nation were asked to pay real money to watch UK destroy UT-Arlington last night. How is that right?

After watching Kentucky jump out to a 65-11 lead over Montana State and take a 55-12 halftime lead last night against Texas-Arlington, I thought about the poor mopes in Big Blue Nation who paid to attend the games at Rupp Arena.  The players for both sides wasted their time in those romps, and the TV audience on the SEC Network switched over to “The Voice.”

Savannah State accepted its 87-28 beatdown at the hands of Louisville at the Yum! Center in exchange for a paycheck.  The point of the game was to fill the stands with fans willing to pay for garbage in exchange for tickets to conference games later in the season and maybe a token solid non-conference game or two.

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At the same time, conferences have expanded beyond the point where a true double round-robin schedule can be executed given the current load of 18 conference games.  The Big Ten and SEC are at 14 teams, so members play against five conference opponents twice and the other eight only once.  The ACC has 15 members, so that means four home and home opponents and ten teams that are played once.  The Pac-12 actually has 12 teams, which is a novelty.  They play seven teams twice and four once.

That makes for an unbalanced schedule that renders the regular season champion difficult to truly determine.  Playing Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke, or Arizona twice is a serious disadvantage compared to those who get bottom feeders twice.

If that inequity annoys fans, it drives coaches crazy.

How fortuitous that these two problems have the same solution – a longer and more robust conference schedule.

Some say there is no way that a 26-game true double round robin is possible for the Big Ten and SEC.  Not sure why that is.

I’m all for events like the Maui Invitational, Battle for Atlantis, and the Crossroads Classic.  Let’s continue to enjoy watching early season matchups between programs from different leagues.  It’s fun to see the regional games between rivals like Louisville and Kentucky, Purdue and Notre Dame, and Florida and Florida State.

Keep six games for tournaments and rivals, and move the rest to conference contests that will engage players and fans.  No one wants to see a sad group of kids from Savannah State, Montana State or some other tiny school willing to lead its lambs to slaughter for gas money.  Humiliation should not be a part of the “excitement” of college basketball.

Let’s have the major conference teams play a non-conference schedule similar to that (not) enjoyed by Mike Davis’s Texas Southern club.  They spend the next five weeks facing off against Michigan State, Gonzaga, Florida, Baylor, SMU, Kansas State, and Auburn.  They’ve already lost to Indiana and Tennessee.

For the dozens of Texas Southern fans who can’t wait to see the Tigers live and in person, I hope they have frequent flyer miles.  The only home game prior to January 17th is Friday night against Lamar.

If someone can tell me how that level of travel enhances the educational experience for Texas Southern “student-athletes,” I’m all ears.  On the 11 trips they will take to play 40 minutes of basketball, Texas Southern will travel 24,766 miles.  That’s 93 miles shy of a trip from its gym in Houston all the way around the earth at its widest part back to that same gym.  All to see exotic and educational locales like Bloomington, Las Cruces, Norfolk, Knoxville, and Cheney, Washington.

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If the NCAA wants to protect the integrity of amateur competition by suspending a kid like Georgia running back Todd Gurley for what could have been a Heisman Trophy season at Georgia for accepting a few bucks for signing jerseys and mini-helmets, how about doing something about schools barnstorming kids all over the country like the damn Harlem Globetrotters in search of a few bucks.  Couple of dollars for monetizing your image?  Sit for four weeks!  Weeks of missed classes and mind numbing travel in exchange for checks for the school?  Hey why not!

How miraculously convenient that the solution to boring blowouts, conference schedule imbalance, and onerous travel/missed classes is exactly the same – expand conference schedules.

3 thoughts on “Bigger conferences and non-conference blowouts means College Basketball scheduling must change

  1. Warren in TN

    First of all. I wanted to stop by and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, Kent. All the best wishes from me and mine to you and yours! Also thought I’d share a few thoughts on various stuff.

    The Titans aren’t even going to make the 6-10 “mark of season’s woe” I predicted to start the season. Remember how I said if I were to be the Titans GM and how I’d get Tim Tebow down here? Looks good about now, doesn’t it? Funniest thing about the Titans this year was when I read that the Titans GM said that he thought the fans could “realistically” expect the team to make the Super Bowl in 2016. I laughed so hard I almost gave myself an aneurysm! Go Figure…

    UK off to a heckuva start. IU’s tough home loss to Eastern Washington took some luster off the SMU win, but now that SMU has lost 3, even that win doesn’t look so good. I suspect it will be a constant bubble watch for Hoosiers, for UK fans, just a matter of when/if the first loss comes. As for me, I expect UK to lose one or two along the way. I’m cautiously optimistic they won’t lose more than twice on the season before the NCAAT begins. After reading what you’ve had to say about things in the college hoops world lately, I would say pump the brakes on thinking UK can’t be beat. You know they have some tough OOC games and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to lose a road game in the SEC. Not likely, but possible, is all I’m sayin’.

    As for the scheduling as you articulate in your article above….

    Well, we all know that the cupcakes takes these games for the paycheck, and I don’t blame them. Montana State took the game with UK specifically so they could upgrade their facilities, and good for them, I say. If they use the money to make it better for their program, then I’m at least OK with it. Sure, as fans, we would like to see some more “meat on the bone” so to speak, but scheduling cupcakes has always been a part of college athletics. Also, just to note, I think Montana State was a replacement game on the schedule for UK. Again, just sayin’. Sometimes those things happen.

    Another thing to note : UK has scheduled Kansas, UL, UNC**, Texas, Providence, and UCLA in the OOC portion of the schedule this season. Those are all top 25 teams. That’s not a bad OOC at all, in fact, it’s the best (and hardest) OOC schedule in all college hoops this season. I’d like to see it work out like that for every team at the top, every year. So, on that part, I give UK credit for the scheduling this season. Maybe that’s more of a quirk in how things worked out, but it’s nice that it did. Having a couple of cupcakes to get the season going should be expected, it’s always been, and I suspect, always will be.

    Maybe a round robin format in conferences would be the way to go, but then again, what about the conferences’ relative strength? that would be tougher in any given season depending on which conference you’re in. The SEC is weaker in comparison to the other conferences – mainly because the SEC puts so much more emphasis on football rather than hoops – in my opinion. It would be brutal in a basketball heavy conference like the ACC this year, or take the Big10. My God, some years, that would truly be a bloodbath for teams in those conferences. Bottom line is, I dunno if there is a really good solution. But I’m glad you wrote your article, it deserves some thought, and a discussion on how to improve the way things are.

    I also really liked your comments and sentiment about the contrast between what teams do with scheduling and the way the NCAA handles penalties (like the Gurley case). Man, there sure is a lot of ground that we can cover on so many topics! One of my pet peeves is the way college basketball officiating is, the state of it, and the need for a more uniform way for the NCAA to enforce officiating. It’s been one of those topics I’ve railed about for years.

    Well, I didn’t really mean to ramble on here, the main thing was to say hello and wish you well for Thanksgiving. Also wanted to give a shout-out to the regular readers here on the site – you all know who you are – best wishes to you guys as well !!!!

    I’ll be back frequently, as usual, and keeping an eye on things, as well as sharing a thought or two. Everyone take care !

    – Warren

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Warren –

      Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. I turned off the computer for the entire holiday weekend, and didn’t see your comment until today. Hope all is well.

      Thanks as always for your insight. You class up this joint.

      Best –


  2. cletus

    Every single argument that we are given about why these teams need these cupcake schedules is bogus.

    There is only one real argument. And that is that the coaches at the big schools don’t want anything to jeopardize their million dollar paycheck.

    And everyone else has to pay a very high price for them to feel safe.

    Like i said. I’ve heard ALL the other arguments. They are nothing but spin.


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