You might be asking yourself, how and why does this matter on a Gonzaga blog. The short and simple answer: scheduling good non-conference match-ups for Gonzaga just got a lot harder.
As it stands right now, per NCAA rules, college basketball teams can either schedule 29 games, or 27 games and one multi-team exempt event (think any of the Holiday tournaments).
For the easy math, that means, that if you are in a Power 5 conference, you have either seven or nine games to schedule for your non-conference slate. And let’s be honest here, most of the squads Gonzaga will want to play in the non-conference slate are mostly likely playing in one of those NCAA Tournaments, which means we are looking at a whole lot of squads eyeing a grand total of SEVEN non-conference games to schedule.
From the big conferences points of view, it makes a little bit of sense. After all, leaving it like the Pac 12 (for example) means you can get distorted conference schedules, and that means quite a bit when fighting for those high seed lines. It wouldn’t be fair for Arizona to only have to play UCLA once, while Oregon had to do it twice.
Or so they say. Of course it isn’t for the idea of fairness. It is for the idea of cramming more of those garbage middle of the road Big Ten teams into the NCAA Tournament. Via Jon Rothstein on FanRag Sports:
“Moving to 20 league games is going to change the entire model,” one Big Ten athletic director told FanRag Sports last week. “They want to wipe out the non-Power 5 schools from getting at-large bids completely. Moving to 20 games makes that more of a realistic possibility.”
“The Big Ten isn’t doing this to get six teams in the NCAA Tournament,” one Big Ten head coach said last week on the condition of anonymity. “They’re doing this to get programs like Penn State and Nebraska into the NCAA Tournament. Going to 20 league games will create more opportunities for teams that aren’t usually in contention. That’s the goal of this.”
So yeah, thanks for ruining so much of this for the little guys you giant turds.
This transition will be brutal for most mid-major squads, Gonzaga included (even though we aren’t a mid-major of course). What major squad, with a grand total of seven games to schedule (six for the Big Ten if you include the fact the Big Ten/ACC Challenge eats up one game) are going to take the risk of flying into say, Spokane, Moraga, Provo, Reno, or Dayton, or anywhere and take the loss.
There isn’t much of a reason for the big schools to take the risk with a home and home. So the little guy is the one who gets pushed out. The non-Power 5 schools are now left with scheduling each other, occasionally squeaking out a random opponent (most likely always on the road), and potentially with a non-conference holiday tournament. You can kiss impact games good-bye.
This matters a lot. Even for a team like Gonzaga. The Zags have consistently been able to schedule some good schools to some good series, and have relied heavily on the Pac-12 in recent years for that. Those wins go a long way come march. Those wins are the difference between people saying a one-loss Gonzaga team is only a No. 4 seed vs. saying they are a No. 1 seed. If Gonzaga isn’t able to even schedule a statement game, with the state of the WCC as it is, they will not be able to crack the upper echelons of seeding.
All of this, so some crappy team like Penn State, Nebraska, or gasp even Rutgers can make the NCAA Tournament? Just so some legitimately boring-as-all-get-out squad can squeeze an at-large bid from a much more deserving smaller school by brute RPI force? The Final Fours and national championships have created some fantastic games between powerhouse schools before, but ask any reasonably sane human being and their favorite part of the NCAA Tournament is the opening weekend. That is not fueled by a No. 11 seeded Nebraska upsetting a No. 4 seeded West Virginia.
That spirit and energy is fueled by a No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, a No. 11 George Mason, a No. 11 Loyola Marymount, a No. 11 VCU, and of course a No. 10 Gonzaga. If anything, these schools deserve a seat at the table in March more than any middling Power 5 conference school ever would.