November 11, 2009
The process of exhibition basketball has been called into question in 2009 more than ever before. Some coaches are abandoning the exhibitions altogether, instead opting for controlled scrimmages against more worthy opponents -- even at the cost of thousands of dollars in ticket sales. But a controlled scrimmage doesn't do college hoops at large all that much good. All it does is get rid of the silly tradition that sees schools like Illinois destroy schools like the University of Chicago by 60 points twice a year. Hooray.
Jay Bilas has a better idea ($). Rather than do away with the games, the NCAA should force schools to begin practice on Oct. 1. Then, rather than get rid of those exhibition dates, the schools should be forced to schedule two "mid-major" opponents (mid-major scarequoted because, standard disclaimer, it's hard to figure out what a mid-major is anymore) to real, actual games. This is an idea I can get behind:
Start practice on October 1 and take those two exhibition games and mandate that teams from the top six major conferences have to play home games against teams from the Missouri Valley Conference, the West Coast Conference, the Mid-American Conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the WAC or the Horizon League. If they do not schedule teams from those conferences, they cannot make use of the two games. That will provide incentive for more majors to play more of the "chosen mid-majors" and the populists out there can stop moaning about scheduling being unfair.
[...] But with two more shots at major conference teams per season, the "chosen" mid-majors will better be able to prove they are worthy of consideration as at-large teams, or at least eliminate some of the gray area. Wouldn't that be better than having 100 lower division teams blown out for every competitive game in an exhibition?
This doesn't quite strike at the heart of "fair" scheduling, if such a thing is even possible, but it does get around a problem that seems to happen almost every year: major teams are scared of quality mid-majors. Last year's Creighton team complained of this most noisily after being let out of the tournament, arguing that the Bluejays' schedule was so weak not by choice but because no major teams would acquiesce to a home-and-home arrangement. They had a point. It makes no sense for major teams to schedule mid-majors like Creighton unless they have to.
So let's force the issue! I like it. Schools can keep making money from their early-November games, but only if they agree to host a mid-major. The combination of common sense and the sheer excitement of watching big schools take on perennial victims of media underdog syndrome -- no doubt we can all cook up some sort of "David Vs. Goliath Week" to draw in viewers -- is pretty tempting. Maybe this will never happen, but it should.