Earlier on Wednesday, ESPN’s resident college hoops handyman, Jay Bilas, posted a column that argued the elimination of two-thirds of 350ish teams currently participating at the Division I level.
Essentially, Bilas is saying that since there are so money non-competitive, uninteresting guarantee games that take place in November and December that we can drum up interest in college hoops by eliminating the supply.
In other words, he wants to force the best teams in the country to have to challenge themselves early in the year:
With a smaller field, the quality of matchups during the regular season will improve because teams will not have such a wide range of cupcakes to schedule. Is there really any compelling reason for Kentucky to play Marist, Radford, Portland, and Chattanooga at Rupp? Does anyone outside of Lexington care to see those matchups? Does it make any more sense than playing Transylvania or Morehouse, the Cats’ exhibition games?
Does it move anyone to see North Carolina play Elon, Nicholls, Mississippi Valley State, Monmouth or Tennessee State at home?
Personally, I not only hate the idea, but I don’t see how it would be feasible to pull off without eliminating the best parts of the NCAA tournament.
If this move was made ten years ago, would George Mason, VCU, Butler and St. Mary’s have been on the wrong side of the chopping block? What about the Murray States, Lehighs, Belmonts and Norfolk States of the world? How do you pick which programs to keep around from leagues like the Missouri Valley or the CAA?
Bilas brings up the idea of allowing the conference champions from the leagues that get demoted to partake in the NCAA tournament. Ok. That might save the cinderellas, but is that any different than setting an NCAA-wide ban on how poorly a team is allowed to schedule? Would that be any different than requiring a certain non-conference strength of schedule to be eligible for an at-large bid?
Bilas has good intentions here. The goal is to make the regular season in college hoops more meaningful, and it is inarguable that better hoops in November and December is a good thing for the sport.
Well, here’s an idea: let’s find a way to get non-conference rivalries that people care about to take place. (Looking at you, Kansas-Missouri.) Or maybe we can find a way to convince non-traditional programs to play games that people outside of Rupp Arena will care about. Keeping out marquee matchups should take priority to kicking out the smaller programs.
And hey, if Bilas really wants to make the regular season matter, he might want to take a look at the College Hoops Champions League.
Jay Bilas is much, much smarter than me.
He should be able to come up with a better idea for improving college basketball than this.