With conference realignment occurring frequently over the last few years, we’re finally starting to see conference movement settle down a bit as it pertains to the major college basketball conferences of America.
It’ll take some time getting used to seeing Syracuse in the ACC or Creighton in the Big East, but one of the things that college basketball fans will also have to adapt to is the changing of conference schedules and how it will change inter-conference rivalries.
I’m not talking about Syracuse and Georgetown being in different leagues, or any other splits like that, but this is more about current rivalries that are staying in the same conference and being affected by scheduling changes due to realignment.
One league this could really be hurting down the road because of imbalanced scheduling is the Pac-12. If you enjoyed this past weekend’s matchup with Washington and Arizona, well, you won’t see them play in the regular season again this season unless they meet in the Pac-12 Tournament. That’s a shame.
As this article from Javier Morales of the Tuscon Citizen explains, this is a problem Arizona faces with a couple of key rivals in the Pac-12 over the next few seasons.
The Pac-12’s two perennial powers of UCLA and Arizona also face each other only once this season and Arizona won’t get their return trip to Washington this season to give the Huskies a chance at revenge.
This can’t be good to uphold good basketball rivalries and draw nationwide attention to the Pac-12’s marquee matchups. Games like UCLA and Arizona draw national interest and by having those games only once a year in some seasons, it hurts national interest to the Pac-12 from casual fans.
Morales notes in the article that the ACC made sure to uphold rivalries like Duke and North Carolina by giving each team designated primary partners that each team in the league would play twice a year. The Big East — pre-conference realignment — also adopted a similar scheduling policy to uphold rivalries before the league went down to 10 teams again.
Morales made a few suggestions on ways around the current Pac-12 basketball scheduling model:
1. Follow the ACC format
2. Schedule a non-conference game between UCLA and Arizona when the programs are scheduled to meet only once in the Pac-12 season, as will be the case this season and next.
3. Structure the Pac-12 into North and South divisions similar to football.
It would be hard to watch non-conference games between conference opponents when the stakes aren’t nearly as high, so the Pac-12 should clearly look into Morales’ option 1 or 3 if they want to protect Pac-12 basketball rivalries.
Watching Arizona only face Washington and UCLA once this season when they’re in the midst of a potentially special year is cheating fans of Pac-12 basketball — and college basketball — of some additional great games. Let’s hope the Pac-12 can come up with some sort of solution for this problem going forward and give the fans the matchups that they want.