Conference USA is changing the way they schedule in an effort to get the best teams in their league to have a better overall profile heading into Selection Sunday.
The plan of action is simple and brilliant. According to a column from Chuck Landon of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, the plan is to schedule out the first 14 games of conference play so that each team in the league plays everyone once and their travel partner twice. After that happens, the conference will re-seed based on the league standings and give the best teams in their conference an added bonus to their over profile.
The top five teams in the league will play each other for the final four conference games, as will teams seeded 6-10 and teams seeded 11-14. The goal is simple: to get the best teams in the conference as many possible games as they can against quality competition.
Conference USA is almost uniquely-suited to a measure like this. The top of the league is really good. Middle Tennessee State is one of the best mid-major programs in college basketball. Marshall returns their best player from a team that won a game in the NCAA tournament last year. Western Kentucky is always going to be talented as long as Rick Stansbury is the head coach. Old Dominion was a top 100 team on KenPom last season. All four were top 100 teams in the RPI, and Louisiana Tech, UAB, Charlotte, UTEP and Southern Miss all have varying degrees of good basketball pedigree with quite a bit of success in recent years.
But the conference as a whole is generally very top heavy. Last year, 10 of the 14 members of the league were ranked outside the top 150 in the RPI and six were sub-250. Rice was 330th out of 351 team.
Simply playing those teams hurts computer metrics, and a loss to any of them would absolutely torpedo a profile.
So Conference USA found a way to maximize the number of quality games their league members get in an effort to maximize the number of teams they can get into the tournament and what their seed will be if they get there. The conference hasn’t sent two teams to the dance since 2012, when Memphis was still a member. The Tigers were also the last team from the league to get a single-digit seed back in 2013.
It’s something that will work better in CUSA than in just about any other league.
And if it all works out, then Middle Tennessee State won’t end up on the wrong side of the bubble. Again.