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FanTake: The Impact of High Level Competition Before Conference Games

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ncaa-logoOver the past few years, we have seen CBB’s premier programs playing more high-level games as part of organized events. It’s coming to a close within the next week or so, so let’s look back with the 20/20 sight hindsight guarantees us.

The Selection Committee tells us that such high-level competition, when virtually whole teams have been replaced with incoming freshmen who have never played together for their coach, will be a high consideration. I believe it is an unfair consideration so early in the season.

The complaint of Mid-Major programs has been that they cannot get the high-level programs to schedule them because they had no room. That space in their pre-conference schedule has suddenly gotten smaller with these organized events.

Top 25 programs who lose in pre-conference season point to their team’s development and gelling as a team. Winners usually point out that they have leadership from upperclassmen. One way or the other, it’s a convoluted evolution of REAL competition.

Coach K has a long time practice of scheduling a formidable opponent in the middle of conference season. His rationale was that it helped prepare his squad for the Big Dance. I always agreed, even when Duke lost. Unfortunately, with the ACC welcoming three new members this year, the schedule is more bloated than the past.

My solution would be to start the conference season in mid-November and play until around New Years, and then dedicate a month to out-of-conference play. In essence, switch what’s being done now, then go back to the conference for the remainder of the season and the conference tournaments.

There are three reasons why this would be wiser:

  1. Conferences who have schools playing each other twice, could schedule their games on either side of the non-conference time; a kind of before and after metamorphosis.
  2. Players could spend more time developing as a team early on, then be better prepared for the high-level competition, thus giving everyone a better perspective on seeding in the Big Dance.
  3. Programs would then be enhanced going back to their conference play and conference tournament.

I’m not trying to diminish conference play. I’m trying to make those out-of-conference games more worth playing. It would enhance the Conference vs Conference “challenges” as well.

Yes, conference play can be mind-numbing sometimes, and often leads to teams being highly touted going into the Big Dance not having seen anyone outside their conference for 3-4 months. We’ve also seen conferences beat each other to a pulp within their conference and tournament, only to be exhausted, enervated and enfeebled because they play their own conference members as many as three times.

We all know who they were in the past so unless we essentially split the season into thirds, it will continue.

The NCAA has made the statement that they want stadium settings for the Final Four and high profile arenas for Regionals because they believe that they have a product that is worthy of those type of venues.

Going to this type of 1/3-1/3-1/3 scheme enhances the play in those venues, invigorates the fan base, and makes for an even better Big Dance.

The “one-and-done” predicament is diminishing the product CBB is producing because some coaches are only interested in recruiting kids for a one-year shot at the Brass Ring. Unfortunately, there has not been a “one-and-done” player who has yet been an instant impact player at the next level.

My preference would be to see the NCAA develop and enforce rules to keep kids longer, but saving that, this 1/3-1/3-1/3 idea would cause a higher level of competition amongst these Frosh for the short time we have them to enjoy.

You can follow Bob on twitter at @TheBermudaBob.