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Friday offseason wishlist 2.0: Creative scheduling

Is this possible? I want it.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Illinois vs Iowa Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Things are happening without happening. That much is for sure.

Gonzaga continued their dominance. UCLA continued their weird domino effect from Tom Izzo’s tantrum. Baylor continued bayloring. And Houston continued to beat double-digit seeds.

Yet with the tournament reaching an end of the next three days, I still a bone to pick with the scheduling from this past regular season. It was fine but lacked total creativity. I want creativity.

Item #1: Round robin to begin the conference season

You may remember my plea for the Big Ten to schedule a round robin, neutral-site regular season to ensure some measure of opponent balance amidst a pandemic. Well, that didn’t happen but it doesn’t mean I can’t ask for something similar again.

Conference USA rolled out an innovative schedule in 2018 which opened their conference season with something similar before creating groups within the conference midseason, based on performance in the round robin. The Big Ten should consider something similar, as it would ensure the highest profile regular season games existed in the latter weeks of the season.

Item #2: Midseason conference tournament

Based on historic schedules, Iowa’s 13-game mark has hit at approximately the week after the Super Bowl. This timing would heighten games in the middle of the season as tournament seeding would be based on the round robin, which is about as fair as it could get. Ideally each team has the same number of home & away games but a wish list is no time to poke holes in said wishes.

It would differentiate the conference’s tournament as the only one which had a tournament bid on the line in the middle of the season is not a new concept, as minor league baseball rolled out something similar to provide entry into its playoffs based on first-half performance. The move to earlier in the season would also free up the conference to schedule regular season games up until when other conferences are wrapping up their tournaments and reduce end of season back-to-backs.

I would also consider turning this into a double-elimination style tournament a la wrestling.

Item #3: Better protected rivalries

With 13 games going to the round robin & six going to games against your “half” there’s room for a 20th game and it should be a readjusted protected rival. As it stands now, there is some weird math to ensure Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, & Nebraska play each other more, Indiana-Purdue, Michigan-MSU, Illinois-Northwestern and something with the eastern schools. Those should be adjusted to be:

  • Iowa-Illinois (Iowa’s supreme basketball rival and that does not feel like recency bias)
  • Minnesota-Wisconsin (they should always play twice a year)
  • Nebraska-Northwestern (leftovers)
  • Indiana-Purdue & Michigan-MSU (same as MN/WI)
  • OSU/Maryland & PSU/Rutgers

They should play the Friday, Saturday, Sunday when the regular season normally finishes up.

Item #4: Standings based on performance against your half in the last six games

With the conference tournament & auto-bid already locked up, there is the case for the regular season is now diminished in terms of league standings. By resetting the conference’s table in terms of teams who finished 1-7 & 8-14, it would create a sprint to the finish if the 7th place team had essentially the same shot at finishing first and hang a banner.

Put more simply, the best way to determine a regular season champion - true round robin - is not currently viable with 14 teams in the conference. This enables that to be more possible.

There’s obviously more to sort out if the conference would ever consider this figment of my imagination - who gets what home game? what happens if rivals end up in the same half? would it improve the conference’s chances at getting teams in the tournament or reduce them? - but it is the offseason and it’s my wish.

What do you like from it? What’s bad about it?

There are no wrong answers, it’s Friday!