So I’m a couple days late to the discourse on the European Super League. I have no relevant opinion on it other than it’s fun to see the regular fan stick it to a bunch of billionaires and the billionaires actually listen/be shamed into listening.
Anyways, as it pertains to American sports, we saw plenty of takes. The Athletic rolled out a the red carpet with the thought experiments: Andy Staples’ 15-team college football super league which included Nebraska (North Dakota State would be the more interesting winless team). Scott Dochterman said to hell with that and stuck with the tradition we know and love with college football. They even had a basketball version.
The basketball version offers the tangent into my West Coast Basketball Super League. The Pac-12, as constructed, is mismarketed. They’re too hidden on a channel only diehards have, are wedded to an old school scheduling mechanism, and does not have the best team in its geographic region (Gonzaga) despite having their fair share of historical programs (UCLA, Arizona). All of this combined to create a negative perception of those teams ahead of the tournament.
While the last bit may not be fixed by this thought experiment, what it does do is generate a situation where the most accomplished programs are playing each other night after night while creating compelling storylines up and down the leagues. So. what is the Super League and how will it interact with the rest of the region?
First, we need to define what “West Coast Basketball” is.
As it currently stands, there are six primarily West Coast (Pacific & Mountain time zone) conferences totaling 64 teams:
- Pac-12 (12 teams)
- West Coast Conference (10)
- Mountain West Conference (11)
- Western Athletic Conference (9)
- Big West (11)
- Big Sky (11)
All but 3 are in the the western two time zones (Chicago State, UT-RGV, and Tarleton St) and we’ll find new homes for them. However, UTEP and Denver are west coast schools by virtue of being in the Mountain time zone. We’ll add the Miners & Pioneers for 63 total teams.
With 63 teams, that means we’ll create 3 12-team leagues, a 13-team league, and a 14-team league and structure them with the most accomplished at the top and least accomplished at the bottom. To keep it “simple,” we’ll do the average KenPom adjusted expected margin over the last 11 seasons.
- Teams with less than 11 seasons at Division 1 are automatically in the bottom tier
- Teams are sorted in the tiers based on the adjEM, with each current league getting a team into the top tiers
- Each conference is guaranteed a team into a tier assuming they have not run out of teams based on adjEM
New West Coast Basketball Leagues
|TeamName||Conference||Tier||Reasoning||Average Adj EM||# Seasons|
|TeamName||Conference||Tier||Reasoning||Average Adj EM||# Seasons|
|San Diego St.||MWC||I||Adj EM||16.04760455||11|
|Saint Mary's||WCC||I||Adj EM||15.70655455||11|
|New Mexico St.||WAC||I||Conf #1||8.033324545||11|
|UC Irvine||BW||I||Conf #1||3.773680909||11|
|Boise St.||MWC||II||Adj EM||9.244102727||11|
|Utah St.||MWC||II||Adj EM||8.341126364||11|
|Arizona St.||P12||II||Adj EM||8.327428182||11|
|New Mexico||MWC||II||Adj EM||7.03838||11|
|San Francisco||WCC||II||Conf #2||4.427887455||11|
|UC Santa Barbara||BW||II||Conf #2||2.159504455||11|
|Weber St.||BSky||II||Conf #2||-0.1030673636||11|
|Utah Valley||WAC||II||Conf #2||-4.868584545||11|
|Colorado St.||MWC||III||Adj EM||6.528267273||11|
|Oregon St.||P12||III||Adj EM||6.429266273||11|
|Fresno St.||MWC||III||Adj EM||3.274397818||11|
|Washington St.||P12||III||Adj EM||2.727252727||11|
|Long Beach St.||BW||III||Conf #3||0.2758287273||11|
|Santa Clara||WCC||III||Conf #3||-0.8883390909||11|
|Eastern Washington||BSky||III||Conf #3||-2.137737273||11|
|Loyola Marymount||WCC||IIII||Adj EM||-1.462538273||11|
|San Diego||WCC||IIII||Adj EM||-2.179381818||11|
|Northern Colorado||BSky||IIII||Adj EM||-3.716367273||11|
|Cal St. Bakersfield||BW||IIII||Adj EM||-3.892899091||11|
|Air Force||MWC||IIII||Adj EM||-4.227277273||11|
|UC Davis||BW||IIII||Adj EM||-5.776034545||11|
|Cal St. Fullerton||BW||IIII||Adj EM||-5.955645727||11|
|Portland St.||BSky||IIII||Adj EM||-6.842262873||11|
|Grand Canyon||WAC||V||< 11 seasons||-0.024926375||8|
|Cal Baptist||WAC||V||< 11 seasons||-3.93026||3|
|UC San Diego||Big West||V||< 11 seasons||-6.29097||1|
|Cal Poly||BW||V||Adj EM||-6.960096364||11|
|UC Riverside||BW||V||Adj EM||-7.901200909||11|
|Cal St. Northridge||BW||V||Adj EM||-8.436665455||11|
|Montana St.||BSky||V||Adj EM||-9.18428||11|
|Sacramento St.||BSky||V||Adj EM||-9.237554545||11|
|Southern Utah||BSky||V||Adj EM||-11.00118436||11|
|Northern Arizona||BSky||V||Adj EM||-11.17232727||11|
|Idaho St.||BSky||V||Adj EM||-12.09734182||11|
|San Jose St.||MWC||V||Adj EM||-12.14188909||11|
|Dixie St.||WAC||V||< 11 seasons||-15.7111||1|
Now that we have allocated teams into their respective tiers, conference play will follow the newly minted Conference USA style schedule. Each team will play every one else round robin for 11 games. At this point, the teams will be broken into a top half and a bottom half by record. They will play another round robin “stretch run” against the tier remaining five games for 16 total in a 12-team league.
When a conference has 13 teams, the tier would be broken into 6 in the top and 7 in the bottom for round robin. 14 teams results in a “clean” 19-game regular season.
Promotion & Relegation
Each tier will promote and relegate two teams. The two promoted teams will come from the top two finishers in the top half of each tier after conference play concludes. The lowest two finishers in the bottom half of each tier will be relegated. Obvious exceptions apply with no promotion occurring from Tier 1 and no relegation occurring from Tier 5.
Teams in the West Coast joining Division I basketball would join the bottom tier, which would trickle up with newly minted promotion/relegation. There would be no more than a difference in 2 between the top league and bottom league so more teams may get promoted than relegated when added to the bottom of the conferences.
Conference tournaments exist as they normally would at the end of the season. Winning the conference tournament dictates automatic entry into the NCAA tournament. At large teams could come from any tier, though it is likely more would come from Tier 1 over time. They all occur in Las Vegas in their many arenas during the second week of conference tournaments.
Additionally, there would be an all-inclusive tournament resembling the FA Cup in England (or whatever your cross-tier tournament of choice is). These games would take place based on seeding from the prior year over the course of six weekends, though not necessarily consecutive. It would take place just before the stretch run of conference games.
Eliminated teams could schedule non-conference games.
With the six conferences now becoming five and those conference tournaments awarding bids as normal, a separate automatic bid to the NCAA tournament would be given to the victor of this tournament.
This is not to say West Coast basketball is fixed or necessarily requires fixing but there is a forgotten nature to it which does not exist outside of basketball or Bill Walton diehards. The new tier system would ensure the best teams consistently play each other while the addition of separate 60+ team tournament would add genuine excitement throughout an otherwise stale time in the college basketball calendar.