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Friday offseason wishlist 5.0: West Coast Basketball Super League

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This idea is a couple days late from the discourse but as good a time as ever to deploy my thought experiment

NCAA Basketball: PAC-12 Conference Tournament Championship Oregon State vs Colorado Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

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.

The teams

As it currently stands, there are six primarily West Coast (Pacific & Mountain time zone) conferences totaling 64 teams:

  1. Pac-12 (12 teams)
  2. West Coast Conference (10)
  3. Mountain West Conference (11)
  4. Western Athletic Conference (9)
  5. Big West (11)
  6. 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.

The organization

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
Gonzaga WCC I Adj EM 25.70593636 11
Arizona P12 I Adj EM 20.50989818 11
Oregon P12 I Adj EM 16.91264182 11
San Diego St. MWC I Adj EM 16.04760455 11
Saint Mary's WCC I Adj EM 15.70655455 11
UCLA P12 I Adj EM 14.88364273 11
BYU WCC I Adj EM 14.71874909 11
Colorado P12 I Adj EM 12.29923545 11
Stanford P12 I Adj EM 10.96102636 11
New Mexico St. WAC I Conf #1 8.033324545 11
UC Irvine BW I Conf #1 3.773680909 11
Montana BSky I Conf #1 2.229040091 11
USC P12 II Adj EM 9.811259091 11
Utah P12 II Adj EM 9.752264545 11
Washington P12 II Adj EM 9.444880182 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
California P12 II Adj EM 7.328899091 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
UNLV MWC III Adj EM 6.810855182 11
Nevada MWC III Adj EM 6.588000727 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
UTEP CUSA III Adj EM 0.6369509091 11
Wyoming MWC III Adj EM 0.6305701818 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
Seattle WAC III Conf #3 -6.239086364 11
Hawaii BW IIII Adj EM -0.8610094545 11
Pacific WCC IIII Adj EM -1.437301364 11
Loyola Marymount WCC IIII Adj EM -1.462538273 11
Pepperdine WCC IIII Adj EM -1.877654182 11
San Diego WCC IIII Adj EM -2.179381818 11
Denver Sum IIII Adj EM -3.043228182 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 WCC IIII Adj EM -6.159914545 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
Idaho BSky V Adj EM -7.134252727 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

The games

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

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.

Conclusion

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.