Big Ten Mailbag: Hoops tourney on east coast?

Time for me to reach into my mailbag. Many comments on the post last week that ranked the football/basketball coaching combinations in the Big Ten. It seems many of you disagreed with my order!

No problem. Division realignment remains a hot topic, as you will see. One reader has an especially outside-the-box notion. So, read on and enjoy.

Why not expand the Big Ten to 18 teams and structure three divisions each with six teams each? Controversy may arise when determining which division champions would meet in the conference championship game. But clever tiebreakers can be arranged. Such tiebreakers can be arranged by having pairs of teams play the same pairs of teams from other divisions with two crossover games among the other two divisions. This effectively creates three temporary six-team “out-of-division” pods that rotate every two years during a six-year period. Thus, one tiebreaker could be to win both the pod and the division. – Radi

I have never heard a proposal like this, but your idea raises some interesting possibilities. But I think decision-makers feel 16 teams are as big as they want to go with conferences for a number of reasons. And I, like most people, think the Big Ten will eventually get to 16 teams, along with the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12. The ACC and Big East may end up forming some type of alliance. Who knows? Stay tuned.

What do you think the chances are for another B1G expansion before the football season begins? – Tommy

I don’t think we’ll see anything that quickly. But, we possibly could. The key, I think, to the next round of moves hinges on when Maryland hears back from the ACC on the $50 million exit fee the school owes for leaving. If Maryland can get the sum reduced, I think that will be the green light for other ACC schools possibly to bolt. Many speculate the Big Ten could target North Carolina, Georgia Tech or Virginia. The SEC could go after N.C. State and Virginia Tech. Some tell me the SEC would like to strengthen its basketball brand and would push for North Carolina and Duke. The Big 12 could go after Clemson and Florida State. What would happen to the ACC if all of those schools left? And remember: Notre Dame recently formed an alliance with the ACC for all of its sports but football.

I saw your ranking of Big Ten schools by coaching tandems. And it seems like your ranking was based on reputation rather than actual accomplishments at their present schools. That being said, I’d put Michigan State at No. 1. Wisconsin, OSU and Michigan all have fairly new football coaches, so the jury remains out on them. - John Fischer

Well, reputation is all I have to go on for some coaches, since they haven’t been at their current schools for very long. So, I am not supposed to consider—for instance—Urban Meyer’s track record at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida when ranking him at Ohio State? Seems absurd. I also looked at potential and current mojo in making my rankings.

How does Wisconsin rank that high in your coaching combo rankings? Their football coach hasn’t coached in a Big Ten game. And Iowa behind Indiana doesn’t work, either. Kirk Ferentz has more Big Ten championships than Tom Crean and Fran McCaffrey has his basketball team ahead of Indiana football. Minnesota should be at the bottom. It underachieves at both sports. - Brad

I considered accomplishments and potential when doing my rankings. Gary Andersen did a great job at Utah State, a school that isn’t blessed with a lot of built-in advantages. And he’s a coach on the rise. You make a good case on Indiana being ahead of Iowa, but the Hawkeye football team is slumping while the Hoosiers are rising. But I disagree on Minnesota. Yes, the results of late have been tough, but Jerry Kill is a proven coach whose program is on the up-tick. And remember: Tubby Smith won a national title at Kentucky and had the Gophers in the Top 10 earlier this season.

I don’t believe Penn State should be No. 11. Bill O’Brien, in my opinion, is No. 2 behind Urban Meyer. Penn State basketball is on the way up and I believe Pat Chambers is a really good coach and things are looking up with the next class of recruits. – Joe Nowogorski

O’Brien has coached ONE season—at any level. That’s it. No way can you put him at No. 2 in the Big Ten. I agree on Chambers. I, too, think he’s a heck of coach who has the program pointed up. Who knows: The Nittany Lions may have made a legit tourney run if Tim Frazier had not gotten hurt. A bid to the Big Dance may happen next season.

In the future, could you see the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament played in New York at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center, since the Big Ten wants to establish that market? – J.C.

I am sure the Big Ten will consider it. The conference will open an office in New York City in the near future to establish a presence in the East, where it has a burgeoning foothold with Rutgers and Maryland joining for 2014. And having some events in the metro area is almost a must to further establish the Big Ten in the area. The men’s hoop tourney is a natural for either of the venues you mentioned. And there could be an early-season football game in MetLife Stadium, too. I also have heard talk about maybe playing football games in Baltimore (M&T Stadium) and Washington (FedEx Field). Anything to enhance the Big Ten brand in the heavily populated Eastern corridor.

Is there too much emphasis placed on NCAA tournament results in college basketball, and does this discredit the strength of a league? For example, what if all but one of the Big Ten schools is knocked out by the Sweet 16? That doesn’t mean the Big Ten is bad, right? – Jonathan

The NCAA tourney is the ultimate measuring stick for schools and leagues—like it or not. It’s like the bowl games in football. What else do we have that’s a better litmus test? It’s best vs. best late in the season when schools should be playing their best. Can results be over emphasized—good and bad? Yes, but that’s the nature of the NCAA tourney and bowl games. It’s time for the Big Ten to deliver in the Big Dance, as no school has won a national title since Michigan State in 1999-2000.

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8 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (8 Comments)
Dee on 2/25/2013 @ 8:38pm EST Said:

I don’t know about the basketball tournament in New York, but if the Big Ten were to start a men’s lacrosse league, the Maryland/Virginia area would make sense. Also, the baseball tournament could be a draw if moved to Virginia/North Carolina/Georgia.

Radi on 2/26/2013 @ 6:22am EST Said:

Why not expand to 18 schools and organize 3 divisions? There would be B1G West, B1G Central and B1G East Divisions with 9-game conference schedules. This allows rivals to play annually with geographical scheduling to minimize travel costs. There would be 5 divisional games and 2 cross-over games with the other 2 divisions. This scheduling can be achieved using paired schools from each division, thus creating temporary 6-school pods that rotate on a home/away basis every 2 years during a 6-year period for these cross-over games. The 6 schools in this pod would play a round-robin schedule. These games can be scheduled during the first 5 weeks of the season, although there is a need to substitute the games between paired schools of the same division in this period using other schools from the same division. This allows the remaining games among schools within the same divisions during the last 4 weeks of the season.

Why not schedule one conference championship game by using tie-breaking rules to select 2 of the 3 division champions for this game? NCAA Rule 17.9.1.2 (c) could be waived because the intention of this rule is not violated, which would be the case if there would be a semi-final playoff game resulting in another additional game to be played for the conference championship. A special tie-breaking rule would be needed if all 3 division champions have 9-0 records. In this case, the school not scheduled for the championship game would probably qualify for the 4-team BCS playoff for the National Championship. Other tie-breaking rules would be head-to-head games, winning the round-robin schedule of pod games, etc.

Why not invite Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech schools to join Rutgers and Maryland in the B1G East Division? These schools have competitive balance and would preserve and enhance rivalries. Maryland & Virginia could be 1 pair for cross-over pod scheduling, and North Carolina & Georgia Tech as another pair. These pairs of schools would schedule games with pairs of schools from the B1G West Division (e.g. Nebraska & Northwestern, Wisconsin & Minnesota, Iowa & Illinois) and the B1G Central Division (e.g. Michigan & Purdue, Ohio State & Indiana, Penn State & Michigan State). As example, 1 of 3 pods could be UNL & NU, UM & PU and UNC & GT who then play a round-robin schedule as home/away series during a 2-year period and then next meet again 5 years later.

Why not invite Notre Dame to join the B1G East Division and pair with Rutgers? The Irish can then play 5 east-coast schools (similar to the existing arrangement with ACC) every year. The Irish would also be favoured to win their division every year, but the other schools may be able to improve and later challenge the Irish in the future. The Irish would also have traditional rivalry games when rotating among cross-over pod games with the B1G Central Division. The remaining 2 cross-over games with the B1G West Division are schools of reputable standing and geographically nearby.

Why not consider this as the most attractive solution? No need to speculate anymore about expanding more than 18 schools. 3 divisions of 6 schools provide stability with enough cross-over games to maintain conference intimacy. Cross-over games are scheduled in the first half of the season, and have meaning for tie-breaking purpose. Division games are scheduled in the second half of the season, mainly among rivals, and have meaning to win the division. There is less chance of rematches in the conference championship game. Notre Dame gets special treatment for giving up its independence. And the intention of existing NCAA rules is maintained.

Why not?

Wayne Lanham on 2/26/2013 @ 7:40am EST Said:

Could you explain how the Big 12 can even survive, much less go to 16 schools, if the PAC goes to 16? Where else can the PAC get four schools but from the Big 12? If the Big 12 loses four schools to the PAC, how could the remaining six schools possibly attract TEN schools from other conferences?

dan allen on 2/26/2013 @ 12:06pm EST Said:

I don’t see how the ACC and B1G can have tournaments in NYC unless the BE, A10 and Catholic conferences agree to move around their conferences. Barclays and MSG will have long term contracts with these conferences if they decide to play in NYC each year. This doesn’t mean that MSG and Barclays would rent their facilities to the 3 I mentioned over the ACC and B1G but they may prefer having a steady customer rather than one that comes by once every 5 years.

Radi on 2/27/2013 @ 3:27am EST Said:

Please allow me to demonstrate the idea behind 3 divisions of 6 schools each.

Expanding beyond 14 teams will only work if scheduling is easy to understand and arrange.

For an 18-school conference, there would be B1G West, B1G Central and B1G East Divisions with 9-game conference schedules. This allows rivals to play annually with geographical scheduling to minimize travel costs. There would then be 5 divisional games and 2 cross-over games with the other 2 divisions. This scheduling can be achieved using paired schools from each division, thus creating temporary 6-school pods that rotate on home/away basis every 2 years during a 6-year period for these cross-over games. The 6 schools in this pod would play a round-robin schedule. These games can be scheduled during the first 5 weeks of the season, but there is a need to substitute the games between paired schools of the same division in this period using other schools from the same division. This allows the remaining games among schools within the same divisions to be scheduled during the last 4 weeks of the season.

It is important to recognize how critical the paired schools are in scheduling pod games.

Let us assume that the B1G Conference accepts applications from Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Missouri (or Notre Dame or Duke or whoever) to expand to 18 schools.

Why not organize a B1G East Division comprising Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia Tech? These schools have competitive balance and would preserve and create rivalries.

Let us further assume that all pod games must be scheduled in a 5-week period at the beginning of the season.

In this calendar, the paired schools must play different weeks during this 5-week period. For example, assume that a pod has Nebraska & Iowa, Michigan & Purdue and Penn State & Rutgers as paired teams. As examples, Nebraska & Iowa would be scheduled for Week 2, Penn State & Rutgers for Week 4 and Michigan & Purdue for Week 5. For this calendar to work in this assumed situation, the paired teams of the other 2 pods of the same divisions must have their games scheduled for the same week. Thus, the two other paired B1G West schools would also play on Week 2, B1G East on Week 4 and B1G Central on Week 5. Then the paired schools would substitute into a second group of discreet pairs of games. For B1G Central teams, the games for Week 5 could instead be scheduled as Michigan/Indiana, Ohio State/Northwestern and Michigan State/Purdue. In this way, the remaining 4 weeks allow a round robin of all remaining division match-up games for B1G Central schools.

In the above example, I guess Michigan would prefer to schedule Purdue as the game before their last game with Ohio State. I also guess that Penn State would prefer to schedule Rutgers as the last game of their season. In any case, this situation becomes less complicated when combining with out-of-conference schedules and bye weeks.

Something also needs to be said about NCAA Rule 17.9.1.2 (c) Twelve-Member Conference Championship Game, which states: “A conference championship game between division champions of a member conference of 12 or more institutions that is divided into two divisions (of six or more institutions each), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division”.

I am not a lawyer, but the rule has an intention to limit schools from playing more than 13 games in the regular season. It is an exemption, same as the “Hawaii Exemption” where a school can schedule 13 games in the regular reason, if one of those games is Hawaii.

Thus, the idea of 2 of 3 division champions playing in the championship game does not violate the intention of this rule; the result is the same as the present situation, the 2 schools in the championship game play a total of 13 regular season games.

The issue then concerns the literal interpretation of “divided into two divisions”.

In this case, if the rule also had an intention to restrict this exemption to conferences having only 2 divisions, then the rule should be stated more explicitly, i.e.:

“A conference championship game between division champions of a member conference of 12 or more institutions that is divided into ONLY two divisions (of six or more institutions each), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division.”

As conclusion: Why not recognize this as the most attractive solution in the entire expansion discussion? No need to speculate anymore about expanding more than 18 schools. 3 divisions of 6 schools provide stability with enough cross-over games to maintain conference intimacy. Cross-over games are scheduled in the first half of the season, and have meaning for tie-breaking purpose. Division games are scheduled in the second half of the season, mainly among rivals, and have meaning to win the division. There is less chance of rematches in the conference championship game. And the intention of existing NCAA rules is not violated.

Go Blue!

Radi on 2/27/2013 @ 7:13am EST Said:

the idea is easier to understand if explained this way (using examples):

DIVISIONS

B1G West: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin
B1G Central: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue
B1G East: Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, Penn State, Rutgers, Virginia

YEARS 1&2

Cross-Over Pod A: Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers
Cross-Over Pod B: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Purdue, Maryland, Virginia
Cross-Over Pod C: Missouri, Illinois, Ohio State, Indiana, Georgia Tech, North Carolina

YEARS 3&4

Cross-Over Pod A: Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
Cross-Over Pod B: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia
Cross-Over Pod C: Missouri, Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers

YEARS 5&6

Cross-Over Pod A: Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia
Cross-Over Pod B: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
Cross-Over Pod C: Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, Penn State, Rutgers

LAST GAME OF SEASON (EVERY YEAR)

B1G West: Nebraska & Iowa, Wisconsin & Minnesota, Illinois & Missouri
B1G Central: Michigan & Ohio State, Michigan State & Northwestern, Indiana & Purdue
B1G East: Georgia Tech & North Carolina, Penn State & Rutgers, Maryland & Virginia

Radi on 2/27/2013 @ 7:19am EST Said:

Correction:

YEARS 1&2

Cross-Over Pod A: Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers
Cross-Over Pod B: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Purdue, Maryland, Virginia
Cross-Over Pod C: Missouri, Illinois, Ohio State, Indiana, Georgia Tech, North Carolina

YEARS 3&4

Cross-Over Pod A: Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
Cross-Over Pod B: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana, Penn State, Rutgers
Cross-Over Pod C: Missouri, Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Maryland, Virginia

YEARS 5&6

Cross-Over Pod A: Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia
Cross-Over Pod B: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Northwestern, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
Cross-Over Pod C: Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, Penn State, Rutgers

Radi on 2/27/2013 @ 11:23pm EST Said:

Final Comment:

All of the expansion discussions on the Internet are only focused on one main objective: How to schedule a conference championship game? What happens if that is not the main objective of university presidents? What happens if the main objective is to establish “communities of cooperation”: Schools that want to compete in athletics but not at the expense of unsustainable athletic budgets. If NCAA Rule 17.9.1.2 (c) prohibits the scheduling of a championship game for a conference comprising 3 divisions of 6 schools each, then simply not schedule it. There would then be only division champions and conference co-champions.