C-USA can simplify its schedule by expanding
Conference USA is going in the completely wrong direction.
Instead of decreasing the number of schools in the league basketball tournaments from 14 to 12, C-USA needs to increase the total.
C-USA needs to expand from 14 members to 16, so basketball can "pod" schedule.
Just ask Danny D'Antoni.
Marshall's new head basketball coach is a firm believer in pod scheduling. The same goes for veteran assistant Mark Cline, who does the bulk of MU's scheduling.
Why is pod scheduling so important?
It can be done geographically to save time and travel expense. For example, Marshall could be in a pod with Western Kentucky, Old Dominion and Charlotte.
Or it can be based on the strength of programs. That was the case when John Calipari was coaching at Memphis and he sold C-USA on pod scheduling. In this scenario, the strong are in a pod with the strong, middle with middle and weak with weak.
That increases RPI numbers, creates better records for more league schools and leads to more post-season tournament berths.
The concept is tried and true no matter which premise is embraced.
So, which two schools could C-USA add?
I suggest Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.
UL-L brings a lot to the dance across the board.
In men's basketball, the Ragin' Cajuns were 23-12 in 2013-14 and were led by point guard Elfrid Payton. He is projected as a first-round pick when the NBA Draft is conducted on Thursday.
In football, UL-Lafayette was 9-4 in 2013 and beat former C-USA member Tulane in the New Orleans Bowl, 24-21.
Then, there's baseball and softball. The UL-L baseball team posted a 58-10 record in 2014 and was ranked No. 1 in the final regular season national poll. The softball team was 49-10-1 and played in the Women's College World Series.
And Lafayette, La., is located advantageously within C-USA's geographic footprint.
As for Arkansas State, the Red Wolves' football program had an 8-5 record in 2013, including a 23-20 win over Ball State in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
In men's basketball, Arkansas State was 19-13 last season, including an 83-82 win over Marshall. The Herd is playing A-State again in 2014-15. Then, in women's basketball, the Red Wolves posted a 23-12 record last season.
Both schools would be good additions to C-USA.
And it would lead to pod scheduling.
There is another solution, however. Namely, reprising divisional play in C-USA basketball.
Marshall, for example, would play home-and-home contests against the other six East Division schools for a total of 12 league games. Then, Marshall would play six of the seven West Division members.
That would raise the total of conference games to 18.
But that's not all.
A two-day, seven-game event would be held in November or December in a centrally located venue featuring all 14 Conference USA teams. Marshall, for example, would play the one West Division school it wasn't scheduled to play during the season.
That would lead to 19 league games and each school would play every member in C-USA.
So, make a choice.
Expansion or divisional play?
One of those concepts needs to be implemented for the good of C-USA basketball.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.
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