The results are in, basically.
And it’s a mixed verdict.
When Conference USA decided to adopt a two-game scheduling format with league members playing basketball games on Friday and Saturday either at home or on the road, it was creative thinking.
It also was a new take on the old theme of “necessity is the mother of invention.”
With the coronavirus pandemic raging, C-USA’s leaders faced a twin-pronged mission statement. They had to find a way to cut down travel costs AND keep the basketball programs healthy.
So, now that the end of the regular season is drawing near, it’s time to assess the success and failure of the plan. The truth of the matter is, at times, it worked very well. Yet, other times it failed miserably.
Take the Marshall University men’s basketball season, for example. The Thundering Herd had seven games cancelled and two more postponed. In league play, MU had a pair of two-game series cancelled and another postponed.
That led to Marshall playing seven of its first eight C-USA games on the road. Even now on the heels of Rice cancelling two games vs. Marshall in Houston this weekend, the Herd has played only three of 10 leagues games in the Cam Henderson Center.
If a two-game series vs. North Texas occurs next weekend in The Cam, it will raise the ratio to five home and seven on the road. And if — call it a big if — MU is able to play a pair of home games against Charlotte during “make up week” in C-USA, it actually would even up the ratio at seven home and seven away games.
Phew, it sure is a difficult road to parity.
But, perhaps, the ultimate authority is the players. Let’s ask them how difficult this back-to-back games format actually was.
“It is very hard,” said Marshall guard Andrew Taylor. “I think it comes down to who can turn-around the quickest. And who can make the adjustments the quickest. I think that’s another opportunity. You don’t really get a chance to do that unless you are an NBA player. You don’t have to turn-around the same team more than once, most of the time in college basketball.
“So, yeah, it’s whoever can make the quickest adjustments and Coach Dan (head coach Danny D’Antoni) does a great job with that. And all the coaches across the board — Coach (Mark) Cline, Corny (Cornelius Jackson), (Scott) Rigot, all of them. They usually do a really good job of having us prepared.”
It shows in MU’s run of winning six of its last seven games, including three in a row.
MU’s Jarrod West agrees with Taylor’s comparison.
“I can see that,” said the senior point guard. “I can see that a little bit. Uh, the only difference is we’re not ‘load managing’ because they’ve got 72 games. So, they’ve got a lot of guys who take the second game off or whatever.
“But I can see that a little bit because the NBA plays a lot of back-to-backs, like three games in four nights and stuff like that. So, I can see the NBA feel a little bit just because of the back-to-back. I know sometimes we’ll go night game and early game. But it has a little NBA feel to it, for sure.”
In the short-term, it was probably the best Conference USA could do. Yet, the problem persisted that when an opponent had a positive COVID test it cost the C-USA school two games, instead of only one like in the Big 12.
So, it wasn’t a viable solution.
It was merely a stop-gap measure.