Basketball: Conference USA shakes up schedule format

Junior Antwain Johnson drives the ball to the hoop against the Marshall Thundering Herd on Mar. 3, 2018, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines)

Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines Archive

The Conference USA basketball schedule will look a little different for the upcoming 2018-2019 season and beyond. In an attempt to send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament, the conference is shaking things up.

Instead of having a mapped out schedule from start to finish, C-USA will leave the last four games up for grabs by the best teams in the conference. The beginning of the season is the non-conference schedule, which will already be mapped out with the first 14 games of the conference schedule. C-USA will then face its best teams against one another in hopes of having multiple teams advance into the NCAA Tournament by boosting the top teams’ resumes.

In college basketball, resume building is vital. It is the key to at-large bids and the bread and butter of rating percentage index (RPI). RPI analyzes the strength of competition for each team’s schedule, which factors into at-large bids for teams that don’t win their respective conference tournaments. For each team that wins the individual conference tournament, they are awarded an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. However, for the other teams, there is a selection committee that selects the best teams in the nation to place them into the tournament, thus giving them an at large bid.

For teams not in a Power Five or Six conference, it becomes extremely challenging to boost your resume and strength schedule. The Power Five conferences of the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and the Pac 12 cross schedule against one another during the non-conference schedule of the regular season. In recent years, the Big East has emerged the sixth Power conference in college basketball.

However, teams in the C-USA, such as Middle Tennessee State need to play against teams within the Power Six conferences to boost their RPI. However, it is too difficult to do so when teams in the ACC will only play their non-conference schedule against other Power Six schools.

Therefore, the new scheduling format of the C-USA is now being implemented for the start of the new season. The conference is banking on boosting their best teams’ RPI’s by having them go head-to-head at the end of the season before reaching the conference tournament. C-USA is trying to showcase their best teams to the selection committee so that there is a higher chance that teams from the C-USA will be awarded an at-large bid.

C-USA is the first conference to take this maneuver to boost their number of teams entering the NCAA Tournament. But, if the new format is proven successful, expect other smaller conferences to follow suit.

To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email

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