As the Big Ten makes the transition to 20 conference games and other power leagues debate whether to follow suit, Mark Few and the WCC have decided to go a different direction.
Beginning this season, the West Coast Conference will trim two conference games from its slate and play 16 instead of its standard 18.
“It will give all of us more flexibility,” Few told Stadium. “You can do whatever you want with them. We try and schedule for a number one seed, but other teams are trying to make the NCAA Tournament and others are just trying to win games. This gives you more options.”
This was clearly the brainchild of Few – who will only play Pepperdine and Portland once this season. Pepperdine was picked eighth in the preseason poll, and Portland was projected to finish last in the WCC. Few swap those low-metric games for two non-conference games of his choosing that will help give the Zags a better opportunity to secure a top seed.
While this should help Few, it should also aid the league.
“That’s the goal,” new WCC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez told Stadium. “Every league has to make core policies that reflect who they are, and this is one that we think will help us. This was done with a lot of data and analyzation, but we’ll also continue to look at it.”
Teams like BYU and Saint Mary’s could be the biggest beneficiary of the change. Randy Bennett’s Gaels, who didn’t get into the NCAA tourney last season despite a 16-2 WCC mark, has replaced the two league games – which are Portland and LMU – with a pair of neutral site contests against LSU and New Mexico.
“It’s smart,” Bennett said of the move.
BYU’s Dave Rose, whose team has made the NIT three straight years after going to the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last nine seasons, was also heavily in favor of the change. He has added a pair of big-time road games against Nevada and San Diego State instead of two lower-level league teams.
“I think it’s really good for Gonzaga, but also good for the rest of us,” Rose said. “What are we all going to do with the two games? Win a couple games, or play quadrant 1 games? It gives us the freedom, and I think it should help us overall as a league.”
Even the lower-tier teams in the league should benefit, being able to schedule winnable games instead of having to play, say, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s twice.
Another change, though, that could have a significant effect on which bubble teams wind up dancing from here on out is the NCAA’s new evaluation tool, the NET, which has essentially replaced the RPI as a key tool to help determine the 68-team field. The NET is a predictive model that will include results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin and even net offensive and defensive efficiency.
“I’m good with it, but I’d like to know more about it because it will affect how you schedule,” Bennett said. “I’d like to know where we were in the NET last season. We all just want transparency.”
Coaches won’t find out where they were ranked if the NET were utilized a year ago, but they will get their first look at the new metric sometime around Thanksgiving.