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Andy Katz | Correspondent | April 30, 2020

New college basketball rules allow flexibility with non-conference scheduling

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Fans may not notice the difference, but scheduling will become considerably easier and potentially more cost-effective after the Board of Directors on Wednesday passed a new way for men’s basketball teams to schedule.

Men’s basketball teams can now play 28 games plus three in a non-conference tournament or 29 games plus two games in a non-conference tournament or just play 29 games.

The previous scheduling rule called for teams to play 27 games plus up to four in a non-conference tournament.

That meant teams searched for an opponent to fill those scheduling holes and had to go through an exhaustive search to match them with other teams, oftentimes resulting in unfavorable opponents including non-Division I teams and game dates.

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An example of this was the Maui Mainland game where teams that were in the Maui Invitational had to find a fourth team to play them on campus. But the other teams had to find a spot on the schedule too. Charleston Southern was one of those teams last season, playing at Michigan State, at Dayton and then went to East Tennessee State to play Southern Utah and Delaware State to get four games on their schedule.

Now, a team like Charleston Southern can control its schedule more and just schedule who it wants, where and when. Michigan State and Dayton, which were in the Maui Invitational, could simply schedule which teams it wants to fill out its schedule without having to match dates to fit in one team traveling between the two schools. Charleston Southern ended up playing four schools in three states in less than two weeks.

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, said the non-conference neutral-site tournaments are critical to the popularity of the sport for players and fans in November and December. The scheduling legislation was 10 years old and needed updating.

“Every team in the event has to be fully in the event,” Gavitt said. “There will be more flexibility for event operators. And most importantly, there is now more flexibility and control for the entire membership that benefits the vast majority of teams at every level.”

The Kansas-Dayton Maui Invitational overtime final could have been a preview for a possible Final Four matchup between two No. 1 seeds had there been an NCAA tournament. San Diego State made its splash last season by winning a tournament in Las Vegas. Gonzaga, Oregon, Michigan and Seton Hall all benefited playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Rick Giles, who owns the Princeton-based Gazelle Group that runs tournaments like the Legends Classic and the 2K Classic, said they can now just have events for two days with four teams in Brooklyn and New York. Organizers don’t have to scramble to get four other teams that can play the other four that are going to the neutral-site events.

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Giles said teams had to go where they may not logistically fit. High-major teams now have those two home games back to schedule how they see fit, Giles said.

Michigan State assistant athletic director for administration Kevin Pauga, who runs the KPI data-driven site that is one of the metrics used by the NCAA tournament selection committee, said this new legislation helps shrink the number of constraints around events.

The previous legislation forced that fourth game to be within a 14-day window, meaning that a team like Charleston Southern had to get the games at Michigan State and Dayton within the two-week period. That may sound simple, but it’s not when there are other moving parts of a schedule.

Pauga said having more flexibility in scheduling will be key in the non-conference in a post-Coronavirus world.

The legislation will take effect immediately, although some tournaments will be grandfathered in for the 2020-21 season if they were already scheduled.

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