Weary of recent selection Sunday snubs, Conference USA is creating what is essentially and end-of-season round robin tournament that precedes the actual postseason C-USA tournament with hopes the new wrinkle will produce teams that are more attractive to the NCAA selection committee.
When the conference announces its schedule prior to the season, each team’s the final four opponents will be left blank. The conference will wait until each team has played 14 conference game to assign the final four opponents.
Each C-USA team will play every conference opponent once, except for their travel partner, which they will play twice. In FAU’s case, that ensures a home and away game against FIU. The Owls and Panthers could meet a third tie in pod play and even a fourth time in C-USA tournament play.
With two weeks remaining in the season, C-USA will classify schools into one of three pods. Teams ranked one through five in the standings will be in the first pod, six through 10 in the second and the remaining four in the third.
Each team will then play its final four regular season games against the other members of its pod.
The hope is that having the Top 5 C-USA teams each year face each other late in the season will increase those teams’ strength of schedule and RPI – two key metrics used by the NCAA selection committee when assessing tournament at-large candidates.
“With the goals to improve seeding and increase the number of teams that advance to the postseason, we viewed this as a great opportunity to enhance our top teams’ resumes by providing them additional quality games within their conference schedule,” C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a release issued by the conference. “Non-conference scheduling will continue to be a priority but this will provide a real-time analysis to create competitive match-ups for teams and their fans.”
Once the regular season is complete, the top 12 teams will qualify for the C-USA tournament – the same as the previous few seasons.
When the teams are assigned their end-of-season pods, they will know both the floor and the ceiling of their seeding for the C-USA tournament. Teams will ultimately be seeded according to their final conference record but will remain within the range of their pod. That means a team in the first pod can claim the No. 1 seed and fall no further than No. 5. Even if the No. 6 team wins all four round robin games, it will still be seeded no higher than No. 6. Lose them all and it will fall no further than No. 10.
The 2019 C-USA basketball tournament will once again be held in Frisco, Tex.
The new scheduling format will coincide with the first season of new FAU coach Dusty May, the former Florida assistant hired in March to replace Michael Curry.