Sun Belt discussing radical new basketball schedule

Sun Belt discussing radical new basketball schedule

STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) - It's no secret the NCAA Tournament selection committee is not often kind to the mid-majors like the Sun Belt Conference.

However, the Sun Belt may seek to better their odds with a unique new scheduling plan from an ESPN college basketball analyst.

Mark Adams presented his plan to Georgia Southern athletic donors Monday, in which he laid out how the Sun Belt could help improve the top contenders' metrics for the NCAA Tournament committee.

The plan will be voted on at this week's Sun Belt Conference meetings, and if approved, could be implemented as soon as the 2019-2020 season.

"We've created a very innovative, some would say drastic measures, to create a better out of conference schedule and in conference schedule that I think is pretty exciting," Adams said

The plan would call for two six-team divisions, most likely East and West, and a 20-game conference schedule. The first 16 games of the conference schedule would consist of a home-and-home series against division opponents and one game against opponents in the other division.

That's where things get different.

After the first 16 games of the conference schedule are completed, the 12 teams would be divided into four groups based on the league standings: teams 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12.

The groups would then play a home-and-home series over the final four games of the regular season.

The top three teams would be guaranteed the top three seeds in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, while the other groups would play for tournament seeding.

Adams believes having the top three teams in the conference play each other more often, and avoid playing teams at the bottom of the standings, will only strengthen their metrics for the tournament committee. He says better metrics equals a better seed for the Sun Belt champ.

"There's a big difference between a 14 seed and their ability to advance, and an 11 seed and their ability to advance further," Adams says. "That's what we're working to do, to bring a higher profile schedule across the board to the Sun Belt."

If this plan had been in place last season, Georgia Southern would have been in the top group with Georgia State and Louisiana. The Eagles would have played the Panthers and  Ragin' Cajuns twice over the season's final two weeks.

This is a mock schedule based on the 2017-2018 standings:

In addition to the changes to the regular season schedule, Adams suggests a change to the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

If approved, the Sun Belt tournament would only include the conference's top ten teams. The top two seeds would get automatic byes to the semifinals, with the three and four seeds getting auto byes to the quarterfinals. All games up to the quarterfinals would be played at campus sites.

Adams says he believes his plan will have some backing at this week's meeting, and Georgia Southern head coach Mark Byington says he's a fan of new ideas.

"We have to think out of the box. We can't think like the SEC or the ACC," he says. "Maybe it comes back to where we try the same model for a year or two, but I think we need to be able to see things in a different light."

Adams says a similar plan has been discussed within other mid-major conferences, and he expects some to adopt it soon.

Copyright 2018 WTOC. All rights reserved.