Chuck Landon: C-USA needs to get rid of bonus play

March 26, 2019

Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.

This is where no opinion is served before its time.

Pod scheduling in Conference USA turned out to be a colossal disappointment.

Granted, ESPN analyst Mark Adams’ “bonus play” concept appeared sound theoretically. But in reality? It simply didn’t work.

Just look at the results - or, lack thereof.

This concept was supposed to help C-USA get more than one bid to the NCAA Tournament. That’s the entire reason it was implemented.

But it didn’t even come close to producing.

Instead of creating two teams that separated themselves from the pack and showed they were worthy of NCAA Tournament bids, the pod scheduling actually did just the opposite.

It created parity.

When the four-game “bonus play” was concluded, there was Old Dominion in first-place as the regular-season champion and, then, four more schools tied for the second-best record with 11-7 marks.

The result was predictable.

C-USA received its usual one bid to the NCAA Tournament, just like it does every season. But even then, Old Dominion received just a No. 14 seed in the South Regional. That means C-USA actually slipped a spot because Marshall University was a No. 13 seed in 2018 in the West Regional.

So, not only did the pod scheduling not enhance C-USA’s presence in the NCAA Tournament, it actually made it decline.

That’s discouraging considering Old Dominion went into the NCAA Tournament with a 26-8 record as C-USA’s regular-season and tournament champion. Besides that, the Monarchs posted a quality road win over then-No. 25 Syracuse, 68-62, and also defeated Virginia Commonwealth at home, 62-52.

The problem is bonus play blew up in the Monarchs’ face, as Old Dominion finished with a pair of losses. First, ODU lost at home to Southern Miss, 59-52, and, then, it fell at UAB, 64-50.

That set the stage for a less-than-brilliant post-season performance for Old Dominion. After edging Louisiana Tech, 57-56, in C-USA Tournament play, the Monarchs barely defeated UAB, 61-59, before beating Western Kentucky in the championship game, 62-56.

Then, Old Dominion was pummeled by Purdue, 61-48, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

If all that isn’t bad enough, consider this addendum. The pod scheduling failed so miserably, the NIT didn’t consider Western Kentucky’s body of work up to their standards. As a result, no C-USA representative was invited to compete.

That’s about as damning as it gets.

So, what went wrong?

The concept became obsolete shortly after C-USA’s basketball coaches voted for the pod scheduling in their 2018 spring meeting in Destin, Florida.

In fact, it was out-dated before it even was implemented.

That’s because the bonus play concept was supposed to help C-USA schools’ RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), which was based on strength of schedule.

And, perhaps, it accomplished that.

The problem is the NCAA Tournament selection committee stopped using RPI as a prime criteria for deciding which schools should receive bids. Instead, the selection committee utilized a new resource called “The NET.”

Well, guess what “The NET” gives very little weight towards? RPI.

As a result, C-USA schools were ranked much higher in the RPI Ratings than they were in “The NET” ratings. But since the RPI Ratings aren’t relevant any longer, it didn’t help C-USA teams whatsoever.

That’s why this “bonus play” concept needs to become a one-and-done proposition.

Look for C-USA’s basketball coaches to vote it out.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.