I thought about having this be a stand alone fanpost, but considering I don't actually have any facts to support what I say, I decided to make it a DBD. That and this isn't necessarily a new idea.
With the talk of football divisions commencing today, I thought I'd look at basketball without divisions, Scott claims will be the case. In 2011, the Pac-10 will probably switch to the Pac-12, will not feature divisional alignments except in football. That means basketball will be pooled together in the one division and most likely result in an unbalanced schedule. I propose the Pac-12 play a complete home and away round robin and cancel the post-season conference tournament, my logic after the jump.
The reasoning for a complete home and away round robin resulting in a total of 22 in-conference games is simple, it is most fair. There will be no unbalanced schedules with some teams playing UCLA twice and Colorado once, and others playing Colorado twice and UCLA once, hence no systematic advantages would exist for any team. The winner of the Pac-12 regular season would receive the conference's automatic NCAA tournament berth. I know the skeptics would point to 22 conference games as being an insane amount to require, hence why I cancel of the post-season tournament.
Currently, Pac-10 teams play 18 conference games, then on average 1.8 tournament games, thus the average Pac-10 team plays a total of 19.8 conference games, with the extremes being 19 at minimum and a maximum of 22 (A Pac-12 tournament based on the current structure applied to 12 teams would average 1.83 games per team). The Pac-10 tournament winner and runner-up usually complete conference play with a total of 21 total games, thus if the tournament is replaced with a complete round-robin, only 2.2 more games on average will be played, with the top teams in the Pac-10 playing only one additional game. Furthermore, the additional four regular season games would be spread out over two weekends, rather than condensed into an extended week of tournament play, thus keeping the players fresher and healthier, hopefully resulting in a better basketball product, and better NCAA tournament runs.
I would assume skeptics would point out the income generated from the tournament as a reason not to cancel it. However, when the tournament was originally approved the television deal included regular season games with the tournament being supplemental income. With a Pac-12, this is no longer the case. The conference now would sacrifice conference games in lieu of a tournament. Specifically, a Pac-12 conference tournament (assuming similar format to what is present) would feature 22 games, adding 4 confernce games for each team results in an addition of 24 games, therefore the conference would lose out on the TV rights to 2 games. Yes, I realize the tournament would result in more interesting games, as the later rounds would feature match-ups between the better teams, and I believe TV executives would rather have one UCLA-Arizona tournament match-up compared to two regular season games featuring any combination of Wazzou, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah, Arizona St., but removing the unbalanced schedule would alleviate the fear of skipping a UCLA-Arizona regular season game.
Furthermore, and I have no actual mathmatical figures to support this paragraph (but it makes sense to me), if the idea of expansion is to increase the revenue for each school, the question becomes what is more profitable, a tournament or round-robin? In addition to the round-robin providing more games to show, two more home conference games would be provided for each school. The tournament features more interesting, but less total games, a venue which needs to be leased, and travel for 10 of the 12 teams (with half the conference having to travel over 650 miles, and a longer hotel stay than a normal travel weekend). Which scenario would make more money per school?
The point of consideration is exposure. First, as a conference, the tournament acts as an event drawing conference media and school reps to the same place at the same time. However, most conference tournaments across the country occur at the same time, thus national penetration is minimal. Secondly, the tournament provides a proving ground for bubble teams hoping to make the tournament. Yet, for every team that plays themselves into the tournament, there is another that plays themselves out of the tournament. Furthermore, under this plan, the week of what would have been the conference tournament, the Pac-10 would still be playing regular season games, and an official conference champion has yet to be crowned.