Mid-major college basketball, while not as popular as the power conferences, offers a few things that the big-money schools simply cannot.
Like parity. For the most part, the mids do not have elite talent, meaning on any given night, the top teams are vulnerable to the upset.
Another aspect of mid-major basketball which adds excitement is that the majority of these players know they will not have a professional basketball career so they are just playing for the love of the game, unlike one and done type players that come out of Kentucky.
While these things make mid-major basketball very exciting, there are certainly things that can be done to brand mid-major hoops and make it more intriguing to college basketball fans. Below I examine some ways I believe this can be done during non conference play.
Mid-Major Conference Showdowns
Conference challenges have become popular in non-conference play over the past few seasons, and with good reason. Competitions like the Gavitt Games (between the Big East and Big Ten) give teams a quality early season game and give fans of the winning league some season-long bragging rights.
If more mid-major conferences decided to pair up, it would create some great matchups and also offer some tournament-resume-building wins. How does the A10-WCC showdown sound to college basketball fans?
Mid-major conferences could get even more creative with these. For example, the Patriot League vs Ivy League Challenge could offer bragging rights for the highest academically achieving schools in division I. Or the SWAC and MEAC could face off to bring together two conferences together who share historical ties.
There are so many tournaments during Thanksgiving weekend in college basketball, so why not dedicate one for the top mid-major programs? The logistics of this would have to be heavily played out as there are so many teams considered mid-major throughout the country that there is no way to have every conference represented.
However, if a knowledgeable committee of mid-major basketball teams got together and selected, say, eight mid-major teams, each representing a different conference, then we could have some exciting games on our hands.
A perfect place to host this tournament would be Dayton, as the Flyers already host the First Four of the NCAA Tournament and have a facility that rivals many in the Power 5.
The Bahamas Showcase appears to be a good start for this — that event will feature only mid-majors, including powers like Weber State, Iona, and Vermont.
This may be unlikely, but ultimately if the NCAA wants to level the playing field in terms of competitiveness, it can. The great Mark Adams presented this idea on Facebook last week, and it got quite a bit of attention.
According to Adams’ research, the Power 5 conferences along with the Big East played 88.6 percent of their out-of-conference schedule on neutral or home courts last season. The only mid-major conference that played more than 50 percent of its non-conference schedule at home was the A-10 (61.6 percent).
Home court advantage plays a huge role in college basketball, and Power 5 programs rarely play road games against mid-majors because a loss could potentially be more damaging than a win could be rewarding.
The NCAA could create a cap on non-conference home games in a season. This would benefit mid-major programs, as bigger programs would almost certainly seek road games against teams they think they can beat.