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Mailbag: Who can benefit from a shortened season?

Mid-majors would be hurt significantly by a conference-only season. But could a condensed 2020-21 campaign help some teams?

NCAA Basketball: Vermont at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Longest Offseason Ever rolls on, and with it, still no real sense of clarity as to when it will end. It sounds like whatever college basketball we get in 2020-21 will be in some sort of a bubble setting, but we don’t know when, where, how many, whether it will include non-conference games, and how this will all affect the NCAA Tournament.

The only thing we know for sure: The NCAA is hell-bent on having March Madness in 2021.

With that in mind, let’s take your questions, knowing that concrete answers may be hard to come by:

This is a tough one because mid-majors with real at-large chances will be undeniably hurt by a conference season featuring mostly or exclusively non-conference games. If the condensed season means no conference tournaments in 2021 — a likely scenario — then look at the strong teams from one-bid leagues as the winners here. The Vermonts or New Mexico States of the world won’t have to worry about one bad night derailing their tournament hopes and will instead have the whole regular season to prove their worth. Another winner, then, would be the one-bid leagues themselves, who would be more likely to send a team to the tournament that is capable of winning a game and thus earn more money for the conference as a whole.

This is a good question and one that our friend Matt Brown should probably tackle. Here’s what he had to say:

Honestly, I don’t think it will shrink that much. At the low end of D1, the bigger risk is from student fees and enrollment money, not athletic money. These schools aren’t making much from ticket sales and media rights, after all. There’s a risk that some of the MEAC schools could be left out of a realignment change, or that Chicago State could close/re-classify, but I think it’s way more likely we’ll see more realignment than re-classifications. Over a longer time period, I could certainly see a half dozen schools eventually re-classifying because they close or merge with other institutions, though.

Matt’s been doing great work with his newsletter, Extra Points, which covers the inner workings of college athletics. Check it out here.

Why stop at 2?

About the same as my wife returning from her trip to Hawaii with Jason, her pilates instructor. The Cougars have some talent, sure, but there’s not enough there for a tournament run. If they can find a way into the field at all, it’ll be a major accomplishment.

BYU was one of the schools that really got screwed by not having an NCAA Tournament last year. It was a surefire tournament team, set up for at least one win in March. Now? Yoeli Childs, Jake Toolson, and TJ Haws are gone, leaving too big of a talent gap to make up. Matt Haarms was a solid offseason addition, but let’s not fool ourselves — he wasn’t an all-world player at Purdue and can’t single-handedly carry a team to March. For now, enjoy a young team and intriguing recruiting class. We’ll see what they can do down the road.

Oh my goodness, yes. It should always be on your mind. In 2013, the Mountain West ranked as the fourth-best conference in KenPom (the ACC was sixth) and sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament. New Mexico was a 3 seed that year, led by Kendall Williams, Tony Snell and Cameron Bairstow. Larry Eustachy’s Colorado State team had the sixth offense in the country and the Rams earned an 8 seed. Nevada and Fresno State were the only two teams to finish outside the top 100 in KenPom. Not bad for the second-best Pacific Timezone conference in the country (behind the WCC).