Item: When the Big Ten announced last December that it would stage its 2018 basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden, the immediate question of a conflict with the Big East was answered by what we think is the brilliant idea of scheduling this “postseason” event within the regular season, allowing the option of playing one more game against a non-Power Five or strong mid-major conference team a full week before heading into the NCAA Tournament.
After the No. 3 seed Syracuse lacrosse team competes in this week’s ACC Championship at Chester, Pa. starting with Friday’s semi-final against No. 2 seed North Carolina (8:00 p.m. ET / ESPNU), regardless if the Orange (9-2, 2-2) play in Sunday’s final, the season concludes with one more opportunity to get fine-tuned for the most important NCAA games, this year at Colgate on May 2.
The fact that the near-by Raiders happen to be having a strong season owning a piece of the Patriot League regular season title makes this year’s meeting more meaningful, but the fact that SU simply gets to compete before the “lose one and your done” NCAA Tournament can be beneficial for several reasons, as opposed to competing in the back-to-back timetable of single-game elimination, especially after playing in a jammed-up schedule of a conference tournament setting, in the case of lacrosse, two games in three days, and in basketball over multiple consecutive days.
In pitching the early conference tournament idea, which includes sliding up the start of Big Ten play to early December to accommodate the dates, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney asked his league’s 14 basketball coaches to consider “the amount of time after the league tournament as a chance to rest, put in new plays or play a non-conference opponent.”
Which is exactly how the five ACC lacrosse teams will approach the time between tournaments, in one way or another. Besides the ‘Cuse facing the ‘Gate, Notre Dame travels to Army, and Duke hosts Boston University the final regular season weekend, while Virginia finishes up play against Penn this week in the ACC event, and North Carolina’s season ends either versus Syracuse Friday or in Sunday’s final, so the Cavaliers and Tar Heels could have just over two weeks off before they play in the NCAAs.
If the same sort of scenario was used for the ACC basketball tournament this coming season, the 18 game conference schedule would get underway for all teams in early-mid December before the holiday break, and the conference tournament, in the case of the 2016 event at the Verizon Center in Washington, would be played between March 1-5, ending 10 days before the ‘First Four’ kicks of the NCAA Tournament March 15 in Dayton, plenty of time to rest, review strategy, and even schedule a game against a non-conference opponent.
Instead of an ACC team playing anywhere from three to five days in a row in the conference tournament then traveling back to its campus, followed by anywhere from a three to six day turnaround and more travel to play the most important games of the season, a change in format would allow an ACC team at least a 10 day break before the most important games, with the chance to conveniently schedule a final tune-up game against an opponent that might have previously been slotted into that early December period.
Sure, the current traditional schedule didn’t hurt Duke as it stole the headlines from unbeaten Kentucky and its conqueror Wisconsin at the Final Four to win national title number five earlier this month, and overall the ACC boasted five of the Sweet 16 teams after they faced one another in Greensboro two weeks earlier (which Notre Dame won), but as the Big Ten is shaking up its schedule in 2018 perhaps it’s something the ACC could experiment with as well.