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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

WCC approves significant changes to scheduling, tournament format

March 26, 2018 Updated Mon., March 26, 2018 at 9:46 p.m.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few reacts as his team falls further behind Florida State in the Sweet 16 last Thursday. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few reacts as his team falls further behind Florida State in the Sweet 16 last Thursday. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The WCC has approved changes that will trim two games from the conference basketball schedule and provide more protection for higher seeds at the WCC tournaments.

The men’s conference schedule will consist of 16 games (eight home, eight away) instead of the double round-robin of 18. The top two seeds in the men’s and women’s WCC tournaments will receive byes into the semifinal round. Under the previous format, the top two seeds entered in the quarterfinals.

Monday’s announcement comes as Gonzaga is contemplating whether to join the Mountain West Conference or remain in the WCC.

The scheduling adjustments, along with the conference’s acknowledgement of changes regarding distribution of NCAA Tournament revenue, strengthens the WCC’s case to keep Gonzaga, but GU athletic director Mike Roth stressed that the school hasn’t made a final decision regarding conference affiliation.

“These changes that were passed by the Presidents’ Council are all positive things in Gonzaga’s eyes,” Roth said. “We appreciate the on-going support of our member peers to continue to advance things forward with the WCC.”

The WCC release notes that changes to NCAA academic-based revenue distribution, men’s basketball unit revenue distribution and an adjustment to the licensing of future conference broadcast rights were approved in the fall. Gonzaga’s discussions with the Mountain West were first reported in February.

Gonzaga’s RPI usually drops during WCC play when it faces opponents in the bottom half of the conference. The Zags have pushed for scheduling changes to lessen the RPI impact and open up additional non-conference opportunities that could enhance their at-large credentials and/or NCAA seeding.

The scheduling changes go into effect next season. They are part of the Men’s Basketball Enhancement Plan, first discussed in June, 2017 with’s Joe Lunardi and others, to work within the current RPI system and maximize opportunities to get the most NCAA Tournament teams with the best possible seeds.

Among other changes approved, WCC teams will be required by the 2019-20 season:

—To play in a multi-team event every season.

—To play more home games than away games.

—To play no more than two non-Division I opponents.

—To receive conference approval for “guarantee games” at an opponent’s venue.

“Although it is unique for us to be playing fewer conference games while other conferences are adding games to their schedule, the disparity in RPI from the top of our league to the bottom is larger than any other conferences,” said BYU coach Dave Rose, chair of the WCC men’s basketball head coaches group. “We believe this approach will allow all 10 of our teams to schedule based on the current state of their program, and all 10 of us can go win more games – which will help everyone.”

WCC teams will face seven league opponents twice, an eighth at home and a ninth on the road.

The WCC Tournament format change eliminates the possibility of a top-two seed being upset by teams in the 7-10 range in the quarterfinal round, which could be devastating to a program’s at-large candidacy.

The top two seeds in the WCC men’s tournament enjoyed byes into the semifinals from 2003-13. The format was scrapped with the addition of Pacific in 2014.

“We are confident that these innovative adjustments will enhance access to the NCAA Tournament for the best programs of our marquee sport,” said Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., University of San Francisco President and chair of the Presidents’ Council.

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