One of the biggest questions that spawned for Longwood joining the Big South is how will the conference be aligned? The question likely won’t be answered until the conference meetings in the Spring, but the answer doesn’t seem like it should be too complicated. In my opinion there are only three options (this is all in the context of basketball):
Option 1: No divisions, twelve team conference. Many conferences which feature divisions for football do not use divisions for other sports. No divisions may be the most fair alignment, especially for the conference tournament. Schools are simply seeded one through twelve. The top four seeds in the conference would get an opening round bye, while the other eight duke it out for the right to advance. This model is used all throughout the country with nearly every twelve team conference, like the ACC. Scheduling-wise I think it would make sense for the Big South to reduce from eighteen conference games to sixteen. Like the ACC there could be “invisible” divisions where the schedule would feature five home and home matchups and then you would have three more homes games and three road games with the remaining six conference teams. For example, say Longwood is aligned with Liberty, Radford, VMI, Campbell, and High Point; the Lancers would play these team in a home and home series each year while at the same time rotating between single home and away games against Presbyterian, Winthrop, Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Asheville, and Gardner-Webb.
Option 2: Do we copy our brethren from the Southern Conference? We will if two division are drawn up. The scheduling would still resemble what was presented in Option 1, but the tournament would be more of a headache. Divisions make a conference tournament unfair, in my opinion. Instead of straight up one through twelve seeding, you are placed against an opponent from the other division in the opening round. If you look at the Southern Conference standings this year the Southern Division is far and away better than the Northern division. So a solid team like Charleston, this year, will likely have to play the Northern #1 seed Elon in the second round. While a lack luster #1 seed from the Northern Division may get an opportunity to play a cupcake in the 2nd round, despite the fact that they would likely end up being a #5 or #6 seed in the other division.
I believe if the Big South was split up the following divisions would make the most sense:
“Northern”: Campbell, High Point, Liberty, Longwood, Radford, VMI
“Southern”: Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, UNC-Asheville, Winthrop
Option 3: Option 3 really isn’t an option in my opinion, but some people have brought it up so I will too. The conference could split into three divisions by state. It sounds cool, but I just think it would create a scheduling nightmare for the regular season, other sports, and the conference tournament.
To me, the Big South has to look beyond its current twelve members when “aligning” the conference. Liberty has one foot out the door and Coastal may not be far behind. For this reason alone the conference should stray away from geographic divisions. Option 1 just makes too much sense not to go with it. What do you think?