- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. The Mountain West Conference met last week in Phoenix to go over an 18-game schedule for next season with an 11-team league they weren't expecting to originally have a year ago. Boise State and San Diego State returned to the league, or rather never left, instead of going to the Big East. The league was already planning on adding Utah State and San Jose State. And with the league coming off a record percentage of five out of nine teams making the NCAA tournament field, the conference had to take advantage of the momentum. The San Diego Union-Tribune first put out what will be the new scheduling format for this league -- ensuring the top teams play each other twice in an unbalanced schedule. This is what the Big East did for years to satisfy television partners CBS and ESPN. And with the same television partners, that's exactly what is going to happen in the MWC, too. The Tribune reported the vote was 8-3 by the coaches to do a random schedule. But the athletic directors overruled the coaches and with good reason. The networks want/need the top teams to play twice. That means you're almost guaranteed to see San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico playing twice so that CBS, which picks first, and ESPN each get one of the matchups. While this means lesser-profile teams in the league, like Utah State, may not have as hard of a schedule, the aforementioned teams will ultimately have a stronger power rating. Schools will play eight teams twice and two teams once. The MWC had the perfect model with a nine-team, 16-game round-robin schedule. A 10-team, 18-game round-robin is even more perfect like the Big 12. But an 11-team, 18-game schedule where the projected top teams play twice for television is the best scenario for a league that wants to continue to be relevant.
2. The Big 12 met in Phoenix last week, too, and discussed scheduling concerns for West Virginia and its travel issues in the league after its first year. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the athletic directors were in agreement to support the Mountaineers in any way. Translation: The conference will look at having West Virginia stay on the road for two consecutive road games in a short amount of time to reduce the number of long road trips for the Mountaineers. West Virginia wants to avoid having to go back to Texas or Texas and Oklahoma or Texas and Iowa over a Wednesday to a Saturday time period. The solution could be for West Virginia to play a Saturday-Monday or a Saturday-Tuesday road trip, which had been avoided in the past by the Big 12. This has been the norm for the Pac-12 where teams stay on the road for multiple games. West Virginia finished 6-12 in its first season in the Big 12, 13-19 overall. West Virginia played in three sets of consecutive road games. The first was scheduled by West Virginia on Jan. 16 (Iowa State) and Purdue in a nonconference game (Jan. 19). The two Big 12 back-to-back road games were spread out over a four-day period against TCU (Feb. 9) and Baylor (Feb. 13) and Kansas (March 2) and Oklahoma (March 6). The only one of those road games the Mountaineers won was TCU.
3. The sad reality of the Ben McLemore story reported by USA Today is how third-party officials try to make money off of players. This is unfortunately not a new norm. As a Division I member school official said, family members can accept gifts because they can and most don't know the rules, or in some cases, care. Policing these "deals" is almost impossible for the NCAA. Trying to steer players toward an agent has happened before and it is likely to happen again. It's too hard to project what, if anything, will happen to Kansas or McLemore's eligibility from the previous year. He was going to leave for the NBA regardless of what someone was going to do because he was projected as a top-five pick. This will come down to whether or not he knew there was any gifts or payments on his behalf or if he accepted anything directly.