Monday, January 21, 2008

10 is OK, fewer games better

No one knows if expansion in the Ohio Valley Conference is imminent except the commissioner – and he says it’s not, but the league’s basketball coaches are for anything that keeps them from beating each other up.

Last week, the OVC presidents unanimously voted to take the football playing component off the table for any prospective new members.

Generally speaking, the coaches were encouraged by the presidents’ decision for what it could mean for the future of the league, but they’re equally comfortable with the upcoming 10-team alignment.

"The fewer games we play in the league … from a basketball perspective, I think that is better," Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer said on Monday’s coaches teleconference. "I don’t think we have any problem with having 10 teams in the conference.

"In a I-A conference, having football is probably an important thing; here in I-AA where it’s not the moneymaker it is at I-A, I think it makes sense to get rid of that requirement for the OVC. I think having a 10-team league does make more sense, so there’s probably not a need for expansion at this time."

With 11 teams in the league, the OVC currently plays a 20-game double round-robin schedule. When Samford moves out next year, that drops to a more favorable 18 games.

If the OVC were to expand -- two makes the most sense -- it would set the stage for divisional play and a 16-game slate.

While that would ramp up the pressure for coaches to find additional non-conference games, it would also -- the coaches believe -- do wonders for the conference's reputation outside the league.

The coaches espouse the balance in the league, but outsiders see only the conference's won-loss record and its No. 30 billing in the RPI among 32 conferences and independents. John Moriello lists the OVC No. 6 on his "Bottom 10" feature because it has the bottom two teams in the RPI.

"I know the commissioner and the presidents and everyone are looking out for what the best interests of the league would be, and we all respect that and trust in that as well," Eastern Illinois coach Mike Miller said. "I think the only thing from a basketball perspective is what way we can go about this where we keep our league games down.

"… The less conference games that we play in the OVC, I think you will see non-conference records improve. Not that it’s different, just that you can build a schedule early and balance that out a little bit better than what we’ve been able to playing four or maybe five games before Christmas; build your team up a little bit before you get into the most important part of your schedule, which is your league play."

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