The Big West Conference is undergoing some changes this summer with the additions of Cal State Bakersfield and UC San Diego across most of its sports.
In the case of basketball, one of the league’s signature sports, that meant some potentially significant future changes when those additions were announced a couple years ago.
Right now, in the nine-team league, men’s and women’s hoops teams play a 16-game conference schedule, after which there is an eight-team tournament to determine the BWC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The format is different for the men and women, with the men playing all four first-round games at the Honda Center, and the women having first- and second-round games at one of its member schools before playing the semifinals and finals at Honda.
There were two open questions: What would happen to the tournament once the conference expanded from nine teams to 11, and what would happen to the regular season?
We have our answers, thanks to BWC assistant commissioner Mike Villamor, who was kind enough to answer a few questions from Warrior World.
The Big West — which announced a deal to stay at the Honda Center through the 2022 tournament this week — has decided to leave it at an eight-team field for its tournaments, instead of expanding the field with play-in games, a la the Western Athletic Conference at the time of UH’s departure in 2012.
In the next four years, starting in 2021, that means two teams are getting left home instead of one. Why not three? Well, because UC San Diego, as a transitional Division I member, is not eligible for the tournament for a four-year period. So unless something changes, the tournament will then welcome the top eight qualifiers out of the full 11 starting in 2025.
That puts greater weight on taking care of business in the regular season, and speaking of that …
That’s where the bigger change happens, as the Big West will shift from its 16-game schedule to a 20-team version, maintaining the true home-and-home round robin for its members. A 20-game conference schedule will be among the largest for any league in the country.
Right now, the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Sky, Big Ten and Southland play the most, with 20. The majority of leagues play either 18- or 16-game schedules.
That affects the number of nonconference games a team can schedule. So Hawaii, for example, would have to eliminate a couple of the stand-alone games it plays in November and December.