As Old Dominion begins planning for the move to Conference USA, Garmins might become standard issue during the transition, as the Monarchs figure how to get where they’re going in their new league.
Unfamiliarity aside, travel might not be as onerous or costly as C-USA’s footprint indicates, one of ODU’s basketball coaches suggested.
Yes, C-USA stretches from West Virginia south to Florida and west across the lower 48 to Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. But there are a couple of mitigating factors, at least where hoops are concerned.
One, the proposed East-West divisional structure. Two, the change to the non-conference schedule.
ODU will be in the Eastern Division, with Marshall, East Carolina, Charlotte, Alabama Birmingham, Southern Miss and Florida International. The West Division will consist of Tulsa, UTEP, Texas San Antonio, North Texas, Rice, Louisiana Tech and Tulane.
Division teams will play each other home-and-home, and there will be a number of crossover games with the other division. Certainly, there are plane trips to Miami (Florida International), Birmingham (UAB), West Virginia (Marshall) and Southern Miss, where the easiest way to Hattiesburg is believed to be parachuting from a cargo plane into the Gulf of Mexico near Gulfport, swimming ashore to the Island View Casino, hitting a mega-jackpot and buying a mini-bus for the 70-mile drive north to the Land of Golden Eagles.
It hasn’t been determined if teams will play a 16- or 18-game league schedule (last season, the 12-team C-USA played a 16-game schedule). Either way, ODU is looking at either two or three plane trips per season to the wild west, in addition to the four intra-divisional trips.
That sounds like a lot, but consider that ODU road trips in the CAA to Hofstra, Northeastern, Drexel and Georgia State also required plane trips.
On the flip side, however, the Monarchs’ non-conference schedule should require less travel than in years past, as former CAA rivals become non-league opponents in November and December. ODU hopes to continue playing VCU, William and Mary, George Mason and James Madison, among others.
The coach said that the Monarchs will travel a little more within the conference and a bit less out-of-conference, with the balance probably coming out on the side of a few more frequent-flier miles.
One annoying schedule component that’s likely to be eliminated for ODU are the compressed, five games-in-10 days and seven games-in-18 days stretches that taxed everyone in the 12-team CAA.
C-USA teams played almost exclusively just twice a week — Wednesdays and Saturdays. They were able to do so because the conference tournament wasn’t early, and the league wasn’t a part of ESPN’s BracketBusters (coincidentally, neither is the CAA next season, as it casts its lot with NBCSports) — both of which compressed the league schedule.
Competitively, Conference USA isn’t likely to require a major step up for the Monarchs. As Comrade Teel and others have pointed out, comparative RPIs for C-USA and the CAA have been similar — within three spots of each other for six of the past seven years. Since 2006, both leagues have the same number of NCAA at-large invitations (4). And with Memphis departing for the Big East, C-USA hoops loses perhaps its signature program.
Conference USA may provide ODU entrée to other recruiting territories, notably Texas, as the Monarchs get to explain to entirely new constituencies what and where an “Old Dominion” is.
So while football is reasons one, two and three for the conference jump, and its success is an unknown, men’s basketball won’t find itself in uncharted territory. Except geographically.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun