I think we can all agree that the "challenge" format is an up-and-coming trend in non-conference college basketball scheduling.
Why shouldn't it be? Challenges bring in viewers who wouldn't normally watch, say, a Northwestern game in November. If you're a fan of ANY ACC team, you're interested in the Big Ten/ACC challenge, and so you're interested in Georgia Tech beating Northwestern in November.
Plus these are otherwise unlikely matchups between well-matched teams and they're cool.
So the Big East and the SEC got together this spring and decided that they were going to get in on the action, turning the less formal SEC-Big East Invitational into a full blown 12-game challenge for 2011.
That Ole Miss will be visiting the Allstate Arena Dec. 1 is great news for Blue Demons ticket sales.
The Big Ten/ACC and Big East/SEC high-major challenges are great ideas, so it's time to bring it to the mids.
I propose that the Horizon League and the Mid-America Conference turn their already path-crossing schedules into a challenge of their own -- a first among mid-majors.
Consider that during the 2010-2011 season HL and MAC teams met 28 times -- the average Horizon League team played close to three MAC teams in one season. Loyola was on the bottom end of that spectrum, only playing the MAC's Western Michigan, while Youngstown State, Valparaiso, UIC and Detroit all scheduled four MAC opponents during the season.
The Horizon League finished the season 17-11 against MAC opponents. Ken Pomeroy's conference ratings place the Horizon League and the MAC 13th and 18th respectively among all 33 D-I conferences at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
Under my proposed HL/MAC Challenge format, which would require little in the way of extra travel since these conferences are geographically similar (if you switch out Wisconsin for western New York), the ten Horizon League teams would all get two games against MAC opponents. That means two of the 12 MAC teams would only get to play one game each in the challenge for a total of 20 games.
You won't see high-majors playing 20 game challenges. No way.
Of course teams would get one home game and one away game every season (except for the two MAC teams) and teams would be matched based on their resumes.
UIC? You get Eastern Michigan and Toledo next season. Loyola? Play Central Michigan and Bowling Green.
Mid-major marketing: just one of the services offered by the Chicago College Basketball blog.