PAC-12 Basketball Schedule "Secrets"

From Wilner’s Hotline e-mail today:

Secrets of the Hoops Schedule

The Pac-12 released three versions of its 2020 football schedule but seemingly will only need one for basketball.

It was made public on Thursday, with two important caveats:

The schedule doesn’t include non-conference games or tipoff times/TV networks, which are a few weeks away from being finalized.

Here’s what it does have: 20 conference games, not the traditional 18, with each team playing two in the pre-Christmas window. (The increase was planned before the pandemic.)

Also, the travel partners are intact, games will be played from Wednesday through Sunday (per usual) and the conference tournament is slotted for Las Vegas on the second weekend of March.

The master grid for 2021, in other words, shows nothing out of the ordinary.

But closer examination reveals two subtle tweaks and one significant exception — all of it designed to create maximum flexibility in case games are postponed because of COVID-19.

— Let’s start with the exception:

The conference removed the guideline that prevents teams from playing four consecutive road games and assigned that dastardly task to the Washington and Mountain schools.

Washington and Washington State will visit the Bay Area and Los Angeles schools on back-to-back weekends in mid-January, while Utah and Colorado will visit the Bay Area and Oregon schools back-to-back in late January.

“There was no way around it to get the flexibility,’’ explained deputy commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who oversees men’s basketball.

Asked why the Washington and Mountain schools drew the assignment, Zaninovich said “it just happened that way” but the four impacted head coaches “were great about it.”

— Now, the two subtle shifts to create options for makeup games.

  1. The final weekend of the regular season, March 6 and 7, features one game for each team — against its travel partner.

That way, any series that gets postponed can be added at the end.

For instance, Cal and Stanford could play makeup games in Arizona on Wednesday and Friday of the final week, then play the single game against each other on Sunday.

(Everyone is prepared for the possibility of playing more than two games in a given week.)

  1. The pairings for several early-January matchups have been aligned with succeeding weeks of travel-partner games — if the former can’t be played, they can be folded into the latter.

For example, the Arizona schools visit Oregon in Week Three, then play each other in Tempe in Week Four; the Oregon schools also play each other in Week Four.

If the Week Three games are postponed, they can be moved back into the following week, when each team is only scheduled to play one game.

Another example: In Week Four, the Utah schools visit Washington. In Week Five, Utah and Colorado play in Boulder, while Washington and WSU play in Seattle.

If Week Four gets derailed, the teams would move the series to Week Five, with each playing three games.

“We wanted to make collapsible weeks,’’ Zaninovich said.

The conference has a Plan B, as well.

If COVID outbreaks prohibit games in certain regions, the Pac-12 has a schedule model ”in our back pocket” that features mini-pods, which could be played at available locations.

The reveal of the shell schedule on Thursday is just the first step, however.

Still to come: The women’s schedule (22 conference games); the tipoff times and TV lineup for both men and women; the non-conference schedules (announced by the schools); and the protocols for competition.

Those protocols include the arrangement of the benches, the minimum number of healthy players required, and tiebreaker protocols.

The NCAA is heavily involved in the planning.

“Our highest priorities are health and safety,” Zaninovich said, “and getting all the games in.” — Jon Wilner