Conference play has begun in college basketball. From now until March, the best players will be battling to see which team will be the regular-season conference champs in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Big Ten and dozens of other conferences around the country.
College sports conferences have gone a little crazy in the past few years, with schools such as the University of Maryland leaving one group to join another. For example, the Big Ten now has 14 teams. So does the Atlantic-10. The ACC has gone from nine to 15 teams since 2003.
The Big East now includes Creighton University, which is in Omaha, Nebraska. If you know your U.S. geography, you know that Nebraska is in the middle of America and nowhere near the East Coast.
One conference, however, has avoided most of this craziness: the Ivy League. Founded in 1954, the Ivy League is made up of eight schools: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Yale.
Because there are only eight teams, every Ivy League basketball team plays every other team in the league twice — at home and away — during the season. That’s fair.
Other conferences, such as the ACC, have so many teams that there is no way a team can play all the other teams in the conference twice each year. That means some teams will have easier schedules than others.
What I like best about Ivy League basketball is that almost every conference game is played on a Friday or a Saturday. That’s right: The rule in the Ivy League is no hoops on a school night.
Check out the men’s and women’s basketball schedules in most big-time basketball conferences. They are filled with weekday games. The rule in the ACC, Big Ten and Southeastern conferences seems to be that their teams will play anytime a game might attract the attention of ESPN or another television network.
In December, Georgetown University scheduled a game against the University of Kansas right in the middle of Georgetown’s final exams.
The NCAA and colleges talk a lot about their student-athletes. But too often, big-time college basketball programs do not give their players much time to be students because they are always traveling and playing on school nights.
Wouldn’t it be better if basketball leagues — from the ACC to kids leagues — all gave their players more time to be the “student” part of “student-athlete”?
Wouldn’t it be better if more basketball leagues were like the Ivy League?
Bowen is the author of 20 sports books for kids. His latest book is called “Double Reverse.” He is a graduate of Penn.