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The hidden ramification of canceling non-conference games

College basketball emphasizes conference play, but is built on the non-con.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Big East has canceled non-conference games for fall sports. At first blush, that doesn’t seem to impact Xavier basketball much. After all, basketball is a winter sport and those are, as yet, untouched. The underlying theme, though, is dangerous for far more than just a single Xavier season.

Imagine for a moment you are a UMass Lowell River Hawk. Congrats, you are playing division one basketball! There is a good chance that you are a far better basketball player than anyone you will meet on a day to day basis. Testing that out against Dartmouth and Merrimack can get a bit stale though, you want a shot at the big boys. Thankfully, your school plays both Ohio State and Michigan this year. Road games, big arenas, your chance to shine.

More importantly, far more importantly, your school has a chance to make money. There is a reason these games are called “buy games,” no matter how unappealing that can sound. Thanks to some great research from Andy Wittry at AthleticDirectorU we know that the visiting team, the River Hawks in this scenario, win at around an 8% clip in those games. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that on average each of those buy games brings in $90,000 for the visiting school. Occasionally schools make up to a $250,000 to show up for a basketball game. For UMass Lowell, Jacksonville, or Houston Baptist, that is a massive amount of money.

And that is gone if basketball cancels non-conference play. The little guys will play the little guys, the Big East will play 20 games, and the SEC will froth at the mouth about football. There will be no buy games, no big checks for small athletic departments, no Evansville over Kentucky. If the policy holds, there also won’t be an NCAA tournament.

So Xavier may play basketball this year, but it’s vitally important for the lifeblood of the sport that the non-conference schedule be included. If health mandates dictate that it can’t be, the low majors as we know them now are in serious trouble.

To hear us talk about cancellations, Xavier’s transfers and incoming freshman, and a whole host of other things, just give a click on the link below.