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Sun Belt scraps ‘pod’ plan to revamp scheduling

The Sun Belt Conference has scrapped its plans to introduce a new “pod” scheduling system, citing a desire to take more time to study the NET rankings — which were utilized for the first time by the NCAA tournament selection committee last season — and their impact on the league’s postseason aspirations.

In the NET rankings last season, Georgia State and Georgia Southern, the Sun Belt’s best teams, were ranked 126th and 128th in the NET. Per, Georgia State and Georgia Southern would have had rankings of 50th and 78th under the old RPI system.

Displeased with the discrepancy between the league’s standing in the RPI versus the NET, the league may consider a minimum NET “threshold” for its members’ nonconference schedules to counter the change.

“At the end of the day, we want to be a multi-bid league,” said Keith Gill, the Sun Belt conference’s commissioner. “We feel like we are one of the elite conferences in Division I but we need to understand the NET a little better.”

The Sun Belt has not been a two-bid league since former members Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee (both of which are in Conference USA now) earned tournament berths in 2013.

In the pod system, which the league announced last summer, the top three teams in the league would have been grouped separately and played one another in the final four games of a 20-game season. The idea was to increase the league’s chances of enhancing the résumé and subsequent seeding of the conference’s representative in the NCAA tournament and creating a better opportunity for potential at-large squads.

The league will still play 20 conference games, beginning next year. It will announce the schedules at a later date.

The NET rankings consider quality wins according to quadrants (a Quadrant I win is a top-30 win at home, a top-50 win at a neutral site and a top-75 win on the road), margin of victory (capped at 10 points) and the offensive and defensive efficiency of each team.

Eight of the Sun Belt’s 12 teams were ranked 150th or worst in the NET rankings last season.

“If you have two top-50 RPIs at the top of your league, then they’re going to create Quad 1 and Quad 2 games [in the pod system],” Gill said. “The question is whether No. 125 vs No. 130 [under the NET] is going to help you in the selection room. We know that’s not going to be helpful. That’s why we’re taking a step back from pods.”

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