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It's Here to Stay

The Future of Coaching

The Second Season

The Thin Red Line

The Lost Art of Free Throw Shooting

A Disgusting Display

Passion and Intensity

The Rumor Mill

The Level of Intensity is Always the Same

Learning How to Play

The State of Performance Enhancing

Butterflies Never Go Away

Exempt Games

Important Brush

The Cupcake Label

Naismith is an American Name

The Great Migration 

 
 


 

 
"Rants and Raves" is an open forum for coaches to discuss topics, ranging from issues to observations on the state of college basketball and beyond.
 
 
Scheduling Challenges
By Kyle Macy, Morehead State

It It’s not often that I agree with CollegeInsider.com’s editor-in-chief, but he is very accurate with his conclusion regarding the challenge of scheduling. For a great majority of coaches at the mid-major level, it’s an ever-changing process.

In a recent conversation with Dwyer, we discussed the challenges of mid-major coaches. He made the point that our style of play, approach to recruiting and how we deal with our players all remain basically the same. But what changes, from year to year is our approach to scheduling. It is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing coaches outside the ranks of the power conferences.

By in large, there is not much change in scheduling approach for my piers in the power conferences. In some cases there have been minor adjustments to improve RPI ratings, but that has often resulted in scheduling a so-called better opponent to visit their arena. In addition some coaches, knowing their team would be better served, will put together a more challenging non-league schedule.

But the differences are not drastic.

For the most part, Arizona’s Lute Olson and Memphis coach John Calipari have always taken the approach of putting together a challenging non-league slate. Rarely would hear someone remark that either the Wildcats or Tigers played a so-called cupcake pre-conference schedule.

Of course there are countless other examples as well. The point being that you would find only subtle changes over the course of a five or ten year period. This is not the case for coaches at the mid-major level.

A quick review of the RPI will reveal a number of examples of mid-major teams that have had a dramatic improvement in their rating. So dramatic is the change that these teams have positioned themselves well for at-large consideration to the NCAA. This point has not gone unnoticed by coaches around the country.

Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton noted, in Dwyer’s feature, that he was going to be taking a very close look at the selection process for the up-coming NCAA tournament. Will an impressive “team” RPI be enough to overcome an average “conference” RPI? Will we hear that certain teams were left sitting on the bubble because of an average strength of schedule?

Every year there is a different interpretation of what is an NCAA tournament team and what is an NIT team. That would only make sense, as each year the landscape of college basketball changes. The key is to be one step ahead as we head into the off-season and begin the process of scheduling for next season.

In many respects, it has really become an art form at the mid-major level.

Anytime you have success it becomes more difficult to schedule in the future. Teams in the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10 or SEC will take a long hard look at what you have in the way of returning personnel. If it appears you might be among the better mid-major programs in America, it would obviously be unlikely that everyone would be anxious to schedule you.

A few years ago Bowling Green had an excellent team, but they did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. After the pairings were announced, coach Dan Dakich spoke at length about the snub and wondered what he could do to improve his chances in the future. As he pointed out, “How can we improve our strength of schedule if people won’t schedule us?”

What Dan Dakich went through and what Stew Morrill and Utah State experienced last season have forced coaches to be more creative in their approach to non-conference scheduling. Once again, this is evident when skimming through the current RPI.

Now the question is: Will that approach work next season?

The interesting part of scheduling is there have always been and will always be stark contrasts in philosophy at the mid-major level. Some programs must schedule a lot of so-called buy-games, which is an internal decision. Others have more flexibility and need only to schedule two or three such contests. But with just a few exceptions, everyone is trying to put together a pre-conference schedule that will give them the best opportunity to play postseason basketball.

For Mid-Majors the steps taken, or not taken, in the coming months will go a long ways to determining whether or not postseason is a reality next March.

Nobody, least of all myself, is seeking commendations or accolades for our approach to schedule making, but it is a process that is not fully understood by the masses. And since scheduling in college basketball will not be taking a page from the NFL, which is based on how a team finished the previous year, it will continue to be a real challenge for coaches.

Dwyer actually touched upon something of substance. It’s good to know that an occasional thought, however random, runs between those ears once in a while.
 
 
 

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