"Rants and Raves" is an open forum for coaches to
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on the state of college basketball and beyond.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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