Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Non-conference scheduling a product of what selection committee values

December 28, 2017 Columns No Comments

Georgetown playing softies in its non-conference schedule is about as American as the eagle, as reliable as that Citgo sign lurking over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, or Dick Vitale having 80 teams in his 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket.

The Hoyas are the program that once regularly played the likes of Hawaii-Hilo, Hawaii Loa and Hawaii Pacific and that brought schools such as Quincy, Shenandoah and St. Leo to top 20 recaps back in the 80s. (That’s how far back it was-the polls only recognized a top 20 back then, not moving to our now-familiar top 25 until 1989.)

Georgetown scheduling for-sure W’s has been going on for the better part of 35 years, since John Thompson regularly started taking his team on a junket to Hawaii to open its season against sub-NCAA Division I competition. It was something that took on an almost grudgingly lovable quality when Big John coached, much like Duke or Syracuse now never playing a non-conference road game that TV didn’t force them to. (“Haha, that Boeheim…”)

This offseason, though, there was grumbling, if not full-out gnashing of teeth, about out-of-conference schedules set by Georgetown and some other programs. The Hoyas were the prime example, but not the only one.

Rutgers set up a slate that on paper may have been even worse. Kansas was a target earlier in the summer. Never mind that none of these is the first example of a team to schedule this way.

Ah well. Everyone needs something to be outraged about these days, one supposes. More accurately, college hoopheads need something to talk about in the offseason, and schedules like Georgetown’s serve as fodder for just that.

This time, though, the Hoyas’ itinerary has still been a topic of conversation well into the season and even as we head into the new year, what with Georgetown first having the audacity to win all of its buy games (are we surprised?) and then its strength of schedule ranking poorly in pretty much any metric one can imagine.  Jeff Sagarin and Ken Pomeroy’s ranks are both 351st-last in NCAA Division I, while the RPI and Erik Haslam have it much higher-350th.

There is some validity to the criticism. Checking out of Nike’s birthday bash to celebrate itself, a.k.a. the PK80, was rather cowardly. But the outrage generally seems a bit misplaced, for teams intentionally scheduling lightly has been literally going on for decades.

“Decades” includes not just the far-off past, but the past couple years. In fact, last year’s college hoops season brought us a prime example with Kansas State.

We were apparently on an island in criticizing the NCAA selection committee’s selection of the Wildcats last year, which isn’t that surprising.

K-State has more of a cute factor than, say, Syracuse. Few are going to be offended if Kansas State or Wake Forest make the NCAA tourney with lousy resumes, for there’s not much to hate about either one. As far as major conference schools go, both are far from bullies, and frankly are the types just happy the real “power” schools-those 30 or so revenue factories carrying the so-called “Power 5”-let them be a part of their circle.

The thing about K-State last year was the Wildcats-like a Georgetown or Rutgers this year-also intentionally scheduled poorly in November & December, looking to build some confidence. It worked, with Bruce Weber’s Kitties finishing 11-1 out of conference before entering Big 12 play, with their best win coming over the Mountain West’s second-best team (Colorado State), their second-best against Nebraska-Omaha, number 138 in your year-end RPI report.

The Wildcats then went 8-10 in the Big 12, a record respectable but hardly outstanding. K-State did register a pair of wins over Baylor, a home win against West Virginia and a road victory against Oklahoma State. Overall, though, Kansas State still finished 4-9 against the RPI top 50 and 6-11 vs. the top 100.

A weak-intentionally weak-non-conference schedule, a losing conference mark and overall credentials against top 100 competition like K-State’s should’ve meant almost automatic banishment to the NIT. Likely would have several years in the past.

Last year, though, it was still enough for an NCAA Tournament bid. And now you see why a Rutgers or Georgetown was able to comfortably schedule the way it did this year.

Especially in the case of Rutgers, it’s not hard at all to see the Scarlet Knights this year riding a bunch of non-conference victories (including a prominent one at home against Seton Hall), a few surprises among an 8- or maybe even 10-win campaign in the Big Ten, and a wave of sentimental publicity to an NCAA bid.

Rutgers, a school whose admission to the Big Ten was almost universally ripped, one that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 1991 and that three years ago was losing at home to St. Peter’s and St. Francis (Pa.), would be a cute redemption story, and don’t think the selection committee couldn’t be influenced by it. They basically were a few years ago, when Nebraska surprised and made a run in the Big Ten and received an at-large berth, despite overall numbers not much different from Kansas State’s last year.

Georgetown is not Rutgers. The Hoyas are one of the giants of the sport, a status they have earned. And the selection committee is also known to make an example out of a major conference team for its schedule every so often. They did with Syracuse last year, South Carolina two years ago, SMU in 2014, and undoubtedly they would consider it with Patrick Ewing’s team this year.

Kansas State, among others in the past, though, shows that it’s a strategy worth a try. Jamie Dixon’s teams at Pittsburgh regularly turned the trick. So has Syracuse. And so, given the committee’s ridiculous overemphasis on quantity of big wins and bad losses the past several years, why wouldn’t Georgetown take its chances at 1) not losing a non-conference game at home and 2) trying for 5-6 top-50 wins in Big East play?

Many want to ‘fix’ scheduling, but the view here is schools should have the freedom to schedule however they want to. Let’s make it clear, though: there should be consequences for a schedule.

If teams want to play a weak schedule to build team confidence, that’s their choice. If fans don’t like it and don’t show up, that’s part of the cost/benefit analysis for a school of putting together a schedule.

The real determinant of whether a non-conference schedule was worthwhile or not is ultimately reflected in NCAA Tournament selection and seeding. And if the selection committee is going to reward building teams like K-State for playing Western Illinois and Hampton and Robert Morris and Prairie View A&M, then why wouldn’t they play them?

The selection committee has every opportunity to make unequivocal statements about where it stands on out-of-conference scheduling. It could’ve rewarded Monmouth’s 27 wins two years ago that included a whopping 17 wins away from home, its Metro Atlantic regular season title and its attempts to play the likes of not just major conference schools like Georgetown, UCLA, USC and-yes, even Rutgers on the road, but also taking risky games at Army, Cornell and Drexel. Instead, it chose to hold the Hawks to an impossible standard of not just playing all those, but having to win every one of them AND make sure the teams they played all have awesome seasons, too.

It could’ve seen Valparaiso’s regular season trip to Oregon two years ago in a positive light, examining the Crusaders’ convincing win at Oregon State (which it deemed a 7 seed in the NCAA tourney) and near loss at Oregon (a 1 seed that year) as signs Valpo should be a tourney team. Instead, it found reasons to keep the Crusaders out, the way it has the past four years for teams like them-Illinois State last year, St. Bonaventure two years ago, Murray State three years ago, Wisconsin-Green Bay four years ago, etc.

The committee could be realistic about which schools are hamstrung in scheduling by their conferences and not hold them to literally unreachable standards. It could emphasize regular season championships as it should and used to, in order to give the field more depth, and less teams squeaking in via seventh-place finishes in their leagues.

It also could punish leagues like the Big East that will benefit from Georgetown’s schedule this year. Regardless of how weak the Hoyas’ opponents are, conference foes beating the Hoyas still get credited in their own strength of schedule for beating a team that went 10-1 in non-league play this year. Efficiency ratings aren’t penalizing Georgetown much either-Butler’s win over them Wednesday is a win over a top 100 team right now in Pomeroy’s rankings, for instance.

Non-conference scheduling is nothing that the selection committee can’t influence. All it needs to do is consistently enforce consequences, rewarding what it claims to like, and punishing what it doesn’t. If the committee rewarded more teams like Monmouth and Murray State with bids, then those teams should have more success playing better schedules, and a nasty cycle is given some needed redirection. And if it consistently punished the Georgetowns of the world-not just every so often to make an example-then it would dry up in a hurry.

But if the committee doesn’t care who major conference teams are playing outside their leagues, then why should Georgetown?

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam
Email: hoopvilleadam@yahoo.com

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 26, 2018

April 27, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we spend a lot of time looking at what the Commission on College Basketball came up with, as their report was just produced. We also look at the NBA Draft and transfers, which have many rosters potentially in flux for next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 by

In our first podcast in the postseason, we look back one more time on the NCAA Tournament, which was just what we needed at this time. We also look at the NIT, CBI and CIT, as well as important transactions with players leaving early for the NBA Draft and coaching changes.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018 by

The 2018 national championship is in the books, and with it another season of college basketball. We break down the national championship game and some of its implications to wrap up the season.

College Basketball Tonight – April 1, 2018

April 2, 2018 by

Welcome to our Final Four edition of College Basketball Tonight. In this edition, we look ahead to Monday’s national championship game, and bring on two guests – long-time Villanova radio play-by-play broadcaster Ryan Fannon and Radford head coach Mike Jones – to get their thoughts and insights on the game.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 1, 2018

April 1, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we break d own the national semifinals, where one game went back and forth while the other was never really a ballgame thanks to an impressive performance for the ages by the winning team.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.