Thursday, September 07, 2006

Let Me Check My Calendar

Having received the blessing of the Student Athletic committee and the Big East (who probably had to wait on ESPN), ND released the men's basketball schedule for 2006-07 today.

Things to like and things to not. Amongst the likes:
  • Nine national TV appearances, including a return to ABC for a national game against Marquette in February. Given the results of the last couple of seasons, I'm very happy with nine because I thought we'd get less. We're not yet in the new BE deal, where every hoops game will be televised in some capacity, so the large number of TBA's on the times (especially those at home) give me hope there'll be a couple more announced before everything is complete.
  • A weekend trip to South Florida in February. While that creates a quandary for me, since my parents were planning a trip down at the end of March, it's one I'll live with. I may have to bite the bullet and go twice. I lead a difficult life.
  • Lehigh in the Joyce Center. Irish alum Billy Taylor has been making a name for himself out East, and I know he's been looking for the opportunity to come back into the JC and show his alma mater what he's learned.
  • Butler anywhere. The second-most-played opponent in Irish history returns to the schedule for the first time in over a decade. I'd like to see them more often, outside of pre-season events.
  • The PNIT. Thanks to the blow-up of the two-in-four rule, expect to see the Fighting Irish doing a pre-season gig almost every season. Next year, it'll be in the USVI, and then Maui the year after that. I'm saving my pennies for a 2008 luau, myself.
But there's not-to-likes as well:
  • SOS (literally). As I feared, this schedule is cupcake-heavy. Elon, IPFW and Army aren't going to help the RPI. Throw in Winston-Salem State, making the migration to Division 1 currently, and this is a slate almost guaranteed to not only not impress the NCAA selection committee in March but also possibly give it an incentive to choose against the Fighting Irish when the time comes.
  • Too many home games. As I noted an entry or two back, this kind of schedule is a Digger Phelps fantasy come true. The first game ND plays on an opponent's campus isn't until January 17th when they go to Philly to face Villanova. Maryland and Butler could be considered "road neutral" games given the proximity to the opponent's campus, but the bottom line is a lack of tempering in the out-of-conference portion. Although I see the wisdom in allowing a young team to gel, and I realize if ND gets out of Indianapolis they'll get quality games at the PNIT, I don't think a road challenge in December -- over the holidays, perhaps -- would have been a bad idea, especially with eight home games over the Christmas break when the student portion of the home-court advantage won't be around.
  • Speaking of which, the Villanova game. I can't remember the last time we played the Wildcats in Philly that the game wasn't at the Spectrum or the Wachovia Center (or whatever those venues are being called these days). I would hope they'd do it at the Palestra for tradition's sake. But the Pavilion? I'm hoping against hope it's because 'Nova wanted more of a home court advantage -- games at the pro arenas tend to bring out the Subway Alumni. I'd hate to think it was a reflection on recent results.
  • The slow finish. ND plays only one game in the 11 days that precede the BET -- a road game at Rutgers. Bad timing for the bye week. If things go south, it might be a very long two weeks for Irish fans.
Something tells me the schedule is going to be a major topic of conversation down the stretch. Hopefully that discussion won't involve too much invective. I fear it might.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

As for the Committee using the SOS against ND, that will just be the excuse de jure. Over the past few years, it has become clear that ND has to put itself in a position where it clearly deserves to be in the tourney. If there is ever any doubt, the committee will keep ND out.

Hmm....I think that might be their mantra: "If there is any doubt, keep ND out."

More than most schools, ND cannot leave their appearance in the tourney to the committee's discretion, so the SOS doesn't really bother me. If it weren't that, it would be something else.

9/08/2006 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy many of your observations, but my Lord, the second sentence in the SOS comment is a monumental butchery of the language!

Normally I would agree with your view on the weak SOS factor, but this team will be so young and inexperienced that this may be a perfect year to get some confidence early heading into the brutal BE portion of the schedule.

I love the optimism, but I can't envision an NCAA bid for this team anyway. The schedule isn't going to be the problem: we need a serious jolt of athleticism on the roster and improved post play to have even a remote opportunity to go dancing in the near future.

9/11/2006 02:24:00 PM  

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