Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Finding Our Virtu

Yesterday, I was part of the problem. Today, I want to be part of the solution.

ND needs a consistent scheduling philosophy for its men's basketball program. It has little control over what the conference will do, and the conference probably will be tough year-in and year-out. But they have full control of the 10 non-conference slots, and they need to make better use of them.

For example, ND has to stop being afraid of an opponent's home court, and the focus on home revenue generation is just as off-putting for basketball as it is for football. Besides, a lot of these schools are getting smart and starting to charge more for one-off contests. So the Irish need to get into a rotation that gives them a quality game away from home every year.

The one "constant", if you want to call it that, is the demise of the two-in-four rule almost guaranteeing Notre Dame's appearance in an early-season exempt tournament every year. Next year, they'll be part of a loaded Maui Invitational with Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, St. Joe's, and Texas. I believe they're also slated for the 2010 Preseason NIT, which is always a quality draw, and they're overdue for an appearance at the Great Alaska Shootout. So in even-numbered years, the schedule will feature quality away-from-home matchups to bolster the schedule.

The key is the odd-numbered years. The tournaments for those years, like the Guardians Classic and the Paradise Jam, are good, but aren't going to offer the marquee games ND needs. So in odd-numbered years, the Fighting Irish need to play somewhere that will test them.

I've got the perfect place: Los Angeles.

UCLA is a natural for the ND schedule. While not a rivalry on either side, it's a series loaded with tradition. For over a decade, it was an annual home-and-home that brought a lot of national attention. UCLA is a program which, while they may have down periods like any other team, they usually bounce back strong. And with Ben Howland at the helm, they're poised for years of quality basketball.

ND football plays in LA against the Trojans in even-numbered years. What better way to keep a good presence in an area loaded with alums than to have the basketball team visit in odd-numbered years? In fact, I'd like to see the first Saturday in December be "UCLA Saturday" for Notre Dame, with the game alternating between LA and South Bend counter to the football (and primary exempt tournament) rotation. Even better, a 2-2-2 setup, with two games at Pauley, two games at the Joyce, and two neutral-site games (one at Staples Center, one at United Center), and keep that six-game rotation going ad infinitum.

Both ND and UCLA are renovating their hoops facilities in the next couple of years. They could arrange it where the other is the first game in the new digs, just as UCLA was the first big ND game in the then Athletic and Convocation Center.

(every time I type that, I miss Jack Lloyd)

So two of the 10 slots are now taken care of with a tournament and UCLA, and there's at least one quality away-from-home game per year.

But we still need a decent home game in the odd-numbered years, and ND should always play at least one true road game. So two more slots should be set up for intriguing, if not guaranteed quality, matchups, with home / away / neutral rotations matched up as well as possible with the Big Two.

My dislike for the Integer aside, one of those slots should be used to rekindle / start meaningful series with one of their teams. I've said it before and this won't be the last time: It's criminal that Michigan State, ND's fourth-most-played opponent in its history, hasn't been on the schedule since the 1970s. Northwestern is fifth on that list, and it's been forever since they've appeared at the Joyce Center. Illinois is a natural, and Wisconsin would be an intriguing matchup. If we want to look east or are concerned about the schedule being excessive, Penn State has mid-major quality with an Integer name. I have no interest in the Hoosiers, and Michigan has appeared plenty lately. The Integer Slot can rotate opposite UCLA to ensure an attractive home game when the Bruins aren't coming to town, with the game the Wednesday following the Bruin trip/visit.

The other can be used to rotate in some of ND's Catholic brethren. Dayton, Detroit, Creighton, and SLU spring to mind almost by reflex ... schools that share ND's mission and goals, and with whom the Irish have a long and storied history (not to mention the nice RPI push). In fact, an argument can be made to use two slots here, one home and one away.

The remaining five to six slots can be used for the various warm-up / holiday tomato can games that every school plays. But there should be an unofficial rule that only three of those cans come in with an RPI in the previous season above 250. I'd rather have a 15-point win over a #200 team than a 30-point win over a #300 team. Exceptions can always be made for teams or coaches with a special affinity for ND, such as Billy Taylor at Ball State.

So let's work a little elfin magic on this year's slate, applying my changes above. It's an odd-numbered year, so there'd be a game at UCLA the first Saturday in December instead of Eastern Michigan at home. Without looking at the numbers, I'll select Northwestern as the Integer team, and SLU and Detroit as the current saved-slot teams. Since UCLA is on the road, Northwestern would be at home, but since we're in the JVC in early December, I'll put them in Northern Illinois' slot. Flipping a coin, SLU will be at home replacing Colgate, and Detroit away replacing Brown. You know how I love road games over the holidays, after all.

Let's see how the RPI changes:

310 -- LIU
259 -- Monmouth (PJ)
121 -- Baylor (PJ)
52 -- Georgia Tech (PJ)
173 -- Youngstown State
177 -- Northwestern
3 -- at UCLA
56 -- vs. Kansas St. (JVC)
74 -- St. Louis
162 -- San Francisco
191 -- at Detroit
333 -- North Florida

Average RPI: 159, with a 6 - 2 - 4 split, which would be ninth in the conference and just above the 50-percent line overall. Replacing Northwestern with Michigan State (24 RPI) would reduce the average to 147 and push ND up to fifth just ahead of the UConn / Georgetown / Providence bunch, which might be more appropriate in years when ND has a strong team, not to mention put a very attractive home game on the schedule.

Sure, playing at UCLA would be tough, but no tougher than playing at Georgetown is going to be. Northwestern and St. Louis would be stern tests, but not the kind that should scare the kind of ND team we'll have the next two seasons. And playing at Detroit should be very doable for Notre Dame in any season.

This is an older team that shouldn't shy way from challenges, and next year will be even more so. It's time to bulk up a little bit.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous schmendel said...

As much as I'd love to see it as a Notre Dame grad and Flyer fan, i can't see the ND-Dayton matchup comin gup again anytime soon. Dayton has good relationships with two other BE teams (cincy/l'ville) and ND doesn't need to be going into UD Arena (where visiting teams go to die).
I love the history there, and the Catholic connection is great. Nobody else has consistently given the Flyers a chance, because the benefits of a win there are so heavily outweighed by the downsides of a loss. It's UD's curse for having such a great homecourt advantage. I don't see why ND would go in there before anyone else.

As a side, if you're looking for the Catholic connection, don't leave out Xavier.

10/19/2007 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I know, but I'd still like to see a Dayton H-H just for old times' sake.

10/19/2007 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Rego said...

I would be a huge fan of an ND-UD series. When I was much younger, we would take trips to Dayton(my parents are Flyers) to see ND play Dayton. I always thought that it was a good matchup.

I think this hits the nail on the head as far as scheduling. If we had a better schedule there would be less opportunity for a crippling loss. Too often teams get lefdt out of the tournament or seeded lower because they took a loss to a weak team. I'd rather hiccup against a team with an RPI in the top-100 and learn a lesson rather than just puking against a 300 RPI team.

10/22/2007 09:13:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home