Maybe I have been rash to determine that the proposed schedule for the Jays this year is not better. Well, if the teams below are all scheduled as rumored, on paper it looks better than last year:
St. Joseph’s 44
Oral Roberts 53
New Mexico 59
Arkansas-Little Rock 171
(LVC)Fresno State 243
(LVC)SC Upstate 306
Average team RPI–157.64 (All), 133.72 (minus Depaul, Northern Colorado, Southern)
Last Season team non-conference RPI avg.–165.11
Now Akron isn’t confirmed and the last we knew the New Mexico game was a verbal thing. The Las Vegas Classic has 4 games total and the teams I pulled out that we wouldn’t play were sort of random based if the Jays were the “1 seed.” If all holds true above, there could be one more game on the schedule (27 total plus the Vegas thing) that hasn’t been discussed. Much of the conversation on the ‘Cafe about the whole scheduling issue is that 1) Whether the Jays should schedule a high BCS team with a 1 and done, 2)Whether they can even get that game since teams don’t necessarily want to play them or 3)That as long as the Jays win 20 games and make an appearance in the tournament that it is enough. Well in order to head up the ladder and actually improve as a program, some chances have to be taken and the Jays should do whatever it takes to get that marquee game.
Let’s take the Gonzaga and Southern Illinois examples. First let’s take Gonzaga. A big deal has been made that they have consistently performed well in the recent past in the NCAA Tournament and that is why they can be taken seriously by high BCS teams. Since the 1998-99 season, Gonzaga went to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight 7 of the next 8 seasons (except for the 2001-02 season when they lost to Wyoming in the first round.) Then the past 2 seasons they have lost in the first round. However, they played the tough games against the top 50 RPI. Playing the games and losing has it’s benefits:
- 1998-99-Kansas, Purdue, Detroit, Washington, TCU (2-3 record)
- 1999-00-Cincinatti, Temple, UCLA, Oregon (1-3)
- 2000-01-Arizona, Florida (0-2)
- 2001-02-Illinois, St. Johns, Texas, Marquette (2-2)
- 2002-03-Kentucky, Indiana, Utah, Georgia, Stanford, St. Joseph’s (1-5)
- 2003-04-St. Joe, Georgia, Maryland, Stanford (2-2)
- 2004-05-Illinois, Washington, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma St., (3-1)
- 2005-06-Maryland, Michigan St., Uconn, Washington, Memphis, St. Joes (3-3)
- 2006-07-North Carolina, Butler, Texas, Washington St., Duke, Nevada (2-5)
- 2007-08-Western Kentucky, Texas Tech, St. Joseph, Uconn, Wash. St, Oklahoma, Tennessee (3-4)
Now you will go and say that Gonzaga plays in a weak conference and can afford to play the challenging non-conference since they can dominate their conference, but hey folks, somehow that crappy conference got three teams in the tourney last year, albeit, not a great showing, but three teams with a conference RPI rank of 14. But the key here is that year after year they play the tough games, can have a bad showing and still make a big run in the NCAA Tournament. Having those early season challenges builds character for the team, not necessarily kills the spirit.
The Jay’s big rival Southern Illinois is the other example on the same level. Over the years the program has progressed due to the challenges they have taken on. Minus this last season, the Salukis have been in the NCAA Tournament each year since 2002. It has been over the past few years that they have been recognized as a team on somewhat the same level of Gonzaga due to the opponents they have scheduled. Check them out against the non-conference top 50 since 2001.
- 2000-01-Indiana, Mississippi (0-2)
- 2001-02-Illinois, Indiana (0-2)
- 2002-03-Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1-0)
- 2003-04-Charlotte (0-1)
- 2004-05-UTEP, Louisiana-Lafayette (1-1)
- 2005-06-Kent St. (1-0)
- 2006-07-Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Indiana, Butler (2-2)
- 2007-08-Mississippi St., USC, Indiana, St. Mary’s, Western Kentucky, Butler (3-3)
Really, Southern Illinois wasn’t getting really recognized as a power until that 2006-07 season. Yes they had been strong in the Valley for the years leading up to that season, but they didn’t progress to be nationally recognized until they went out of their box and played some out of conference teams tough. How do you think they got Gameday to come to Carbondale. They made a name for themselves. They have progressed. That is why they are talked about.
Finally let’s compare Creighton and their top 50 non-conference since their Kyle Korver strong season of 2002-03:
- 2002-03-Notre Dame, BYU, Xavier (2-1)
- 2005-06-George Mason (1-0)
- 2006-07-Xavier, Drexel (1-1)
- 2007-08-Xavier, St. Joseph (1-1)
So instead of building on the successful season of 2002-03, the Jays sat on their laurels and didn’t start scheduling some name teams. They had the opportunity to step out of the box and play some teams, but it didn’t happen. Also it was the first season for the Qwest Center. It was supposed to draw teams in, not get them to run away. So I guess you tell me–has Creighton’s program progressed or stayed stagnant? Yes, they win 20 games a season and they get post season appearances, but when you compare apples to apples with now nationally known teams like Gonzaga and Southern Illinois, it doesn’t compare. I love the Jays, but in order to improve the program, you have to push yourself. They pushed themselves to move to the Qwest Center and have drawn great crowds. Now it is time to move up to the next level no matter what it takes. Complete the package. I challenge you. So to revisit the top of this long soapbox preaching…On paper the schedule looks better compared to season’s past and the potential to play top 50 teams, but I am still looking for that one “special” game or two that will spice things up and help that move to the next level. This move to the next level has been talked about for 3 seasons now (when Nate Funk was supposed to play his senior year). Expectations have been raised.