Strength of schedule

I’ve received many questions about Wichita State’s basketball schedule in recent weeks. WSU’s strength of schedule (according to Jerry Palm at collegerpi.com) ranks No. 121. Its opponents winning percentage ranks No. 300. Those two factors are big negatives in WSU’s NCAA Tournament at-large resume. Five teams with an RPI ranked No. 250 or lower represent the big problem.

This caused fans to wonder why WSU didn’t schedule tougher. Or they want to know what WSU can do to schedule in the future. After talking to people around WSU and the MVC, here’s some issues to consider.

  1. There is not much room on the future schedules. WSU is locked into the MVC-MWC Challenge and BracketBusters (a two-game commitment again in 2011-12). It signed a four-season deal with Tulsa. It likes to play at least four guarantee games at home. UMKC is a regular on the schedule. It has the Maui Invitational and LSU (neutral site) next season. With all those commitments, open dates are hard to find in the coming seasons.
  2. The Shockers scheduled appropriately for this season after going 17-17 and 11-20 in Gregg Marshall’s first two seasons. More than anything, WSU needed to win. WSU lost a Division I opponent when CBE Classic organizers couldn’t replace Illinois-Chicago and forced Division II Arkansas-Monticello on WSU. Iowa’s poor season is an unforeseen factor dragging down WSU. In retrospect, it would have been nice to pick up a stronger opponent or two to help the NCAA resume. When the schedule was put together, the program was in a different spot.
  3. Guarantee games are hard to find. The good guarantee game – an opponent likely to win a lot of games in a low-major conference and willing to travel for a check – are even more difficult to land. WSU, because of geography, is playing from behind. WSU’s guarantee opponents (Alcorn State, North Dakota State, Texas Southern, South Carolina-Upstate ) were awful. Decent ones are expensive and much sought after.
  4. Perception matters. Some fans think WSU should go on the road to a national power without a return, or sign a 2 for 1 deal. First, that doesn’t fit how WSU (or most MVC schools) want to think of themselves. Being a road donkey is something low-major programs do. Since college teams win around 70 percent of their home games, it’s not a good way to build a winning record or a good RPI. Second, it cheats season-ticket holders who want to see good games at home. Third, If WSU agrees to play Duke with no return, then won’t Texas Tech want the same deal? Fourth, Duke isn’t looking to play one game in Wichita. Those level schools rarely play road games, and most don’t want to come to Koch Arena even in a 2-for-1 deal. Does WSU want to sell itself out to the next level of programs? That’s not to say those scenarios are dismissed outright. It is saying WSU (and MVC schools) aren’t going to do those things regularly. For the right price in the right situation, perhaps. The Syracuse trip worked out great for WSU in 2006-07. Usually, the road team walks away with a loss and it’s hard to convince coaches that’s a good thing as a matter of policy.
  5. SOS shouldn’t be a problem next season with Tulsa, LSU, a good MWC team and the loaded Maui field on the schedule.