Wichita State’s men’s basketball team will play guarantee games against Western Kentucky and Oral Roberts, two programs that it wouldn’t seem odd for the Shockers play home and home.
Senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright said those games (at Koch Arena with no return to the other school) represent a need for WSU to be more aggressive in upgrading its schedule. He is concerned Creighton’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference will hurt schedule strength and power rankings. Every MVC team loses two (sometimes three) valuable games with Creighton. WSU possesses the money and cachet to try to bump up its non-conference schedule. Other MVC teams may not.
“With the exit of Creighton, there’s no place it hurts worse than in men’s basketball scheduling,” he said. “I think we need to be pretty aggressive.”
ESPN helped WSU with the Western Kentucky game. It will be part of ESPN’s Tip-off Marathon on Nov. 11. The Shockers could sell an ESPN game, as well as a guarantee, to land the Hilltoppers. Last year, games started at midnight, 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 6 a.m. etc. WSU will lobby for one of the more reasonable tips.
“We will probably play at a crazy time, but we’re not going to play at a ridiculous time,” Boatright said. “I think it’s really good get. They’re back-to-back NCAA Tournament participants. We feel pretty confident scheduling them because we feel like they will have success in the Sun Belt.”
The Shockers will play Oral Roberts (Dec. 7) for the first time since a 76-73 loss to the Golden Eagles in 2003. Western Kentucky visited Koch Arena in 2005 for the NIT, an 85-81 Shocker win.
Western Kentucky (19-16) finished the 2013 regular season with an RPI tied for No. 149. ORU (19-15) is one spot back. Both programs are capable of performing better. If they stay the same, it is better than the 250-300 range guarantee games often bring.
“That is part of the department being more aggressive and trying to capture some of this momentum,” Boatright said. “We were able to put a little more money behind some of those games. In the case of Western Kentucky, we were able to guarantee them a nationally televised game. That’s usually not a card that we have in our pocket.”