That said, even by modern scheduling standards, some teams really disappoint each season, cobbling together nonleague schedules that are totally below where they should be, based on expectations and/or reputation. Their fans are stuck wading through the equivalent of the NFL preseason, with a batch of quasi-games in which starters only play for 15 or 20 minutes.
It's time to stand up to this type of for-profit-but-not-entertainment scheduling, as teams simultaneously bore their backers and hurt their NCAA inclusion/seeding hopes. For your convenience, here's a quick primer to help you know if your team's schedule stinks.
Generally speaking, your team has scheduled a too-easy home win if the opponent's name has:
1) Any type of punctuation mark (ampersand, apostrophe, hyphen, period)
2) Any in-state directional notation
3) Any State that is not actually named for a state
4) Any name of a religion in it
5) Any affiliation with the SWAC, which is 2-213 over the past six seasons vs. teams in BCS conferences
In rare situations, you can schedule a "multiple violator," a team that satisfies more than one of those rules. In those cases, your fans are absolutely certain a well-compensated sacrificial lamb is in town.
It's not that hard to avoid enough of these situations to create a solid schedule that will help you and your fans. Arizona lost Derrick Williams but was able to do it. Memphis has a nice team coming back and has a schedule that makes sense. So does Kansas, Vandy, Florida, Alabama and Xavier. Heck, even mid-majors like Long Beach State(taking a swing at an at-large) and Penn (alma mater!) got things done. It's not that hard, people.
Well, maybe it is for some folks. These are the teams you can mostly avoid watching until January:
As noted in the Twitter-style preview column, the Bearcats schedule is once again a thorough snoozer. This time around, it's even less acceptable, since it was known that a top 25-caliber team was returning. Instead of striking while the iron's hot, Cincy is going for a redux of last season's "No one believes in us" plan, where rolling through a bad nonconference slate and a .500 mark in the Big East will safely earn an NCAA bid. Very disappointing.
-- One double violator (Arkansas-Pine Bluff: SWAC and punctuation mark)
-- Four States that are not states (Jacksonville State, Northwestern State, Wright State and Chicago State)
-- One additional SWAC (Alabama State)
-- One additional punctuation mark (Miami (Ohio))
-- One Calvinist subset of a religion (Presbyterian)
No credit is given for having to play at Xavier in the annual Crosstown Shootout, or hosting what should be mediocre or worse Georgia and Oklahoma teams at home.
Perry Jones III will miss the first five games due to suspension, but that doesn't fully explain the appalling nature of the first half of Baylor's nonconference schedule. The Bears open with five -- yes, five -- SWAC or MEAC teams at home in their first eight games. Come on, Baylor.
-- A whopping three double violators (Texas Southern: SWAC and in-state directional modifier; Prairie View A&M: SWAC and punctuation mark; Jackson State: SWAC and State that's not a state)
-- A hyphen (Texas-Arlington)
-- One non-DI named after the husband of a medicine woman (Paul Quinn)
The Bears do host San Diego State, play at Northwestern and BYU, have neutral-site games with Saint Mary's and West Virginia, and also a game in Dallas with Mississippi State. Those are anywhere from OK to solid, but they don't make up for the embarrassing cash-for-wins start to the season, with or without Jones -- games that will do nothing but hurt Baylor's chances of making the NCAAs.
A national title contender with a lot of returning talent and a lot of bogus games on its schedule.
-- Two multiple violators (South Carolina-Upstate: hyphen, in-state directional modifier; Jackson State: SWAC, State that's not a state)
-- Two additional punctuation marks (Texas-Pan American and Miami (Ohio))
-- One additional in-state directional modifier (North Florida)
-- One additional State that's not a state (Wright State)
-- One military institute that's not part of the U.S. military (VMI)
Yes, the Buckeyes get Florida and Duke (in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge) at home and play at Kansas and South Carolina, but for a loaded team with experience, way too much roughage and not enough meat.
You've never made the NCAA Tournament and your current coach is entering his 12th season at your school. You have one more year of John Shurna. And you deliver this?
-- One double violator (Texas Southern: SWAC and in-state directional notation)
-- Three straight in-state directional notations (Central Connecticut and Eastern Illinois follow TSU)
-- One additional SWAC (Mississippi Valley State)
-- A hyphen (Texas-Pan American)
-- A descriptive body of water (Stony Brook)
-- Plus a CBI-tastic Charleston Classic which could yield a second matchup with Georgia Tech (Woohoo!)
The Wildcats do play road games at the Yellow Jackets and Creighton and host Baylor, so it's not totally devoid of quality, but the lack of ambition with an experienced roster is really curious.
With a good team coming back, Aggies fans deserved more than this prior to conference play. A&M will get two very credible games in NYC at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Miss. State and Arizona or St. John's), but beyond that? The slate makes geographic but not competitive sense.
-- Two double violators (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: Ampersand and hyphen; Alcorn State: SWAC, State that's not a state)
-- One additional SWAC (Southern)
-- One additional State that's not a state (Sam Houston State)
-- One non-DI (Arkansas Tech)
-- One opponent still TBD in late September (as part of the CVC)
Toss in some additional Southland Conference opponents over a bed of Rice and serve. Quick, easy meal. Feeds 13.
With some experience back and good freshmen coming in, the Cardinals have a team that should be much worthier than the nonconference schedule it's being handed.
-- One state that is not a state (Long Beach State, although not a walkover game)
-- One punctuation mark (Tennessee-Martin)
-- One in-state directional notation (Western Kentucky)
-- One bad Scrabble rack (IUPUI)
The "plus side" is a trip to Butler (a bit down this season), visits from Vandy and Memphis (good), and the game at Rupp, so we may have to wait until Big East play to really figure out the Cards.
The Huskies get a small pass here, as they knew they were losing Kemba Walker and didn't know they were getting Andre Drummond. That said, their slate is very soft. Lots of northeast low- and mid-major teams, a weakish tournament in the Bahamas, plus games with Arkansas (Big East/SEC Challenge) and at Tennessee (return game with Vols depleted). It's very possible the best opponent will be Harvard (could meet twice, actually), and the Huskies dismantled this same Crimson team last season.
There's nothing wrong with the slate, per se. I just hate that Duke is only willing to play "road" games (outside of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge) if the game is moved to a pro arena in the opponent's city. This season, Temple (game at the Wells Fargo Center instead of the on-campus Liacouras Center) gets the treatment after playing at Cameron last year. (For whatever it's worth, Duke also draws a league road game vs. Georgia Tech, which is playing at Phillips Arena this season because of renovations on the former Alexander Coliseum. Location of this season's ACC Tournament? Phillips Arena. Small break for the Devils over UNC, which hosts the Jackets.)
It's hard to get that mad at the Orange. They're actually playing a true road game at NC State and it's not their fault the preseason NIT field is horrible. That said, they usually bring in a better set of mid-majors for their annual nonconference homestand. Just eyeballing the slate, there's only one team (Marshall) that should remotely threaten this Orange team in the Dome.
The possible Mountain West favorite wins the award for the season's most baffling schedule. There are solid road games at Wisconsin, Illinois and Wichita State, plus a game with USC and a shot at a UNC matchup at Orleans Arena a couple miles from campus. Those are all good. Then you take a look at the rest of the schedule ...
-- Two non-DIs, one of which doubles as a national landmark (Cal State San Marcos and Grand Canyon)
-- One State that's not a state (Morgan State)
-- One punctuation mark (Louisiana-Monroe)
-- One in-state directional modifier (Central Arkansas)
-- True road games at UC Santa Barbara, Hawaii and Cal State Bakersfield (what?)
With that, you now know the secret to saving yourself hundreds of hours of fruitless college hoops spectating this season. It's all in the names. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get ready for Baylor at Northwestern. Winner gets a golden hyphen.