Scheduling is a very important aspect to the success of a NCAA basketball program. You can gain major experience if you play tougher opponents early in the season. According to CBS Sports, last year the Dons owned the 6th toughest schedule in the WCC with a rating of 114. During this 2012-2013 schedule, the Dons played against five NCAA Tournament teams including Montana, Ole Miss, San Diego State, and of course St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.
Last week, multiple teams announced their 2013-2014 Men’s Basketball Schedule. Other teams, including Gonzaga, decided to release information on key non-conference games to excite their fan base. In 2012, the Dons started announcing their upcoming schedule during the first week of July. These announcements included a neutral-site Opening Night against Stanford University and a non-conference game versus the St. John’s University from the Big East Conference. With the first week of July now upon us, let’s take some time to review the potential schedule for 2013-2014.
How to Build the Dons 2013-2014 Schedule
The way the Dons build a schedule has been pretty consistent for the last few years. Below are key parts to the schedule and what we might expect once the schedule is released.
The Green & Gold usually hold at least one exhibition game in early November. Last year, USF played San Francisco State University Gators and the UNC Pembroke Braves. For exhibition games act as a warm-up game to find your bearings, I have no problem playing D-2 or NAIA school. Asfans, we can only hope that the SFSU game once again becomes a common exhibition game and a tradition. It brings different SF residents to the Hilltop and fills out War Memorial Gym nicely.
One thing we must understand about MBB scheduling is the man behind the curtain. Athletic Director Scott Sidwell has changed how his program expects to perform. Since he started on the job in 2011, his program has successfully built hype around “Opening Night” as an event. In 2011, USF’s “Opening Act” was the Hilltop Challenge. The Dons started with their very own three game round-robin at home. Most recently, he pulled off a neutral site game in Oracle Arena against the Stanford Cardinal to kick off the 2012-2013 campaign. This guy clearly wants his teams to play the highest competition out there, but still has some showmanship while doing it.
Entering his third season at the helm of the USF program, fans can only be excited about the possibilities. The Opening Night announcement almost feels like the months of anticipation before the Dark Knight Rises last year. Many questioned how Christopher Nolan was really going to top Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The question on fans minds now is: “How is USF going to top those last two Opening Nights?”
Mentioned above, the Hilltop Challenge is a round-robin style tournament hosted on at War Memorial Gym. It began in 2010 and seemed to lose most of its pop last year. Only three total teams participated in 2012’s two day, three game event. During that event, USF only played one game against the Colombia University Lions. Hopefully, the Hilltop Challenge can return to a three-day format to allow four total teams to participate.
2012-2013 Kick Back Home Schedule
D-1 schools have taken a two-year approach to scheduling. Team A hosts Team B in Year 1. In turn, Team A will travel to Team B in Year 2. For example, during the 2011 – 2012 season, USF traveled to College of the Holy Cross on the east coast for a non-conference game. However, last year the Holy Cross Crusaders returned the favor and played at the Hilltop. Got it? Good.
In 2012, USF played in Washington D.C. versus the American University Eagles and in Reno, NV versus the University of Nevada Wolfpack. With the above formula in mind, we can assume the Dons should be slated to host American University and University of Nevada this upcoming season.
Dons Travel to the East Coast
In 2012, the Dons hosted the St. John’s Red Storm in early December. Now it’s the Dons turn to travel across the country. Playing at St. John’s also means the Dons may get to play in Madison Square Garden. The Red Storm play home games at the Garden or at Carnesecca Arena in Queens. As fans, we can only speculate if USF decides to make the east coast road trip a two team affair.
On a side note, the Dons played the Northern Kentucky University Norse last year after the WCC Tournament. It is yet to be determined if they have to travel to Highland Heights, KY to fulfill a scheduling agreement. The Norse have already released their 2013-2014 schedule. The USD Toreros are on that schedule, but the Dons are not listed.
The D-2 Teams
Division 2 and NAIA teams on the schedule frustrate fans. Some people consider D-2 teams on your schedule a cheap way to rack up wins. Never the less, there are going to be holes to fill during non-conference and games should be played. Yes, there is absolutely no benefit to the Dons if they win games over a D-2 opponent. Moreover, there is a huge disadvantage if they lose. The only way to approach these games is as a must-win exhibition game. One game against a local D-2 opponent is fine. Any more D-2 games seems like it would be pushing it too far.
The Big Flashy Game
This is simple. The meat of the non-conference schedule lives here. This is the game that brings all the fans to the stands. This is the big test game that you circle on your calendar months in advance. There always seems to be one big fish in the schedule. Previous teams include Texas Tech, Ohio State, St. Johns, Colorado. Dons fans can only hope the Dons can pull off the W.
The Neutral Site Tournament
The Dons seem to consistently play in a non-conference tournament. Here is a list of USF’s previous appearances:
2012: Hawaiian Airlines Diamondhead Classic, HI; 2011: Carrs/Safeway Great Alaskan Shootout, AK; 2010: Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, NV; 2009: Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, NV; 2007: 2K Sports College Hoops Classic (benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer), OK; 2006: 43rd Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic, HI
Tournament experience is great for the student-athletes and invaluable later in the year. Secondly, you may play an opponent you regular would not schedule during the season. Currently, the Green & Gold are not scheduled to play in a non-conference tourney. Let’s hope the Dons can find a tournament to participate in so that valuable experience may be gained.
West Coast Conference Play – University of the Pacific Tigers Effect
The WCC usually releases the conference schedule in early August. Until then, the entire 2013-2014 schedule will not be released. As we all know now, beginning yesterday, University of the Pacific is now officially the 10th WCC school in the conference. This in turn means that there will be two more conference games than usual on the conference slate.
Post WCC Tourney Game / Senior Night
Last year, the Dons picked up a game after the WCC Tournament had concluded, but before Selection Sunday. This is a practice implemented by a few schools including St. Mary’s and Gonzaga. I like this idea because it gives the fans one last home good-bye to any exiting seniors. This academic year, student-athletes Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson will be graduating from the Hilltop.
I can merely speculate on how things will look once the schedule is released. Listed dates are also just speculation from how current WCC dates are aligned.Once released, this is how I believe the schedule may look:
San Francisco State (Exhibition)
at St. John’s
at [East Coast School]
Hilltop Challenge (4 teams)**
Neutral Site Tournament
D-2 Game (December 28th)
WCC Play Begins (January 1st – March 1st)
WCC Tourney (March 6th – 11th)
Senior Night Game (March 13th)
Selection Sunday (March 16th)
**”Big Flashy Game” during the Hilltop Challenge