An Open Letter To Cincinnati: Please Stop Scheduling Kennesaw State

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 1st, 2013

Dear Mr. Babcock and Mr. Cronin,

Without knowing enough about the nuances that go into filling out a full non-conference schedule for your men’s basketball team, I do not envy that part of your job. I cannot imagine all the different factors that need to be taken into consideration and how much tireless negotiation goes on behind the scenes to make sure the schedule is set long in advance. I say all of this to acknowledge the fact that this part of your jobs can’t be easy; in fact, I bet it is a rather arduous and stressful process. That said, you took these jobs knowing full well it would be a part of your responsibilities and it is also your responsibility to put your basketball team in the best position to succeed while making sure you don’t break the bank to do so.

Nothing Says Statement Win Quite Like Beating Mississippi Valley State By 42.

Nothing Says Statement Win Quite Like Beating Mississippi Valley State By 42.

You guys aren’t oblivious. You must be able to recognize the pattern that has emerged in recent years. What was a woeful program in 2007 had become a consistent 20-game winner by 2011. In the last three seasons, the program has won more than 20 games every year, and yet every year, when March rolls around, you and your fans find yourselves sweating out Selection Sunday because the team finds itself on the bubble again. It doesn’t take a basketball expert to figure out why that is. It is because the strength of the program’s non-conference schedule has consistently ranked amongst the worst in the country and your end-of-season RPI inevitably suffers because of it.

We know you read KenPom, so both of you can plainly see  what we can — that the strength of your non-conference schedule has been a running joke for the past five seasons. From 2009 to 2013 it has ranked 236th, 166th, 327th, 274th, and 291st, respectively. This is not how you build an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume and one could easily make the argument that it is not how you prepare your team for a brutal conference schedule either.

Disappointingly, it doesn’t seem like you picked up on this trend in time for this season. New Mexico and Pittsburgh should be stiff tests and are potentially resume-building wins, but Xavier and North Carolina State appear to be average teams at best and scheduling home games against North Carolina Central, UMass-Lowell, Kennesaw State, and Chicago State should be outlawed, and quickly. Not only do you gain absolutely nothing from beating these teams, no matter how badly you beat them, but you are also probably paying them a tidy sum to come play you and remember what happened when you lost to Presbyterian in 2012? It nearly undid all of the impressive work the team did in conference that season.

Now it’s not your fault that crosstown rival Xavier has made a slow drop to mediocrity in the past few seasons and that opponents from marquee conferences haven’t lived up to expectations in seasons in which you play them, but it’s your job to plan contingencies for these kinds of types of situations. You can’t just sit on your hands while the best non-conference opponents stop being quality wins, you have to go out and schedule other decent opponents to pick up the slack.

No Offense to UMass-Lowell But They're an RPI Killer

No Offense to UMass-Lowell But They’re an RPI Killer

Also, you both know plenty about basketball, especially you Mr. Cronin. Maybe you can tell me what it is your players get out of thrashing a team like UMass-Lowell then? Maybe some bench players get burn they wouldn’t otherwise and maybe some of the newcomers get a chance to adapt to the system and build confidence. But those benefits pale in comparison to the lack of experience against quality competition that will possibly become a problem when you start playing conference foes. The newly formed AAC has a lot of mediocre teams, teams that your program has the talent and ability to beat, if they are prepared. But running through a schedule of patsies and creampuffs won’t prepare you for anything; it may even give your team a false sense of confidence and leave them blissfully unaware of just how intense and physical the games will get once the New Year begins.

In college basketball, not all wins are created equally. Beating New Mexico at The Pit will be the type of win that counts for a lot when the committee starts evaluating your resume, you don’t want the value of that win to be nullified by the fact that you played five of the worst 50 Division I teams in the country, but that is exactly what will happen. You are leaving yourselves with very little be gained and a whole lot to be lost. So by all means,  keep scheduling a soft non-conference schedule and artificially inflating your win total, just don’t start complaining in March when you find yourselves sweating out another Selection Sunday because you are on the bubble once again.

mlemaire (229 Posts)


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7 Responses to “An Open Letter To Cincinnati: Please Stop Scheduling Kennesaw State”

  1. Jack says:

    They were a 6 seed two of the past three seasons…how exactly does that equate to “sweating out” selection sunday?

  2. Jack says:

    still waiting for your response…

  3. Mike says:

    Fair enough Jack, maybe sweating out isnt the right turn of phrase. But its hard to deny that Cincinnati’s soft scheduling has hurt its resume in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Committee.

  4. Jack says:

    I agree 100% with that assertion that the non-conf schedule has hurt them in in regards to seeding. However, even last year as a 10 seed there were 9 at-large teams below them on the S curve, so they weren’t even sweating by those standards last year either. Therefore, they were never sweating out selection sunday any of the three years. I just don’t think its fair to publish something saying they are “sweating it out” and treating them like they are VT circle 2008-2011 when in none of those years were they ever close to not making the tournament.

  5. D.E. says:

    “Xavier’s slow descent into mediocrity” – C’mon – they missed the tournament one year. And if you’d bother to scroll down those kenpom rankings for 2014 you’ll notice X w/pre-season ranking of 57 – hardly slumming it with the likes of W Michigan, Wyoming & Wofford.

  6. mlemaire says:

    Jack,

    Alright, you win, your point is a good one. They are certainly not comparable to Virginia Tech in that sense. I think my larger point still stands but I will watch the language I use more carefully.

    D.E.,

    No one said they should be compared to the teams you mentioned above, but they were not great last year and they don’t look like they will be a tournament team this year, which in my book counts as mediocre. I am not saying they can’t turn it around quickly or that they have gone from “good” to “terrible” in a short period of time. It’s why I said “slow” descent.

  7. Jack says:

    Mike,

    Thanks for your candid response and I appreciate your willingness to admit the phrasing was extreme. As a lifelong resident of the Northeast and huge Big East fan (grew up on the 80s teams), I always thought Cincy was very under respected nationally the past 5 or so years. Mick Cronin inherited as bad of a situation as any in recent memory- leftover academic violations from Andy Kennedy, 1 scholarship player, followed a legend, and had to rebuild in one of the strongest conferences ever. He rebuilt Cincy to respectability and the top of that conference- a feat past powers like Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence, DePaul all could never accomplish consistently.

    They were were one of the toughest outs in that conference for a team the old guard- Pitt, UConn, Georgetown, Cuse hated playing. From that respect, I can understand why its hard for them to get marquee opponents- because what is their to win for a powerhouse like OSU, MSU, UNC, etc? 1) you are expected to beat them, and 2) they likely play harder and tougher than you do 3) they slowed games down into Jon Rothstein’s “rock fights” and played a very difficult style if you liked to push the ball. Basically, nothing to gain for a powerhouse. I do agree though, their non-conf schedule has cost them and I think at the very least they need to schedule better “buy” games against directional schools. More teams like North Carolina Central who I believe I saw they play tonight won their conference the year prior.

    I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts.

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