Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Predicting the 2015-16 Non-Conference Schedule

These have been 11 of the longest days ever waiting between Hoiball experiences.  Hoiball is a drug and I am going through withdrawals.  With that being said as this season's non-conference season winds down I wanted to take a look at next years schedule.  I will assume ISU plays 12 non-conference games.  They can play 13 but they always choose to play 12.  I'm not sure why but my guess would be schedule flexibility.  If a quality opponent needs a game late in the scheduling process ISU has some room to work with.  Also, if the 13th game would just be a "buy game" why risk the loss?  Maybe I will have to call in next week and ask.  Anyways, here we go.

Guaranteed Games

vs 2 of (Chicago State, Alabama State, Chatanooga, Jacksonville State) *Emerald Coast Classic*
vs Virginia Tech (in Fla) *Emerald Coast Classic*
vs Illinois/UAB (in Fla) *Emerald Coast Classic*
vs Iowa
vs UNI (At Wells Fargo)
Big 12/SEC Challenge (AWAY, most likely)

That is 7 of 12 games already decided.  My guess is ISU goes on the road and plays Arkansas for the Big 12/SEC Challenge although it would be nice to get the chance at UK, but I'd rather wait to have them come to Hilton.

The Rest of the Games

It is important to note that there are really only two "buy games" from the list above and both of those come as part of the Emerald Coast Classic.  At least three of these five games will be against lower quality opponents.  Some names that make sense based on past schedules (Southern, UMKC, Northern Illinois, Nebraska-Omaha) might be included again or Fred may look elsewhere.  Anyway, expect AT LEAST three of the remaining five games to be these types of games played at Hilton.

Fans are clamoring for better non-conference opponents and I think that is easier said than done.  Like you see above, 7 of the 12 games are already accounted for.  One of the most important parts of non-conference schedules is keeping losses off the resume.  People can say all they want about a team going 7-5 in non-conference being tested and ready for conference play.  The truth is they will need to be ready because they are now on the bubble.  On the other side of that, Iowa State just can't go out and schedule Duke and North Carolina.  Not yet, anyway.  So what do I see happening?  Something like the following.

I've heard a lot of smoke about a possible Iowa State vs Minnesota series starting up.  I think this would be a great series for both parties.  I think Iowa State owes Minnesota a return trip via a scrimmage so I don't know if this will happen next year, but it might.  I could also see Iowa State scheduling a rematch with South Carolina.  Maybe at the Sprint Center in Kansas City?  That would make a lot of sense.  Here is how I see it going for the "other 5" games.

vs Nebraska-Omaha
vs Southern
vs Toledo
vs Minnesota
vs South Carolina (at Sprint Center)

That would give them a total of 7 home games, 4 neutral games and 1 true road game, which is exactly what they had this year.

Down the Road

Every fan would like to see their team get a crack at the Duke's, Kentucky's and Carolina's of the world every year.  It just doesn't happen like that.  A lot of the blue bloods do like to schedule each other in the non-conference and those teams need "buy-games" too believe it or not.  Here are some games I'd like to see that also are realistic and make a little bit of sense.

UConn--Hoiberg and Ollie are still pretty close I've heard from their playing days in the NBA.  It would be a quality opponent for each and for UConn, it would help balance that awful AAC schedule.

Washington- As long as TJ Otzelberger is there, this series makes a little bit of sense.  I don't see this being a home and home, but rather a neutral-neutral.  Iowa State might have to use Wells Fargo or the Sprint Center as a chance to lure some bigger names.

SMU- Hoiberg has credited a lot of his coaching pedigree to Larry Brown.  I'm sure Larry would be on board, but would Fred?  SMU presents a lot of risk as a quality opponent, but they lack the name recognition.

Non-Conference Critique

A lot of the Cyclone Fanatic brethren has clamored for more high quality games in the non-conference.  Would it be more entertaining for us fans?  You bet.  Is it best for the program?  I'm not sure it is.  While other teams have piled up the losses ISU has gone a combined 21-1 in their last 22 non-conference games.  This has allowed them to enter the Top 10 in each of the past two seasons at the beginning of conference play.  Rankings are important.  They don't affect what happens on the court, but they matter in the overall image of a program.

"But, these games won't be on television"-Anonymous.  Iowa State had games against Georgia State and UMKC nationally televised on the ESPN Networks this season.  People want more Hoiball, and people are getting more Hoiball.  Only four of the 12 non-conference games were on Cyclones.Tv this season.  That is a pretty solid rate.  We need to remember it is important for Cyclones.Tv to get some content as well.

When looking at future non-conference schedules take into account the Iowa, UNI/Drake, SEC Challenge and holiday tournaments before giving Fred a hard time about scheduling.  If ISU lands is one of these big 8-team events, that is six games already against fairly high competition before walking into a brutal 18 game conference season.

That's all I have for now.  Lets hope the Cyclones finish off this year's non-conference slate at 11-1 and do some work during the conference season.  Happy New Year!

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about this recently too. The only differences between this year and last were the games vs Michigan and at BYU, both of which were 2 game series. You can't schedule those games if you can't get teams to agree to them.

    They seem to have a relationship with the "buy" game teams, as you said above. A basketball program like
    Kansas has a lot more money to "buy" better schools. Which keeps their opponents out of the 200s and 300s.

    Iowa State will get better opponents as they get into better tournaments. They'll get matched up with better opponents through the SEC series. Maybe they add one more quality opponent. I think Hoiberg likes having these games to tinker with the lineups and get minutes for some of the guys on the bench.

    The path to a 1 seed is win the Big 12 regular season. And I don't think ISU makes a 1 seed without winning the Big 12 so the non-conference SOS doesn't really matter either way.