Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Quick Post: On the 2014-15 Men's Basketball Non-Conference Schedule

Last week, CU finalized the 2014-15 men's basketball non-conference schedule.  On the docket for the rest of 2014 is the following:
  • Drexel - 11/14 - Boulder
  • Auburn - 11/17 - Boulder - part of ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon
  • @Wyoming - 11/22 - Laramie, WY
  • Air Force - 11/25 - Boulder
  • Lipscomb - 11/30 - Boulder
  • San Francisco - 12/3 - Boulder
  • @Georgia - 12/7 - Athens, GA
  • CSU - 12/10 - Boulder
  • Northern Colorado - 12/13 - Boulder
  • Diamond Head Classic - 12/22, 23, 25 - Honolulu, HI
In addition, the bracket for the Diamond Head Classic was also announced.  CU will start off against perennial Big East also-ran DePaul before tackling the winner/loser of Ohio and George Washington.  The final round matchup would be against someone from the pool of Hawai'i, Loyola Marymount, Nebraska, and Wichita St, with either the Huskers or Shockers being the most likely.

Taking a step back, there's not much here to get immediately excited about. The Tip-Off Marathon game against Auburn should be fun (if you can manage to stay up that late), the CSU game is in Boulder, and the Hawai'i tournament will make for exciting holiday viewing.  After that, however, there are few names to entice the uninitiated.  It's not all that big of a surprise; after the last few years of seeing titans like Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor on the docket, a schedule devoid of 'big' name opponents is destined to underwhelm.

While the easy response is to say that Coach Boyle took a step backwards in his scheduling exploits, after some additional consideration, I don't necessarily see that as the case.  Certainly, there are fewer dream matchups on the slate, but we have to remember that the 2014-15 Buffs will still be trending young, and that playing the Jayhawks and Cowboys of the world in the opening weeks of the season isn't an optimal situation with an unsettled point guard spot.

Even further than that, though, Coach Boyle has put the team in a position of not only boosting his young team's confidence in November and December, but banking some decent RPI prizes, as well.  Only three teams on this schedule featured in the RPI 200+ last season (AF, Lipscomb, and UNC).  Two of those games are local-interest tilts, and the other is pure schedule filler to keep the team in rhythm - a necessary evil, and not uncommon. While names like Drexel, San Francisco, Georgia, and the GW/Ohio possibilities in Honolulu might not lift many skirts, they are solid teams who have decent shots of re-appearing in the RPI top-100.  If Auburn can manage to do anything in the first year under Bruce Pearl, the profile only gets better.

Compare that to other non-conference schedules of the recent past, and this schedule is not nearly as bad as the doom-and-gloom set (including myself) initially implied. Pay particular attention to the 2008-09 schedule - the last time the Buffs appeared in the Diamond Head Classic. That season, CU played @ Stanford before playing... no one else of any value.  All-mighty Kenpom figured that the Buffs had the 314th best non-con schedule that year, including nine teams who finished in the RPI 200+. That level of competition was typical for pre-Boyle Colorado basketball, and, while it brought the program a few extra wins, did little to prepare the team for conference play.

That will not be the case this year. While the 2014-15 non-con schedule is not the seductive set of the last few years, it is not a return to the scheduling failures of the 2000s.  The schedule will allow the freshmen and sophomores to grab some wins and develop against worthy opponents, while not crippling their shot at a fourth consecutive Tournament appearance.

Remember, CU is not stressing home ticket sales anymore, and this team is built more for development than headline grabbing rankings.  In fact, considering few want to play the Buffs in Boulder anymore, it's probably the best BuffNation could ask for.

Grain of salt: while the schedule isn't as bad as initially assumed, still can't afford a glut of mistakes before Winter Break.  While one loss wouldn't be crippling, depending on the opponent, multiple losses would be, starting the inevitable bubble conversations out on the wrong foot.  As always, it'll be up to the players to make good on the plan in place.

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