Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cincinnati and their mediocre scheduling

Cincinnati was one of the last teams in the country to lose a game in 2010-2011.

It took until January 9th, when the Bearcats took a trip to Philly to play Villanova, for Mick Cronin's club to lose a game. And while Cincinnati did, eventually, earn a seven seed in the Big East Tournament and a six seed in the NCAA Tournament, that undefeated streak was more the result of a lackluster non-conference schedule that the Bearcats being a powerhouse last year.

According to Kenpom, Cincinnati played the 327th best non-conference schedule last season. Not all of that is Cronin's fault, mind you. He couldn't have predicted that both Dayton and Oklahoma were going to be way down. But regardless of fault, the fact of the matter is that the Bearcats only played one quality team outside of the Big East, and that was Xavier, their crosstown rival. If it wasn't for a very strong Big East and a down year across college hoops, the Bearcats would have been in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament despite winning 25 games.

(Ed. Note: Is there a coach that has a more entertaining series of pissed-off pictures? Seriously, Google image Mick Cronin. That little man can sure get riled up.)

There may be more at work here than Cronin simply not wanting to schedule quality competition. Andy Katz explains:

Mick Cronin makes a good point in the difficulties of getting into the elite tournaments as a Big East team. Tournaments are not allowed to take two teams from a conference, and a team can return to a tournament on a four-year cycle.
Its an interesting point to make.

There are a limited number of elite preseason tournaments. Some -- the CBE Classic, the Legends Classic, the Preseason NIT, the Coaches vs. Cancer -- are essentially four team tournaments. Of the six or seven other tournaments, only two or three a year end up having truly quality competition throughout. As a member of the Big East -- a conference that is also home to teams like UConn, Georgetown, Villanova, Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville, Notre Dame, St. John's, and West Virginia -- and with those tournaments only needing to wait four years to bring back one of the Big East's big boys, the Bearcats end up in a less-than-desirable situation.

They don't get those neutral court games against top 25 teams.

And we all know how difficult it can be to convince some of those powerhouse programs to leave their home state in November or December.

The Bearcats end up in a bind. They have their built in rivalry game with Xavier, who is consistently a top 25 program, but after that, Cincinnati is going to struggle to build a competitive non-conference schedule. They did manage to schedule home-and-homes with Georgia and Oklahoma, but those would be much more impressive games in football than they are in hoops.

Cronin and Cincinnati are not without fault, but when criticizing the Bearcat's non-conference scheduling, keep in mind that its not necessarily a result of the program wanting to avoid paying competitive non-conference competition.


Anonymous said...

As a UC fan, there are multiple things in play here:

1.) As you mentioned, it is very difficult to get into preseason tournaments from the Big East. You already laid that out well, but those are one of the best ways to strengthen your NCSOS and unfortunately UC didn't have that opportunity last year and won't again this year.

2.) This is probably the most hindering aspect: The way the administration handled the departure of Bob Huggins absolutely destroyed the foundation of the basketball program. Not only did we lose a lot of fans for good, we had no players left and a terrible team for a couple of years. This destroyed our reputation on a national level as well as killing the program's finances.

The lack of reputation of the program makes it very difficult to schedule marquee games for national television. Last year UC was originally scheduled to play Duke in the Medowlands but when Lance Stephenson went pro, ESPN opted to change the game to a rematch of the previous year's title game between Butler and Duke. ESPN then gave us Oklahoma instead. Not nearly the same.

The lack of finances makes impossible to schedule buy games against decent teams. Instead, we are paying absolutely terrible teams to play us in Cincinnati because that is all we can afford. And we actually have scheduled 2 for 1s against teams like Wright St, Miami and Toledo to save money, which should show just how desperate the athletic department is.

Hopefully now that the program is finally back on solid ground, they can increase their revenue which will allow the program to increase its budget and up its national profile.

But even with the poor NCSOS, UC's overall SOS was 58 and their KenPom rating was 23. The idea that they could have ever been in danger of missing the tournament is a huge if and quite frankly laughable.

greyCat said...

Hearing "It is difficult to get into preseason tournaments from the Big East..." is a shock to me. Most of the invitationals look for power conference teams, and Cincinnati aside, I have never heard another Big East team cite "availability" as a problem. Given the number of exotic location tournaments and Campus/Neutral Site events listed at the Blogging the Brackets' Early Season Events page, that reason seems even less credible. The Puerto Rico Tip-Off is supposed to be hosted by the Big East Conference, yet this season the conference has no "host" team in the field. Among the teams in the Tip-Off field, Alabama, Maryland and Purdue, along with non-BCS schools Wichita State and Temple -- a very credible field. Instead Cincinnati is hosting an event named "Global Sports Classic" for a field that includes Alabama State, Jacksonville State, Marshall and Northwestern State.