Small Conference Preview: Oh That WAC-ky WAC

With the official start of college basketball season now exactly two weeks away (and as was previously noted, scrimmages and exhibition games already beginning), it is time to start taking a look at one of my favorite subject – the small (sometimes known as Mid-Major) conferences.  Personally, I think there is a distinction to be made between the leagues that are generally called Mid-Major and the ones I classify as Small conferences.  The Mid-Majors are conferences that, in my book, annually have one or two teams that are in the at-large bid discussions, such as the Horizon League, the West Coast Conference, and the Colonial.  The true “Small conferences” are ones that may have an at-large caliber team once every decade or so.  These are leagues like the MEAC, Summit, Northeast, SWAC, and the Great West.

One league that I would have never put in the group of true small conferences before now is the WAC.  At one point in time, the WAC was one of the most powerful conference out there.  Teams such as Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Utah, UNLV and more have all spent time as member of the WAC.  It have existed since 1962 and had a great history.  Unfortunately, that is all coming to an end – which is why I am now officially welcoming the WAC to the Small Conference list.

The WAC will have ten members this season:  Utah State, Idaho, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Louisiana Tech all return from last season.  Texas State, Texas-Arlington, and Texas-San Antonio are joining from the Southland, while Denver moves over from the Sun Belt and Seattle comes in from the rank of Independents.  While on paper that is not a bad collection of teams, it is also very temporary.  Texas State and Texas-Arlingon will be right back out again next season, moving to the Sun Belt, while Texas-San Antonio follows suit and heads to Conference USA.  Louisiana Tech is also off to Conference USA, while Utah State and San Jose State will be going to the Mountain West.  That will leave only four members to return next season: Idaho, New Mexico State, Denver and Seattle.  To make matters worse, Idaho is heading to the Big Sky in 2014.

NCAA rules provide that in order to maintain your automatic bid, a conference must have at least seven members.  If a conference falls below the minimum number of members, it has a two year grace period to get back up to 7, or the bid is gone.  The continuity of membership requirement has been eliminated, which means technically it could be an entire new batch of 7 teams.  The WAC is attempting to survive and has added two new members beginning next season: Utah Valley from the Great West and Cal State-Bakersfield which is currently an Independent.  This would give the WAC six teams next season and five in 2014 — meaning that if they do nothing else, 2014 will be their final grace period year and then their bid would be gone.

There do remain a few limited options for the WAC to expand and get back up to 7 members.  By taking Utah Valley from the Great West, that conference is down to only Texas-Pan American, Chicago State and NJIT.  While NJIT makes no geographic sense whatsoever, UTPA and Chicago State could be enough to get them to the membership numbers they need.  UTPA recently attempted to apply to join the Southland conference but was turned down, while Chicago State was booted out of the Summit League a few years ago.  It is safe to say both would probably jump at the chance to join an automatic bid conference.  NJIT is probably more likely to find their way into an East Coast conference, perhaps benefiting from the fallout of realignment going on right now between the A-10, Colonial, Southern, and similar leagues.

One other option for the WAC is UC-San Diego.  This Division II school has been talking about moving up to D1 for several years now.  New NCAA rules require a team to have a commitment from a conference for membership before it can move up.  UC-San Diego was hoping for an invite from the Big West, but that does not appear to be coming now as the Big West has been able to add more notable schools such as Hawaii, Boise State and San Diego State.

As for the 2012-13 campaign (aka the final season that the WAC has any teams in it that people recognize), the league does not appear to be anything more than a single bid conference this season.  Utah State is the perennial power in the league and should be at the top of the standings.  Joining them in the battle for the top spot will be Joe Scott’s Denver Pioneers, who bring their Princeton-style offense to the WAC and possibly the league’s best player in Chris Udofia.  New Mexico State won  the automatic bid last season and may be a contender this year.  The only other team to keep an eye on is Idaho, who has a legitimate big man in Kyle Barone — although he was recently suspended indefinitely for “violation of team rules”, and the Vandals will not contend without him.

College Basketball Is Here!!!!

Okay, I was going to wait until tomorrow to start our season long thread because tomorrow is the first day that a college basketball game is actually on TV. It’s an exhibition game, of course. BYU is playing….someone, but technically it is college basketball. It is college basketball that doesn’t count, but it is college basketball.

There are two closed scrimmages today, though. William & Mary is taking on Longwood, and Hampton is visiting VMI. Again, it is technically college basketball. It is college basketball that does not count, and it is college basketball between teams that aren’t very good, and it is college basketball that no one is allowed to watch, but it is college basketball, and it does begin today.

So, on that note, let me bid everyone…


There are some interesting closed scrimmages that I really wish we could see as regular season games. This could be a topic on our next/first podcast this Sunday. Closed scrimmages that we wish we could see during the regular season…..

This Saturday…

-VCU goes to Virginia. Those are two likely tournament caliber teams that are in the same state. Too bad they don’t face off during the year.

-Davidson goes to Texas on Saturday. Again, that would be another good game between two likely tournament caliber teams.

-Xavier is at West Virginia. In most years that would be interesting, but it’s a good thing for Xavier that it’s closed and no one will be allowed to see how bad they are.

-Colorado visits SMU in what will be the first game of any kind that Larry Brown coaches in.

-Middle Tennessee visits Murray State. If these two were to face each otehr during the year, it would be one of their better OOC games.

On Sunday….

-North Carolina is at Georgetown. These are two good programs that have a history with one another.

-Miami, FL visits South Florida in what looks like may be a bubble-licious matchup.

-Marquette goes to Illinois State, who could make some noise in the Missouri Valley this year

-Tim Miles takes Nebraska to Iowa State for what was once upon a time a conference game. Tim Miles would do better to leave his team behind and just go himself.

-Creighton goes to Iowa. The two actually met last year in a regular season game. Creighton looks to be a solid NCAA team, and Iowa is hoping to get into the picture.


Analyzing the Most Over-Analyzed, and Least Important Poll of the Season…The Preseason Top 25

-Okay, the one thing that you need to know about any preseason poll is that it is wrong. People say we shouldn’t even have preseason polls. I like the polls because it does give us some frame of reference as a starting point, and it gives us something to talk about as our first taste of college basketball. They’re wrong, though. They’re grossly inaccurate. It will go through metamorphosis throughout the year as more games are played and become a more accurate indicator of who is good, but for now, it is way off.

To illustrate this, let’s look at some of last year’s preseason poll…

-Connecticut started off at #4, and ended up very close to the bubble.

-Vanderbilt was #7. They fell way out of the rankings, and although they did win the SEC Tournament and have a good year, they were pretty far outside the top ten.

-Memphis was ranked #9. I believe they finished the year #9, but that was their seed in the NCAA Tournament, not their ranking.

-Pittsburgh was #11 and missed the NCAAs entirely

-Xavier was #15, and was barely inside the bubble. They did go to the Sweet Sixteen, but they were also the beneficiaries of Lehigh’s upset over Duke.

-Arizona was #16 and missed the tournament entirely.

-Alabama was #17 and was way outside the rankings by the end, and for a time looked as though they would miss the dance.

-Texas A&M was #19. I don’t believe they were in any postseason tournament.

-Same with #20 UCLA.

-#24 California made the tournament, if you count the play-in games as making the tournament.

-#25 Missouri was very close to a #1 seed by the end.

Of the 25 teams ranked in preseason top 25 last year, 11 of them were way off the mark.

-On the flip side, Murray State, who got as high as #7 in the rankings, did not receive a single preseason vote. In fact, if anyone had voted for them they would have probably been sent to a special home someplace. Imagine if that same voter would have also not had UConn in his/her preseason top ten. They would have been laughed out of the room, yet by the end of the season, Murray was top Ten and UConn was nowhere to be found. Creighton, Wichita State, San Diego State and UNLV were also nowhere to be found in last year’s preseason poll.

So, in case I haven’t illustrated my point, I like the poll, but it is wrong. I don’t exactly know in what ways it is wrong. None of us do. That’s part of the fun. I just know that it is.

-I think Louisville and Indiana are the logical top two. Personally, I think Louisville is ahead of them, but again, that’s simply based on speculation without having seen any games. But, they won the Big East Tournament, earned a better seed in the NCAA Tournament, went further in the NCAA Tournament, and return a great deal of their contributing players. If they can stay healthy, they should be a national championship contender.

-Indiana was another team that was nowhere to be found in last year’s preseason poll, but ended up being a solid Sweet Sixteen caliber team. This year, many are expecting that they could be a Final Four caliber team with all they have coming back, including Cody Zeller, who is a National Player of the Year Contender. Everyone is familiar with the recent scandals that set back IU and how they only won five games in Tom Crean’s first year. Despite that though, last year was just the second time Indiana had reached the Sweet Sixteen since 1994, so the program is at a level now that they have not been at in quite some time.

-Ohio State checks in at #4 and Michigan is behind them at #5. For those of you scoring at home, that’s three Big Ten teams in the top five. As they play each other and beat each other, surely someone will get knocked down. I really do like this Ohio State team, though. As I’m sure will be discussed in our first preseason podcast, they will not miss a step defensively.

-NC State is #6, largely because of their last four games last year. I don’t see them ending up anywhere near that high. There are three big criteria to preseason polls: how a team finished the previous year, how much experience they have coming back, and what they’ve added. NC State made the Sweet Sixteen and has a ton of talent coming back, so they score very high in those two criteria. They BARELY got into the dance, though. I think this is a good NC State team. I just don’t think they’re the #6th best team. Much of that ranking is based on two NCAA Tournament wins, and not last season as a whole. I’m sure this will be addressed in our preseason podcast.

-Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Syracuse and Florida are the other five teams in the top ten. No surprise that those teams are getting those types of votes. I don’t expect Kentucky to end up at #3, which is where they are starting. They basically reshuffle the deck every year and add new young talent. I just don’t think this year’s new young talent is anywhere close to last year’s new young talent.

-UCLA is #13. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m not certain that they’ll be as poor as they were a year ago. I’m just equally as uncertain that they’re a top fifteen caliber team.

-Creighton checks in at #15. I actually believe that is about right. They have a big game against Wisconsin early in the year, which should tell us a lot about them.

-Memphis comes in at #16. They were playing great ball at the end of the season, but bowed out of the NCAA Tournament early. This is the second year in a row they’ve begun the season ranked high. I keep thinking they’re going to be as good as their preseason ranking, but I’m at a point now to where I’ll have to see it to believe it.

-#19 UNLV is interesting. I actually really like this team and think they may end up ranked better than this.

-Florida State at #24 is another team that I really like. They have all kinds of size, and while the ACC is tough, it isn’t full of world-beaters like the Big Ten is this year, so they should rack up more than their share of wins. They won the ACC Tournament and made the Sweet Sixteen a year ago, and have some pretty good talent coming in. They could end up being better than many expect.

-VCU is outside the rankings, but barely. I REALLY like this VCU team. They did have some problems with initial eligibility and that will set them back a little bit, but they still look very good with everyone that is coming back.

-Murray State is unranked, but at least they’re getting votes. The deal with them is that they don’t play hardly anyone. They’re in the Charleston Classic where they could face College of Charleston, Dayton or Baylor, and they are on the road at Dayton. That’s about it. As you all know, and as Murray State demonstrated last year (and as Utah State has demonstrated in the past), the most important thing a team needs to do in order to climb the rankings is to avoid losing. That shouldn’t be a problem for Murray State. They don’t play anyone. The question is how good are they really?? They return most of last year’s team and should be dangerous, but we won’t see them be truly tested.

-Davidson received no votes. I really like this Davidson team and think we’ll see them in the rankings before the year is over. They were good last year and return virtually everyone. Unlike Murray State, they will be tested, at least out of conference, and should be able to overwhelm the majority of their opponents in conference. As was pointed out earlier, many teams that are nowhere near the radar in the preseason end up being in the rankings before it’s over. I believe Davidson will be one of those teams.


Griggs News, Notes and Ramblings, 10/11/12


For those that don’t know, the Centenary Award, also known as the Golden Toilet Seat Award, is given out by Hoops HD to the team deemed to be the worst in the country. Here are some notes on some of this year’s likely frontrunners

-UMBC head coach Randy Monroe has resigned less than a week before the beginning of official practice. It wasn’t that long ago that Monroe had seemingly turned around a very unaccomplished program and guided them to a 24-9 record and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. He has now come full circle and taken the accomplished program that he built, and led them to just four wins a year ago. The reason for his resignation is not a head-scratcher, but the timing of it is. We’re less than a week away from practice. Why’d he wait so long??

-Binghamton, a national bottom-feeder and near Centenary Award winner from a year ago, has recently suspended two players indefinitely. Binghamton, like UMBC is in the America East Conference. Binghamton, like UMBC, is a Centenary Award frontrunner who nearly won the award last year before narrowly defeating…you guessed it…UMBC in the opening round of the America East Tournament. Also, Binghamton, like UMBC, was recently in the NCAA Tournament and appeared to be turning their program around before they threw it in reverse and hit the gas.



-Texas Southern has really outdone themselves. Most of the violations are related to football, but basketball has been affected as well and is not eligible for postseason play this year. Two years ago, Texas Southern went undefeated in SWAC Conference play, but lost in the conference tournament and did not make the NCAAs. Last year they weren’t quite as successful, but they were still a respectable 12-6 and advanced to the SWAC Championship game where they barely lost to Mississippi Valley State. Therefore, it was somewhat surprising when head coach Tony Harvey resigned back in July. It looked suspicious because when coaches either resign or get fired, it is generally right after the season. Well, I guess we now know why. The violations were extensive, but perhaps the most egregious one involving basketball was giving out more scholarships than what they were permitted to give out. Due to previous violations, the number of scholarships Texas Southern was allowed had been reduced from 13 down to 11. To get around this, they gave two basketball players football scholarships and claimed they were on the football team, and were merely walking on to basketball. The problem is, they weren’t. They reportedly did not participate in any events or activities that were related to the football team.

Mike Davis, former head coach at UAB and Indiana, will take over on an interim basis.



-This is old news, but it is worth mentioning. This is what we know.

-Head coach Billy Gillispie was hospitalized, reportedly due to high blood pressure.

-While in the hospital, the current players met with athletic department officials to assess and discuss the coaching methods and practices of one, Billy Gillispie.

-It was revealed that practices sometimes lasted as long as eight hours, which by NCAA rules is twice as long as they are permitted to last when classes were in session, and injured players were prevented from being treated by the trainers, and forced to continue practicing. This was just one example of how he was abusive toward his players.

-Days later, Billy Gillispie resigned due to “personal reasons.”

-Most people remember Billy Gillispie for his lack of success at Kentucky, and his multiple DUIs. That is rather unfortunate. Not that it isn’t understandable, but before arriving at Kentucky he had taken a UTEP team that had won six games, and made them an NCAA at-large caliber team in a matter of two years. He then took a very lackluster Texas A&M team, and made them a Sweet Sixteen caliber team. The guy has some impressive credentials, especially when you consider the shape those two programs were in when he took them over. So, there were many people, including me, that thought he would do well at Texas Tech. Chalk this one up in the “Wrong” column for me, I guess.


If I Were NCAA Czar, College Basketball Would Be A Spring Sport

Midnight Madness is less than a week away, which is the unofficial start of college basketball. I guess it’s good for generating some interest among the fans, but in reality it is a glorified practice where nothing much is accomplished, and since it is almost four weeks before the start of the non-exempt season, much of the interest will fade between now and the actual start of the year.

Before I begin, I realize that what I’m proposing is virtually impossible as far as it being implemented. I’m writing about an ideal, not a likely reality. Now that we have that out of the way….

I wish basketball were a spring sport instead of a winter sport. Basketball is hugely popular, second only to football, and in many parts of the country it beats football. As popular as it is, the beginning of the season goes virtually unnoticed. Major League Baseball starts off with a bang with Opening Day. Week One of the NFL football season is a big deal. Week One of college football is a big deal. Those sports start off with a bang. College basketball starts off with a toy pop gun. It isn’t until after Thanksgiving that the general sports fans become conscious that college hoops has even begun and it really isn’t until after the Super Bowl that it becomes the country’s most paid-attention-to sport. Three months out of the five month season are kept on the backburner as far as the general sports fans are concerned. On top of that, many of the important out of conference games are played either when classes are not in session, or during the home stretch of the college football regular season. That takes a lot of energy out of and attention away from what are quality, high stakes match-ups early in the year. As someone who has talked extensively with many NCAA selection committee members, they put just as much emphasis on the November and December games as they do on the conference games.

There are certainly exceptions to the rule. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge is an event that produces some showcase games. Many fans have embraced the 24 hour Tip-Off Marathon that ESPN puts on. So, there is a smattering of intriguing OOC games, but for the most part there are many quality match-ups that go unnoticed by your general American sports fan, even though they are high stakes and high quality match-ups.

My solution would be to make it a spring sport instead of a winter sport. Instead of starting the non-exempt season on the second Friday in November, it could begin sometime in mid-December. The schools are on break, so this would be a perfect time to play the exempt tournaments like the Preseason NIT, Maui Invitational, Paradise Jam, Old Spice Classic, Puerto Rico Invitational, and countless others. Players would not have to miss a week of class, and fans could have an easier time traveling to the games due to it being the holidays. More importantly, we wouldn’t be tipping off the season at a time when college football is at peak interest, and basketball is at most an afterthought. Yes, there are bowl games in December and early January, but with the exception of January 1st, there are generally only two or three a day, so there is plenty of room for basketball games. It would definitely increase the amount of time college basketball has to bask in the spotlight.

Making it a spring sport does something else. It allows for a fall season. Soccer is a fall sport, but there is a spring season of about five games. Baseball is a spring sport, but there is a fall season of about ten games. Making basketball a spring sport would allow for a fall season of about four or five exhibition games, which would improve the quality of play when the regular season tips off in December. I know there is a combination between two games where schools can either play a closed scrimmage against a div1 school, or an exhibition game that is open to the public against a nondiv1 school. We could still have that. It’s just that we’d do it in early December instead of early November.

Last, but not least, there is an academic advantage to starting the season later. Having basketball in the spring frees up the entire fall semester, and the schedule can be worked out so final exams in the spring are in no way effected. As it is now, you play a few weeks, then you stop for a week (well, most schools do) to focus on fall final exams, and having that lull in the middle of the year is a distraction. Moving it to the spring would eliminate that.

March Madness has a great ring to it. It’s a phrase that is very marketable. April Madness or May Madness doesn’t quite sound the same, but that is really the only downside that I can see to keeping it as a winter sport instead of changing it to a spring sport.

Having said all that, I am a college basketball diehard. The general sports fan is largely unexcited at the start of the season, but I am not a general sports fan. I am excited. Midnight Madness is the first taste of basketball, and it will descend upon us this week. I just think it would be better for everyone if it was five or six more weeks into the future.


Grading Out Of Conference Schedules

I believe a good out of conference schedule is one that is challenging, but not overwhelming.  In regards to top teams like Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana, they’re looking for opportunities to demonstrate that they are a #1 seed caliber team.  For NCAA Tournament at-large hopefuls, especially those that don’t play in major conferences, they’re looking at opportunities for statement wins to indicate that they are an NCAA caliber team.  Here is my assessment of these team’s OOC schedules….



-As everyone knows, Kentucky and Indiana, two likely preseason top five teams, will not be playing each other this year due to an inability to come to terms. They should lose a letter grade on that alone. They were unable to retain a long standing series against a likely top five team. They could have sold out Lucas Oil Field and given us one of the premier OOC showcases of the season. Notable games include Georgia, and either UCLA or North Carolina in the Legends Classic, North Carolina at home, and Butler on a neutral floor. They have nine games that aren’t just against teams from weak conferences, but are against teams that typically don’t do well in weak conferences.



-It’s not completely free of the junk food known as cupcakes, but there is a lot of healthy meat on this schedule. They travel to Notre Dame, will face Baylor at home in an Elite Eight rematch, travel to Louisville who is likely a top five team, and face Missouri as well. Other OOC notables are Marshall, Long Island (who isn’t on the same level as Kentucky, but who is one of the better teams in the NEC), and Morehead State (wish it was Murray, but Morehead isn’t bad).



-They face what should be a good Northern Iowa team in the Battle of Atlantis, and other possible opponents include Missouri, Stanford, Duke, Minnesota, VCU and Memphis. Whichever two teams the play out of that bunch should be pretty good. They also travel to Memphis, who should be a formidable team this year. In somewhat of a rare road game, they’re going to College of Charleston, who returns pretty much their entire roster on what was a good team last year. Western Kentucky had a strong finish to the season, and is a decent opponent, and of course they face Kentucky at home. This schedule is not without its cupcakes, but there are more notable OOC games than what we’re used to seeing from Louisville.



-This is a team that was good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament last year, but was left out due to a lack of quality wins. The reason they lacked quality wins?? They didn’t play a quality schedule. I should dock them a letter grade for not having their schedule posted on their website yet, but I guess I’ll let it slide. They open at Kent State, who isn’t an elite program, but they are tough to beat at home and this would likely give them a win of some note. They will also play in the Anaheim Classic where they will open against Saint Mary’s, and potentially face other notable teams such as Xavier, Georgia Tech and Cal. The field isn’t particularly strong, so they won’t have too many shots at major statement wins. In addition, they’ll be hosting Davidson, Illinois State and Saint Joseph’s, who are all tournament hopefuls. It’s a ton better than last year’s schedule, but they still have limited options and a small margin of error. I think Drexel is a top 25 caliber team, but the less chances you have to prove yourself, the harder it is to build up a strong profile. It’s better than last year’s schedule, but it is far from solid.



-They are in the Charleston Classic where they will open against Auburn, and have the possibility of facing Saint John’s, College of Charleston, Baylor, Boston College, Colorado or Dayton. Their other notable games include going to Dayton, and playing at home against Old Dominion. They will also participate in the Bracket Buster. For a team that sees virtually no quality competition in conference (at least none that would impress the selection committee) they really need to step up out of conference. This schedule is weak. The Charleston Classic is their only chance at getting any notable wins, so if they can’t get it done in that their margin for error is virtually zero. I realize it is difficult for them to put a quality schedule together, but they still needed to do better than this. They have a top 25 caliber team. They needed to give themselves more chances to build a solid resume.


VCU – B-

-They face what should be a very good Wichita State team at home, and are in the Battle For Atlantis where they fill face Memphis, and either Duke or Minnesota in the second game. It’s nice to see that they will continue to play Old Dominion, who is a long time conference rival, even though they are not in the CAA anymore. Additional home games include Alabama, Western Kentucky (who should be improved) and Dayton. As difficult as it can be for VCU to get games on equal or favorable terms, they’ve done a nice job putting together a quality schedule. They didn’t too many major conference schools outside of playing in Atlantis, but did a good job getting good teams from outside the major conferences. Now that they’re in the Atlantic Ten, they will have more than enough opportunities at statement wins.



-They travel to Utah State, which is not an easy place to play. They also face what should be a very good Drexel team in the opener of the Anaheim Classic. It’s crazy that it is bracketed this way, but Drexel and SMC are likely the two best teams in the tournament even though they face each other in the first round. Other notable games include a Bracket Buster opponent and going on the road against Northern Iowa. I guess I should give them some props for going on the road to play teams like Utah State and Northern Iowa, who are not easy to beat, but other than that their schedule is very lackluster.



-They’re at home against West Virginia, Illinois, and Baylor, and will face Clemson, Washington State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State on the road. In addition to those seven games, they will participate in the Old Spice Classic, where they will open against Clemson and could potentially face Vanderbilt, Oklahoma and West Virginia. That is a quality out of conference schedule that allows them to establish themselves not just as an NCAA team, but as a protected seed. With teams like Saint Mary’s and BYU in conference, they’ll have more than enough opportunities.



-Davidson returns their top five scorers from what was a very good team last year. Other than College of Charleston, there isn’t a whole lot of opportunities to get wins in conference play that are even remotely noteworthy, so the OOC portion of the season is hugely important. They’ll have their chances. They travel to New Mexico, which is not an easy place to play, and will also participate in the Old Spice Classic along with teams like Vanderbilt and West Virginia. Later in the year they go on the road to face Drexel and Richmond, and will also face Duke in Charlotte. They will also participate in this year’s Bracket Buster as the home team. This should be a very good Davidson team. Don’t be surprised if they’re able to win some of those games and get themselves in the NCAA Tournament discussion.


NORTHWESTERN – F-     (last, and least for today)

-Texas Southern, Mississippi Valley State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Delaware State, TCU, UIC, Texas State and Brown all make up Northwestern’s OOC schedule. They do face Maryland in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and will also face Stanford, Butler and Baylor, but although those are teams with name brands, Baylor is the only one that was actually any good last year. Before anyone says the obvious, I know that they play in the Big Ten. This is the problem, though. Teams that want to make the NCAA Tournament must either win the conference tournament or make a case for themselves at some point. Scheduling like this basically means that they are taking a pass on making any sort of case for themselves out of conference. That means they put more pressure on themselves to do it in conference, which they’ve never been able to do. They always schedule like this. For the past several seasons they’ve been within reach of the bubble, but never inside of it. A better OOC schedule would help.