How To Fail At Scheduling 101: Northwestern

I don’t write much about my graduate alma mater on this site, because well, Northwestern isn’t in New York City. (Though the Wildcats are coming to the Barclays Center this season.) But today Chris Collins has provided the college basketball community with a great example of what not to do in non-conference scheduling.

The Wildcats released their non-conference schedule today, well most of it. You might have thought that last season’s 12-1 non-conference record against a bunch of patsies and eventually finishing 115th in RPI would’ve convinced Collins to schedule up this season. You were wrong.

Northwestern played 11 teams ranked 200th or higher in the RPI last season. There’s a chance they may duplicate the feat in 2016-17. (It depends upon—among other things—Rutgers not improving.) They’re going to play seven non-conference games against opponents that have a distinct possibility of achieving that mark.

The Wildcats will play all these teams at home (last season RPI):

  • Mississippi Valley State (330!)
  • New Orleans (343!)
  • Chicago State (348!)
  • IUPUI (188)
  • Houston Baptist (225)
  • Bryant (320!) (as part of the Legends Classic)
  • One of Seattle (287), ULM (96) or Eastern Washington (232) (Legends Classic)

Playing four teams in the bottom 40 teams in RPI is a travesty. No team should want to or have to do that. Most likely this strategy will result in seven wins. It’s also most likely seven absolutely meaningless non-conference games that will drag down NU’s RPI and hurt Northwestern’s chances of qualifying for either the NCAA tournament or NIT.

Yes, the Wildcats will also play at Butler, Dayton at the United Center, along with Wake Forest (159) and DePaul (199) at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and two games at the Barclays Center, but they’ll always have the anchor of the poor teams they played weighing down their strength-of-schedule metrics for the rest of the season.

Maybe Chris Collins is scared about what his team will look like during non-conference season after losing Alex Olah and Tre Demps. Maybe he wants the team to have a few months to grow. Okay, but a process that results in you throwing away Bryant McIntosh’s junior season is a broken one. Unless the Wildcats finish above .500 in Big Ten play there will be no postseason for this group.

The writing is already on the wall. This is how you schedule yourself out of the competition in June.

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