May 30, 2014
CARBONDALE, Ill. - This is the latest installment of our monthly feature called, "Ask the AD." If you have questions for Saluki Director of Athletics Mario Moccia, feel free to submit them by e-mail.
Q: What is the criteria for SIU in evaluating their schedule given that the past few years SIU has played a soft schedule in basketball? There seems to be a proclivity to schedule minor programs which are historically weak throughout their sports programs. I never understood the stance of Coach Lowery that if they won't play at our house we won't schedule those teams. Are our athletes unable to face the stiff competition from the big universities and why would any coach be concerned about facing schedules that are rigorous over the span of a season? With increased competition and awareness on the part of both the coaching staff and athletes, one would surmise that in due time there would be an elevation of character which over time would bolster the integrity of the athletes to compete at levels that SIU encountered in the years 2003-2009. In my opinion, that is the essence of athletics today and why not play away from home against the bigger schools because those are life lessons? Playing cream puffs will get SIU nothing in the long run and it looks like we shy away from stiff competition from my view from Chicago. Thanks for all your efforts to build a better athletic/academic culture at SIUC.
A: Thanks for the question and good timing since I just returned from MVC spring meetings, and men's basketball scheduling was a prominent topic. I researched our run of six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and one NIT appearance between 2002 and 2008 and found some interesting trends. The BCS/Big 5 conferences that we competed against in the regular season were virtually all part of Multi-Team Events (i.e. pre-season tournaments). Those games included Iowa State, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State and USC. The only example of a true home-and-away BCS opponent was Indiana in 2001, 2007 and 2008. The 2007-08 series came about because of a scheduling conflict in football that allowed us to leverage the basketball games. It was a unique, one-time-only situation.
The key to our seven-year postseason run, which included five at-large NCAA Tournament bids, was playing many quality opponents from similar leagues (George Mason, Colorado State, UW-Milwaukee, Hawaii, Wyoming, Saint Mary's, Butler, Saint Louis, Charlotte, UMass, Nevada, Saint Louis, Western Kentucky, Murray State). Virtually all of these opponents were top-100 RPI teams and helped us build a strong NCAA Tournament resume. Many of these games were two- or four-year contracts, and the others were through the ESPN Bracketbusters event (which has unfortunately ended).
Over the last few years we have played "buy" games at Illinois and Missouri, in which we received a guaranteed payment. Research shows that in college basketball the home team wins more than 75 percent of the time, so you can see why the Big 5/BCS conferences will not play home-and-home series with us. Buy games versus BCS teams are always available, but we would prefer to build a solid portfolio with quality similar opponents. We also know of our coaches' and fans' desires to play as many home games as possible, so putting together a quality schedule that meets your team's and fans' goals can be quite challenging.
Finally, we have to put together a schedule that matches what we feel will be the competitive level of our team. Next year, we will have six freshmen and three sophomores out of our 13 scholarship athletes and will be one of the younger teams in the country. We will need to play a schedule that will reflect our inexperience at the Division I level. As the years go by, we should build a schedule that will give us a chance to receive an at-large bid if we do not win the MVC tournament. As an aside, the league is expecting all members to play more competitive schedules and be successful to ensure multiple bids to the NCAA tournament to maximize NCAA revenue.