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-   -   FLIGHT SCHEDULE w/AD Neil Sullivan: Part 2: Feeling the Squeeze (http://www.udpride.com/forums/showthread.php?t=33187)

Chris R 08-13-2019 04:23 AM

FLIGHT SCHEDULE w/AD Neil Sullivan: Part 2: Feeling the Squeeze
 
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As the walls close in, schools like Dayton must work harder and smarter to assuage the challenges of non-conference scheduling. The pinch is real and even national sportswriters such as CBS’s Gary Parrish have penned columns about the systemic issue.

It’s the proverbial chicken-egg conundrum: programs need strong opponents (and generous opportunities) to earn NCAA at-large victories on their résumés, but cannot schedule strong opponents until they’re already NCAA at-large material. Some fans attributed much of UD’s scheduling challenges to lack of NCAA invitations and if the Flyers could just bootleg a couple tickets to the Big Dance, scheduling doors would open.

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Those predictions fell flat. As Dayton elevated the program in recent years, the squeeze only got tighter. Similar schools have felt the noose too. More coaches and administrators are making open and public comments about the inability to find quality opponents in the non-conference schedule.

“Winning four straight NCAA bids offered marginal scheduling latitude in the recent past,” Sullivan admitted.

Porter Moser shared the same sentiment. After taking the Ramblers to the Final Four in 2018, he still had to beg for quality non-conference foes home or away.

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A10 counterparts George Mason and VCU also modern-day Final Four participants encountered the same annoyances and lack of traction. Remarkably, the Flyers have crunched enough data and convinced enough opposing coaches/ADs to stay above the waterline. For now.

SILVER LININGS

“While scheduling is perpetually frustrating, we have actually scheduled very well among the best for programs outside the P5 leagues,” Sullivan said. “If you look at our last four NCAA bids, they were all ‘at-large’ bids meaning the combination of wins and SOS were valued among the best 30 or so programs in the country.”

Despite the roadblocks, Dayton continues to overcome scheduling handicaps. Winning never hurts but winning alone is not the panacea. Knowing how the metrics behave, working contacts in the college basketball community, and keeping an ear to the ground to anticipate changing landscapes are some of the tools safeguarding the Flyer non-conference schedule from banal window dressing.

Sullivan also believes Dayton has never been left out of an NCAA tournament to the delight of less-deserving contenders. The 2015 season was probably the closest ‘near miss’. The Selection Committee sent Dayton to the First Four when the body of work screamed #9 or #10 seed, but in years when the Flyers barely missed the cut, there were enough warts on the résumé to justify the decision in the Selection Committee war room.

“Take last year,” Sullivan reiterated. “We played multiple Top-25 teams. We played two teams who were in the Final Four. In Coach Grant’s first season, despite our won/loss record, our non-conference SOS was second in the country out of 351 teams. We’ve had scheduling success. Not as much at UD Arena as I would like, but we’ve made it work.”

FEELING THE SQUEEZE

Making it work gets more difficult every year. Fans want to see big-name power-conference opponents at home and on the road, but those same opponents have more to risk and less to gain. There aren’t enough open dates to spread around either. The 20-game league schedules are just the tip of the iceberg. More scheduling opportunities are being purged elsewhere.

“Exempt holiday tournaments can chew up to four more dates, not including annual events such as the NIT Tip-Off and Empire Classic that often play partially or entirely on campus sites with split bracketing to separate power- and non-power-conference opponents,” Sullivan said.

That’s 24 dates already locked in. It gets worse.

“Additionally, the Gavitt Games (Big-10/Big East), SEC-Big12, and ACC-Big-10 Challenges eliminate another one or two potential non-conference dates from teams in five leagues on our scheduling radar."

That’s 26 for those counting. The power conferences are equally keen on self-preservation and do much of the heavy lifting years in advance to secure long-term scheduling contracts with opposing leagues. When the offseason commences, the schools aren’t scrambling around with Ouija boards attempting to fill 12 open dates in November and December with opponents largely uninterested in playing. The level of concern just isn’t there for power-conference programs because profile opponents inside and outside the league are already on the calendar.

The purge doesn’t end there.

“Annual matchups like the Skip Prosser Classic and geographic rivalry games such as Florida vs. Florida State eliminate more scheduling real estate and essentially leave two or three open dates left on the non-conference schedule for schools like Dayton to compete for,” Sullivan added.

It doesn’t require a deep thought experiment to do the math to see where the glidepath is headed. With approximately 30 NCAA at-large worthy power-conference teams every year and three open dates (at best), that’s 90 (at best) scheduling opportunities for schools like Dayton to sales pitch. Also, many power-conference schools prefer playing other power-conference schools to the Daytons, Davidsons, and St. Mary’s of the world. The numbers might be halved yet again. How many of these matchups are on the road? The numbers might be halved a third time. Sullivan knows because he did the counting.

“The 29 at-large power-conference teams from last year’s NCAA bracket played an average of less than one true road game in the non-con schedule against opponents outside those premanufactured scheduling mechanisms.”

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Dayton has altered their strategy in the past to help circumvent the problem. The Flyers played road games at Holy Cross, Toledo, Akron, Illinois State, Old Dominion, and Murray State to counter the power-conference pushback. UD isn’t opposed to revisiting any approach but remains well-aware the Flyers can end up the marquee game on an opponent’s schedule from a one-bid league. Potential opponents away from home must also have an at-large opportunity. The Selection Committee places a premium on NCAA at-large scalps and conference tournament upsets frequently happen from one-bid conferences.

TWO TO TANGO

Dayton Arena can also be a blessing and a curse. It can open doors and occasionally help UD land a marquee opponent, but once those opponents experience 13,000 Flyer fans firsthand, they take a vow to avoid Dayton like the Bermuda Triangle. There are only so many fresh faces left to canvas.

“The response we hear most often from potential opponents is ‘it’s not a good fit’,” Sullivan said.

That sounds like the politically-correct way of saying ‘have you lost your mind?’. Sullivan stated a few weeks ago that UD Arena was labeled a ‘death trap’ by an opposing staff -- even when the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

“It’s rarely as simple as calling a coach or AD on the phone, getting a yes, then locking down a date. There is nuance, negotiation, and renegotiation. Being stubborn isn’t always enough, or logistics won’t allow a game to happen.”

Sometimes honey works better than vinegar. At other times a strong bluff goes a long way. Every scheduling target and potential conquest requires a tailor-made approach, but they all share the same sentiment: opponents could use a team like Dayton on their schedule. Some listen but decline the offers while others refuse to listen.

“No matter how much we want something, the opponent has to agree. It’s takes two.”


GO BACK TO PART 1: The Rise of Arithmetic
READ ON TO PART 3: Theory as Product

Lifelong Flyer Fan 08-13-2019 11:03 AM

I would love to know the names schools "that won't even listen".
Also, I heard that they offered 7 figures to some big names to come in to open the arena and were rebuffed. Do you know if that is accurate and, if so, who the schools were.

SeasonTicketFan 08-13-2019 11:17 AM

This article points out why there is an annual discussion about why UD does not play X or Wright State. In each case (and many others Ohio State etc..), the team that believes they are superior fears the upset. They have very little to gain and much, much to lose. The risk reward balance is off in college basketball.

Ironically, it is the upsets and underdogs that makes March Madness a more exciting playoff than just about any other sport. Yet, the Big 5 are trying indirectly to kill that differentiating aspect.

Chris R 08-13-2019 11:39 AM

Lifelong ...stay tuned!

chicago92 08-13-2019 11:56 AM

So a good winning/NCAA run (see Archie) does not help us schedule power 5 programs and it actually makes harder to get home games. Sounds about right.

Flyer Dave 08-14-2019 07:10 AM

Sullivan also believes Dayton has never been left out of an NCAA tournament
 
Sullivan also believes Dayton has never been left out of an NCAA tournament to the delight of less-deserving contenders.

Apparently, his statement is on his time at U.D. I thought one year Dayton was left out but Notre Dame got in even though Dayton had a much better SOS and RPI ranking. Did I imagine this?


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