Yesterday, Florida State released the men’s basketball schedule for the 2017-18 season. Many might feel the madness begins in March. But the reality is, hoop dreams are often determined in November and December—and a bubble can be set up to burst before a game is even played.
Don’t believe me? Check out Tomahawk Nation’s one, two, three-part series on the RPI to see just how critical a team’s schedule (or even the schedule of their conference mates) is to their NCAA Tournament hopes. There has been talk of moving from sole reliance on the RPI to a composite index for the 2018-19 season, but for at least one more year we are stuck with the lunacy.
This summer, we learned that where you play is taking on even more significance. See this article for more details, but essentially a “quality win” at home must be a top 30 opponent, where as a quality win on the road can be a top 75 opponent.
Confused yet? Hopefully the breakdown below can be your Sherpa for determining which game to shake your fists at if FSU fails to make it back-to-back NCAAT appearances.
- There are 15 road/neutral games this year, up from 13 last year. That’s good. (Basically, the difference is we play UF and Big 10 Challenge game on the road, instead of at home).
- The OOC schedule is...I think better. Four neutral site games, plus two true road games is solid. And there are some good opponents. But we still shoot ourselves in the foot a couple times, especially with the home games. More on that below.
- The ACC schedule is brutal to start (sound familiar) but quite manageable down the stretch. You never want to count your chickens before they hatch, but it’s not unrealistic to think the Seminoles could win 6 out of their final 7 ACC games.
- There is a nice variety of styles to prepare us for postseason play.
- There are five different occasions where FSU plays two games in three days, which is exactly what you have to do in the NCAA Tournament.
- The Oklahoma State and Colorado State games are great. Both at neutral sites, both against potential/probable top 50 teams, both are winnable. Job well done.
- The UF game switches back to Gainesville, which makes it a tough game to win, but basically does zero damage (resume wise) if we lose.
- Rutgers isn’t a great team, or even a good team, but at least it’s on the road. A win there will be worth more than twice as much to the RPI compared to a win over Rutgers at home.
- George Washington is a decent opponent. Because the game is at home, it’s unlikely to qualify as a “quality win” under the new rules, but it should be entertaining and provide our team a good idea of where they stand to open the season.
- Tulane was atrocious last year (6-25), but they had a young team and improved as the season went on. With the game at a neutral site, at least we will get full credit for the win, even if their record could hurt our SOS a bit.
- Fordham was only 13-19 last year, but again they had a young team. They play in the A-10, so the opponents’ opponents will be solid and, like Tulane, the neutral site means we will get full credit for the win. And who knows, maybe they jump up to 19-13 this season?
That’ll Leave a Mark
- The remaining OOC home games range from bad to awful. None of them have any chance of being a quality win, and worse, they will at best be a slight drag on our SOS.
- Southern Miss (second year in a row) will likely be an anchor on the RPI all season long. As demonstrated last year, we are literally better off just playing one less game.
- The Citadel, Charleston Southern, and Loyola Maryland could all be improved teams over last year (not saying much), as they all were pretty young. But even if they improve to .500 ball clubs, playing them at home really weakens their value. Go play one of the South Carolina squads in Jacksonville and get credit for a neutral site win—while also letting your Jax-area fans see a local game. Even better, play the Loyola Maryland game on the road. It’s a very likely road win, the players can go visit the Smithsonian or something, and the coaches could maybe do a little DC area recruiting.
- Same advice for Kennesaw State. Play that thing on the road, get bonus points for the win, and let M.J. Walker play in front of his friends and family. We did this in 2007 with Georgia State and Stetson, and again in 2009 with Georgia State and Jacksonville. Both years are examples of GREAT scheduling. We need to get back to it.
I realize we have to play some games at home. And I also realize we can’t play powerhouses every game. But you don’t have to. You move the Charleston Southern game to Jacksonville, the Kennesaw State game to a true road game, and exchange Southern Miss for Louisiana Tech and you end up with a significantly stronger schedule in the eyes of the RPI, while likely achieving the exact same OOC record.
This ACC is hard. It’s the best league in the land. So, you’re never going to have an easy conference schedule. That said, I think this one is at least manageable. We will review this later in the fall after we actually see some games played, but here’s my initial take:
- Starting the year off with @Duke, UNC, @Miami, Louisville, Syracuse is rough. Probably on par with, or even slightly tougher than the start to last year’s ACC schedule. Buuuuut...I see a couple sliver linings here. Duke is replacing tons of talent and may not be fully gelled in late December. Plus, we play them when students are out on Christmas break. UNC will be similarly breaking in new starters to ACC play. Miami is loaded, but their stud freshman had minor knee surgery in July. Might he be working his way back into form? Louisville might well be the national champs, but at least it’s at home. Syracuse is not nearly as daunting on the road as they are in the Carrier Dome.
- BC twice is a blessing and a curse. Two conference wins is nice, but two more games against a sub-200 RPI opponent is not. And a loss in either game is devastating. The first BC game is particularly concerning as it is on the road and falls just two days after the home game against Syracuse wraps up the 5-game opening gauntlet. FSU simply must avoid a letdown in that spot.
- VT, Louisville, and ND on the road all feel like losses to me. But Wake, Clemson, and NCSU all feel like quality win opportunities under the new criteria.
- The closing stretch seems to set us up well for going into the ACC Tournament with some serious momentum.
What are your thoughts? Any early ACC record predictions? Overall record?