The Dawgs beat up on Portland last night; the only shocker was looking up in the second half and seeing only a 6-point lead. We made quick work of that oversight, winning the game by 22.
There’s an interesting argument to be had here: how tough should you schedule your pre-season? This goes for football too (and by “pre-season” I’m talking about all those games that aren’t vs. conference foes). Schedule too weakly and you go into Pac-10 play unchallenged and soft (with a bounty of wins that, regardless, still count towards your overall record). Schedule too strongly and you’re apt to be at a disadvantage record-wise come Tournament time (though, your RPI will be through the roof; saying nothing of how seasoned you’ll be going forward).
In football, I would tend toward scheduling easier games early. For one, all the bigtime schools do it and never seem to get penalized (unless Appalachian State happens and then WATCH OUT). For two, the Pac-10 is hard enough as it is. Putting teams like Nebraska, Oklahoma, LSU, and Ohio State up front and center – if you’re not a top-10 team (and we’re not) – is a great way to start off the season with a depressing blowout. Why should Alabama and Florida get all the cupcakes they can scarf into their bloated, greasy faces?
In basketball, however, you’ve got a whole other can of worms to tangle with. RPI is a motherfucker. And when the Powers That Be up and decide – indeed before conferences even start playing within themselves – that your conference is “weak” based on the teams it played (and lost to) in the pre-season, then you’re doomed to a shitty RPI even if you’re a quality team like the Huskies. Hell, I’m not even so sure those Powers That Be even look at the games being played in pre-season; I think they just peruse the rosters and make snap judgments based on paper matchups. And that’s pathetic.
These vultures will peck at your RPI all season and hold your supposedly weak conference against you when it comes time to choose the teams heading into March Madness. So, really, you want a good mix of tough teams early on.
Which is what we thought we had with the Maui Invitational. Two super teams to face: Kentucky & Michigan State. Had we won EITHER of those games, we’d still be in the Top 15 and on an inside track for a potential 1 or 2 seed in the tourney. Now, I don’t know if it matters what we do the rest of the way (unless, obviously, we win out which won’t happen).
So, forget RPI for a second. How about the whole Being Ready For Pac-10 Play? Yeah, we played Kentucky and Michigan State close. No, none of the other Pac-10 teams are likely to be anywhere NEAR their leagues. But still, look at this: our game on Saturday against Texas A&M is the only true road game we will have played before we head to Southern California to play USC on the 29th.
Remember the trials we’ve faced away from Hec-Ed in recent seasons past? Wouldn’t you think you’d want to schedule a few more road games just to test our meddle, even if it’s just against a patsy like Portland or Long Beach State?
By the way, if there was ever a Must Win in the college basketball pre-season (and, really, there’s not), it is this game this Saturday. A&M is 7-1 and poised to make a strong case for a Tourney birth in March. We need to go down there, win that game, and hope they kick some fuckin’ ass the rest of the way. At least then, some shred of our RPI self-respect will be salvaged.
We sure as shit won’t be getting much help from the likes of Portland or Texas Tech.