You Need Spare Time for This One…

I don’t know that I’ve written this many consecutive words in three years. Please excuse grammar issues as editing isn’t my top priority right now. I want you to think.

***

First, Whelliston is chatting today at 3:00. I don’t care how you get there, but get there if you can. (Hey Beach, is that Dionne Warwick?)

***

Next, I’ve been beaten around a bit because I didn’t immediately jump to the CAAs defense when he supposedly took a swipe at our beloved and underappreciated burg.

The reason is because he is mostly correct. I say mostly for only two reasons:

Personally I believe both George Mason and Nor’easter can absolutely win in March (outside of Richmond). Mason is a very complete team, and Nor’easter has size, defense, and a willing star. If they can make shots they can beat anyone.

And I think he makes too much of the (lack of) crowd support. It is tied to the lack of home dominance, but it isn’t like the crowds have changed in two years. Roughly the same number of people hit the same venues. I honestly believe this year is just freaky oddness, perhaps brought on more by the number of sophomores playing extended minutes than the crowds.

There are a few minor quibbles, but those are the kinds of discussions you have over a beer in person, or on a message board. Rarely are they important, but frequently they are passionate.

But Kyle hit on two key points: top 50 wins are the ultimate measuring stick, and I completely agree with the fill the building and “what mid major basketball is about” idea.

As to the whole top 50 wins thing–bullseye. We all get hung up in the losses, but that isn’t what’s important. It’s the wins, stupid.

We can forgive a bad loss, because it is understandable for every team on every level to have that banana peel night. However not beating a top 50, top 25, team is unforgivable.

In conference, it matters to be 15-3. But nobody really cares about the 3. It is the 15 that matters. That’s a big ol’ crooked number that shows domination. The evaluation criteria is clear: “we’re so sure your star had a sprained ankle or the team had the flu or the bus broke down so you have an excuse for a bad loss that we won’t even check. But 15 wins? Wow!”

Likewise, it is the nonconference wins that matter. Losing to East Carolina does not move the needle for the selection committee. However beat Oklahoma? You bet they pay attention.

If you stipulate I get a 15-3 or better conference record, I will tell you that the at large chances in the CAA are mostly handled before Christmas. Rare is the Bracketbusters matchup going to make that difference. For every GMU/Wichita State I can give you Drexel/Creighton.

Proof? In 2006-07, ODU finished 15-3 but lost horribly to James Madison (7-23, RPI of 300) during the conference season. However the ODU tied itself tightly to its win over Georgetown to earn its at large bid. Teams have bad nights, but you have to prove you can have great nights to be given the luxury of the  bad night.

You can carve up the numbers all you want, but the fact that there were 19 top 50 wins three seasons ago and currently zero this year is striking. Yes, I realize that some of those top 50 wins were self-inflicted, and yes I realize there have been fewer opportunities. However the number going from 19 to, say, five is just as striking.

That plays into what I believe is the right scheduling strategy: play anybody, anywhere. It’s Nicholson as The Joker: “you’ve got to roll the dice and take your chances.” I believe the teams at the bottom need to schedule wins, and the teams at the top need to schedule girth.

I tire of the coaches reluctance to the 22-game schedule (more about that later when we talk rivalries) being about not having the opportunity to schedule RPI games to enhance the chances of the second bid. It is disingenuous. They won’t admit it, but coaches purposely schedule down when they are unsure of their team.

You can tell me all you want about scheduling the Northern Iowas and Niagaras and Nevadas, but I’m telling you those are not helpful. Five nonconference games against middling RPI teams isn’t getting it done. Heck, I’m starting to believe the whole “conference showdown” idea, the CAA vs. MAC or CAA vs. Valley or CAA vs. Horizon is not a good idea.

I don’t know that scheduling major conference dregs is helpful, either. A bad Virginia team is no more helpful than a good Creighton team.

Let’s look at Siena, with an RPI in the low 20s. The Saints went to Kansas, went to Pitt, lost three in Florida (Tennessee, Wichita State, Oklahoma State). Managed to schedule a couple easy ones for confidence. Rolling through their conference and can make that final statement with Bracketbusters (Northern Iowa). Doesn’t that sound a little bit like the George Mason 2005-06 recipe?

I’m telling you this: a record of 2-6 against the top 50 is better than a record of 0-2.

***

Breathe.

***

Still, that’s all a numbers game that makes things far more interesting because it unfolds differently every season, and it unfolds over the course of four months. We love it and quite frankly I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What is most important, to me, is the whole fan thing. I’ve always said being at a game is so very different and so much better. You just have to get there and see it, feel it. It’s more intimate at the mid major level, and for me that makes it better. We get to hang tough together in bad times and cheer together in good times. You are part of something.

That’s why it was sad to see a half-full and half-emotive Trask Wednesday night. I bet it wasn’t 4,000 degrees in there, either, like in the days The Hecklers ruled.

Anyway, one quibble I have with what Kyle wrote was that the CAA may be developing a C-USA problem and I believe it is really an Atlantic 10 problem. (Granted, it could be the very same problem, but the A-10 serves my purposes. Read on.)

When I catch A10 matchups I find as many empty seats and filled ones, and it isn’t half full arenas. It is either full buildings or empty ones, exactly what we see in the CAA.

Kyle made a statement that may have been descriptive word usage to him, but incredibly poignant to me. It is specifically the whole “further than a day’s drive” issue.

Geography matters. It’s a familiarity thing. I completely believe local fans who have the passing knowledge–those exact people that need to take in a game–require familiarity. People love a winner, but people want to see a winner beating a team they know about.

It’s Duke and Georgetown and Connecticut and Virginia Tech. It’s also Richmond and St. Josephs and Charlotte and Siena. It isn’t Akron or Wright State or Niagara.

So I’m clear–most of us are thrilled with the Akrons because we understand the value and beauty and have the emotional conenction. The issue is that we need to build  with the people that might pop by this blog or not get here at all and don’t even know Akron from Altoona, and you don’t build with unfamiliar names.

This is where I believe the balanced schedule also helps. On one hand you schedule a tighter mix of top 50 heavyweights and a few winnables. On the other, you get home games and familiar competition–critical in building the fan base to fill the building.

Drexel and VCU fans have long joined hands, wishing the two teams could play twice a year. Three weeks ago aside, the games are battles and the fans love them. The only thing that would make them better is to play again. You develop rivalries (and familiarity) by playing often.

Plus, coaches don’t feel compelled to fill the schedule with those games that don’t make sense–inferior opponents whose geographical likeness is “America.”

You want an idea? Bring Richmond back. You bet your bippy. As quickly as possible. It hasn’t worked out for them in the A10, no matter what they say.  It’s so bad there that Phil Martelli, who does not coach Richmond, called out the Spiders fans as lacking. If St. Joseph’s isn’t getting it done, St. Louis, St. Bonnie’s, LaSalle aren’t going to either. Give them VCU twice and Madison twice and Mason twice? Beats the hell out of Duquesne or UMass.

It isn’t a Virginia thing, either. Go get UMass, a CAA football member.

***

It’s a little pathetic that I care this much, but I do. So do you. And I’m not saying that any of this ties up neatly into a little bow, and I admit some of it is probably wrong.

But if I can get people to think, to adjust, to try, to wonder–and something good comes of it?

Bullseye.

Here’s my promise: get your tuckus to the CAA tournament, and we can discuss further over a Stella that I buy. But you have to get there Friday. The semifinals and finals don’t count.

Die hards are going to solve it, the kind of people that sit in the stands on Friday afternoon. It was built on passion, and it will advance on passion.

***

Breathe.

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~ by mglitos on February 6, 2009.

One Response to “You Need Spare Time for This One…”

  1. CAA Tournament Friday. My favorite day of the year.

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