Southern Illinois, which dumped its coach (Chris Lowery) in the off-season and almost hired the guy they used to have (Bruce Weber), released its non-conference schedule Thursday. The slate leaves much to be desired.
Outside of a game at Saint Louis, the Salukis scheduled just one game that could be considered marginally "good" which is a game at home against Fresno State, and is part of a showdown between the Missouri Valley and Mountain West. It wasn't even something that the university sought out on its own.
The rest of the schedule is made up of middle-of-the-pack mid-major squads, and a number of non-D1 schools.
As Creighton writer Patrick Marshall wondered aloud on Twitter:
I'm really wondering how the MVC let them schedule like this.Bad non-conf. strength of schedule and brings down conference RPI— Patrick Marshall (@wildjays) June 14, 2012
It is hard to believe that the Missouri Valley -- a league desperately trying to improve its image into one of a major conference -- would let them do this.
Does the team really need two games -- home and away -- against New Orleans, a school that until five weeks ago was attempting to drop down to Division II? Or was there no better option available than Benedictine University-Springfield -- a school that is in its first year of playing basketball -- in mid-November?
The Salukis won't play a non-transitional Division I team until November 20, and even then it is against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, a school that has barely been in the upper levels of basketball for five minutes.
Southern Illinois does have a tournament appearance in December during which they will face Utah State, UC Davis and Nicholls State. That isn't exactly murderer's row, even if Utah State has been a steadily improving program. The school can't even hope its Bracket Busters game will be any good, because Southern will probably be at the bottom of the pack in the Missouri Valley when it comes to assigning games.
This is a really sad state of affairs in scheduling, especially when so many schools are complaining that they can't get decent games. Southern Illinois obviously had spots it could have made better choices with. As we know, schools like Butler were looking for more games because of a conference move. Are you really saying that there was no way to make something fit with Southern Illinois (Look, they may not be the toughest team, but scheduling a team from the Missouri Valley has never been the downfall of anyone's non-conference SOS).
Any team in at least 10 conferences could have helped to improve this schedule with just a phone call. It is just disappointing the school didn't think so.
When the conference is struggling at the end of the season to justify why it should have multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament, there should be a lot of fingers pointing right back at Southern Illinois.