A coach should try to achieve two goals with a non-conference schedule: Prepare his team for conference play, build a viable post-season resume. If done successfully, the schedule may well achieve a 3rd goal: Providing something entertaining for fans.
How does Cal’s 2017-18 non-con schedule look? Let’s dive in.
vs. Great Falls (exhibition)
vs. UC Riverside
vs. Cal Poly
vs. Wichita St. (Maui)
vs. Marquette or Virginia Commonwealth (Maui)
vs. Notre Dame or Michigan or LSU or Chaminade (Maui)
vs. CSU Northridge
vs. St. Mary’s
vs. Central Arkansas
at San Diego State
vs. CSU Fullerton
vs. Portland State
Games to get excited about
Presuming Cal avoids Chaminade, every game in Maui will be a challenge. LSU is the only team in the field that finished outside of the Kenpom or RPI top 70, and they have a solid recruiting class and a new head coach. The Bears will likely be underdogs in most of their games on the islands.
Other than Maui, the schedule is highlighted by a visit from St. Mary’s and a trip to San Diego State. Jock Landale is back and perhaps the best mid-major player in the country. Meanwhile, San Diego State has beaten Cal two years in a row despite being worse than Cal both seasons. Maybe we’ll flip the script this year?
Games to get meh about
Wofford is typically one of the better teams in the Southern Conference, and they’re also the Terriers which is kinda amusing.
Games against teams that were about as bad or worse than Oregon State last year
Last year was a nadir for west coast, small conference basketball. The WAC is a shadow of its former self. The Big Sky typically isn’t very good but didn’t even have threats at the top. And the Big West simply imploded in upon itself.
As a consequence, scheduling games against the typical selection of CSUs and random state schools scattered around the pacific time zone makes for a really ugly schedule this year. Cal currently has EIGHT games scheduled against teams that finished 240th or lower in last year’s Kenpom ratings and 245th or lower in the RPI. That’s a lot of victory fodder.
So you’re saying this is a bad schedule?
Well, that’s hard to say right now, in part because I’m not really sure where we should be setting expectations for this year’s team. The Bears are going to be crazy young and inexperienced next year, and the roster is really imbalanced. Plus there’s the transition costs of a new coach with a new system. This is about as rebuilding-y as a rebuilding year ever gets. In that sense, the schedule doesn’t make a ton of difference.
If the expectation was to make the NCAA tournament, I would wonder why the Bears scheduled so many teams likely to finish 300th or worse in the RPI. But I don’t think that’s the expectation this year. Maybe it’s actually a good thing that 8 seemingly easy wins are sitting on the schedule.
This is our first glimpse at Wyking Jones’ scheduling preferences, but it’s hard to say how accurate of a reflection this is since some of these games may have been a part of pre-existing contracts. We also don’t know if he intentionally scheduled some sure wins knowing that his team is so young.
So I’m going to go ahead and say that this is fine. It’s probably not a schedule that will encourage anybody on the fence to get season tickets. But Maui will be fun, St. Mary’s will be fun, and at least this isn’t some sort of murderer’s row that will leave Cal below .500 entering conference play.