It's May 15, and after some news yesterday, we already know the vast majority of Northwestern's basketball schedule next year. Neat! Let's talk about it.
The first news we got yesterday was this from Teddy Greenstein:
Thumbs up to this: #Northwestern close to 2-yr home-and-home agreement w/#DePaul hoops. Cats would host round 1 this December.— Teddy Greenstein (@TeddyGreenstein) May 14, 2013
Love this, even if its probably going to hurt Northwestern's RPI a little bit - DePaul is absolutely wretched, and will continue to be so for the near future.
I think its important to maintain some connection to local opponents, especially if you can do it while winning. Instead of outsourcing and bringing in SWAC squads from the middle of nowhere why not reach out to the schools closest by? It probably saves your department money, and if you have the basketball skills to back it up, you can show you're the area's top dog, which is nice. Add Loyola-Chicago as one of your mid-major non-con opponents. Play Chicago State instead of one of those SWAC squads. We had UIC on the schedule last year, and we lost. It was embarrassing and we wanna get back at them. (UPDATE: If I'd waited an hour or so, I would've read Teddy Greenstein's hoops notes mentioning Northwestern will play UIC at UIC. Northwestern fans should go fill up that gym and make that not a road game.)
DePaul is the most prominent of the bunch. They've had good stretches and good players - Quentin Richardson, Wilson Chandler, not even going back and thinking about Mark Aguirre - but right now are mired in a particularly bad one. Fine. Get the win and make sure no Chicago kid would rather go to DePaul than Northwestern. Northwestern beat DePaul in a pretty lopsided victory my freshman year, 2008, and then someone opted out of the deal. I thought it was DePaul at the time - bummed they were finally losing games to Northwestern - but its seemed more recently like DePaul was interested in engaging.
They're now building a $300 million arena in Chicago - not in O'Hare's flyover zone 14 miles from campus where they currently play - so they're interested in getting back in the Chicago mix. Let's bring back this game in the rotation - we'll call it "The McGee's Classic."
With that, we know a pretty large portion of Northwestern's non-con schedule.
Vs. DePaul (RPI 204, KenPom162)
@ NC State (RPI 33, KenPom 38)
@ Stanford (RPI 77, KenPom 50) (finishing up a home and home)
@ Butler (RPI 22, KenPom 45) (finishing up a home and home)
@ UIC (RPI 169, Kenpom 196)
Vs. UCLA, neutral site (RPI 26, KenPom 47)
Vs. Mizzou, neutral site (RPI 36, KenPom 22) (I had originally assumed that Northwestern would play one of UCLA and Missouri at the Las Vegas Invitational, but since UCLA and Mizzou are already scheduled to meet, they won't play in Vegas - the tournament won't have a bracket, but will be played "classic-style," with the team in the best record in the four games winning)
At home vs. two of: UT-Chattanooga, IUPUI, Morehead State, Gardner State. The two Northwestern wants for RPI purposes are probably Morehead State and Gardner State.
That leaves Northwestern needing, I believe, five more opponents. As is, its one of the more aggressive non-conference schedule I can remember Northwestern playing: a high percentage of road games, a lot of teams that made the NCAA Tournament this last year. One hopes the remaining non-con games keep the RPI up, but that's more a matter of luck - I imagine Northwestern will be looking for relatively mediocre-to-bad opponents to get wins. (Don't forget that stuff I said about UIC and Loyola, guys.)
But huzzah - we also have Northwestern's conference schedule, although sans the dates. The single-plays have been released - doesn't that sound like some record terminology? - and we can figure out the rest.
Teams NU plays twice
Teams NU plays once on the road
Teams NU plays once at home
I think this is about as favorable as you can ask for. It takes the possibility for an Ohio State upset at home - something NU's been quite close to - off the board, but they've only gotten close, and haven't pulled it off. And I don't want any part of Michigan, anywhere.
The disappointing thing is that Northwestern only plays Illinois once. That's now a rivalry, sort of, and they've split the series down the middle four years running. The fifth, there was only one game between the two, won on a Demetri McCamey jumper. It's nice to have as many opportunities to win against them as possible, and this takes one away. The Penn State game is a must-winner at home or on the road, so that doesn't really bother me.
I'm proud of the NU basketball twitter feed for trolling hard:
A little disappointed not to get to play at Illinois and Penn State next season. #B1GCats were 4-0 there over the last 2 years.— NU Men's Basketball (@NUMensBball) May 14, 2013
Just looking at the games Northwestern plays next season, one thing is clear: the opportunities will be on the table for Northwestern to make the NCAA Tournament. That's not always true, cc: Iowa. But it's all you can ask for. It'll be up to Chris Collins and crew to actually make something out of it.