What's In a Name?
Sport Illustrated columnist Andy Glockner joined a growing list of talkig heads who have come to dispise -- and publicly admonish offenders -- those BCS "powerhouses" who pad their win totals with out of conference cupcakes. Long a problem recognized by the NCAA come tournament selection time (whose 24 wins are "better"?) and fans who have to sit through a 21st century equivalent of Christians vs. Lions for nearly two monthes, the topic "Who Has the Softest Out of Conference Schedule?" has letely become a favorite preseason preview topic. While the Selection Committee uses RPI and SOS metrics to determine how challenged a particular team might have been during the season, Glockner puts together a quick list (sort of a "You know you've scheduled a cupcake if..." test) of names to be avoided when scheduling an opponent. According to Glockner, "...Generally speaking, your team has scheduled a too-easy home win if the opponent's name has:
1) Any type of punctuation mark (ampersand, apostrophe, hyphen, period)
2) Any in-state directional notation
3) Any State that is not actually named for a state
4) Any name of a religion in it
5) Any affiliation with the SWAC, which is 2-213 over the past six seasons vs. teams in BCS conferences...(and the MEAC corollary mentioned later in his article
While Glockner takes Cincinnati and Louisville to task and gives Syracuse and Connecticut (dis)Honorable Mentions, he passes on Villanova. The Nova Nation is notorious for giving the program a hard time about the Wildcats' OOC, but how does Villanova's schedule stand up to the "Glockner Test"?
The 'Cats Score...
Big 5 opponent Saint Joseph's makes the list due to their apostrophe, though truth be told the Hawks should be better this season than their 11-22 record from 2011. Villanova will travel to the Hagan rather than the Palestra, for this game, removing any "location" advantage the 'Cats might have expected. Villanova's first round opponent in the 76 Classic, UC Riverside qualifies under Rule #2 (directional notation, in this case "Riverside"). The balance of the 76 field (no team ranked in the top 25 RPI from 2011, four teams #36-#82 in 2011, three teams ranked #125-#175 in 2011) is a bit underwhelming as well, but given the loss of seniors Fisher, Stokes and Pena, the remaining six opponents in the field are hardly pushovers for this season's squad. But UC Riverside, ranked at #259 in 2011 (RPI) is clearly the lowest seed in the field. Other possible qualifiers include American. Though the Eagles were ranked (a not too shabby) #127 last season, would being named after a country (a people?) qualify under #3? Probably not. Some Nova fans might wonder if Temple is named after a religion (rule #4). I am going to go with a No on that, especially since the Owls are one of the teams favored to win the Atlantic-10 Conference this season and went to the NCAAs in 2011 (and advanced farther in the field than the Wildcats).
With an apostrophe school (that they take on the road) coupled with an assigned "directional" opponent, Villanova's OOC would seem to relatively cupcake-free. Long time Big 5 fans know that the 'Cats have had their way lately with La Salle and Penn, and that the presence of Boston University on the schedule was a nod to since-departed former Assistant Coach Pat Chambers (look for Penn State next season?), but those three, along with Temple and Saint Joseph's, were scheduled for reasons not related to roughage (traditions and Villanova family ties, etc.). Given the Wildcats return 44% of the minutes and 43% of the points scored from 2011, the slate of OOC opponents assembled will most likely yield two -- probably more -- losses going into conference play.