Breaking down the out-of-conference schedules (cont.)
The Homebodies (For Shame!)
I could only find two legitimate teams who hadn't scheduled a true road game in the non-conference season. They're both from the Big East, and both have a habit of doing this:
Pittsburgh: The Panthers are only venturing outside of their hometown twice before Big East play starts. They're in the CBE Classic in Kansas City, facing Wichita State and then hopefully Texas (their only early marquee opponent) in the title game, and then have the undercard of the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 8 -- a matchup with still- rebuilding Indiana. Pitt won't play a single true road game until Jan. 2, when it travels to Syracuse.
Syracuse: The Orange are actually traveling outside the state of New York before Big East play starts, but they're facing Florida in Tampa, rather than Gainesville, for the Big East/SEC Challenge on Dec. 10. 'Cuse's other two neutral-court games will be held at their second home, Madison Square Garden, where they're playing Cal in the opening round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.
Major-conference teams hold all the clout in scheduling, and few are willing to play in mid-major or low-major schools' home gyms. I looked into how these curious matchups came to be:
Georgetown at Savannah State, Nov. 21: Why would the Hoyas give Savannah State -- a small independent school, outside of any recruiting hotbed -- a home-and-home deal? Because SSU's coach, Horace Broadnax, played on John Thompson Jr.'s 1984 national title team at Georgetown. The Hoyas are also paying a visit to Tulane (in the hometown of center Greg Monroe) on Nov. 13, making them one of few teams playing multiple non-major opponents on the road.
North Carolina at College of Charleston, Jan. 4: This series, which has already included one game in Chapel Hill, was born exclusively out of Roy Williams' long-standing friendship with CoC coach Bobby Cremins. Carolina has a tradition scheduling games near the hometowns of its senior players, but it hasn't had anyone from the state of South Carolina since point guard Ray Felton in 2005.
Michigan State at The Citadel, Dec. 7: Spartans coach Tom Izzo has been amenable to playing at smaller venues in the past, visiting IPFW last season, Bradley in '07-08 and Wisconsin-Green Bay in '05-06. Citadel had to pay a price for this one, though: They're making three return trips to East Lansing, the first of which was on Dec. 17, 2008.
Mid-majors located in fertile recruiting territories tend to have more luck luring in BCS-conference opponents. Ohio State's trip to Butler was mentioned above, but here are three more prime cases:
Texas at Rice, Nov. 29: Houston has been kind to the Longhorns this decade, yielding three future NBA guards in T.J. Ford, Daniel Gibson and D.J. Augustin (who relocated there from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina). Current 'Horns Gary Johnson and Jai Lucas are from Houston, too, and the city is also home to Class of 2011 commitment Sheldon McClellan.
Texas A&M at SMU, Nov. 16: The greater Dallas area is the Aggies' prime talent hotbed. Forward Bryan Davis is from Grand Prairie, guards Derrick Roland and Donald Sloan are from Seagoville and coach Mark Turgeon's biggest recruiting score to date, five-star point guard Jamal Branch, from the Class of 2011, is from Arlington.
Arizona at San Diego State, Dec. 12: Two of the Wildcats' last three five-star signees -- Chase Budinger in 2006 and Jamelle Horne in 2007 -- were from the San Diego area. Five-star center Angelo Chol, one of the top big men in the Class of 2011, and a potential Arizona target, attends San Diego's Hoover High.
Two-Thirds Of The Casino Slam
Oklahoma State must be commended for being the only team to play in two different, casino-related events in the same season. On Nov. 27 and 28, the Cowboys are in the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena, which is adjacent to the Orleans Hotel & Casino ... and on Jan. 2, they're playing Rhode Island in Uncasville, Conn., at Mohegan Sun Casino's arena (which is normally home to the WNBA's Connecticut Sun). However, by failing to a neutral-site game at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall (home to the Legends Classic and the A-10 tournament), Oklahoma State missed out on completing college hoops' first-ever Casino Slam.
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