Q: I saw you mentioned the Thanksgiving tourney next year at MSG that includes IU. In light of the collapse of the conference, I’m hopeful that you will report Uconn has a lot of tough non-conference games scheduled in the upcoming years. So, who can we expect to see the Huskies be playing outside of the conference? Is it time to drop the instate cupcake games?
A: Hi Sam. UConn and Quinnipiac crossed paths in the Virgin Islands this year, UConn winning in double OT, and Fairfield played a close game at XL in Dec. 2011. The Huskies last played Yale in 2003, Central in 2005, Sacred Heart in 2006 and Hartford in 2008, so the in-state games have been gone for a while. Personally, I’d rather see UConn play teams from Connecticut than soft opponents from outside the state, such as Maryland-Eastern Shore, Coppin State, Fordham, etc. … That’s just me.
… Your larger question is the strength of the nonconference schedule. Once UConn knows its league opponents and commitments, we’ll have a better idea of what they will do going forward, and if the new conference doesn’t provide the desired RPI strength, it’s a no-brainer that UConn will have to “schedule up.” But I wouldn’t expect anything too dramatic. Playing power-nonconference games usually means a home-and-home agreement, which means UConn would have to give up a home game and so would the other team. You can only do so many of those at one time. UConn likes playing home games, and the new league, once play starts in January, will be much more taxing in terms of travel than the old Big East, with two teams in Texas, two in Florida, etc. … Certainly, UConn would be interested in renewing some of the disappearing Big East rivalries, but for these reasons that will be complicated.
Perhaps the new unnamed league will develop a “challenge” series with a power conference, along the lines of the Big East-SEC Challenge. Once everbody gets over their anger, maybe such a series between the “new Big East” and UConn’s new conference could be interesting.
One-shot neutral site games like the Armed Forces Classic, or the Jimmy V last season, can help upgrade without the home-and-home element.
But in any event, look for UConn’s future nonconference schedules to be typical of what nonconference schedules are – a handful of power conference opponents, some in tournaments, and the rest midmajors. This past season, UConn played Wake Forest and NC State, Washington, Michigan State and New Mexico, and its strength of schedule was consistently rated in the top 10. I just don’t see it getting very much harder than that.