SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 19: Seats on the Syracuse bench with the Syracuse Orange logo are seen prior to the game against the Colgate Raiders at the Carrier Dome on November 19, 2011 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images)
Or, at least, we know how often we're TOLD it's important to play true road games.
The way some people take schools like Syracuse, Louisville, Duke and UConn to task you'd think there was some direct correlation between the number of true road games you play and whether or not you have a shot at winning the national title.
The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy (via Syracuse.com) wants you to know there is absolutely none. Specifically, he looks at what Syracuse, Connecticut, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville and North Carolina are doing in terms of their scheduling, poll placement and results. And he finds that, ultimately, the number of road games you schedule means absolutely nothing.
Their teams have played a combined 78 non-conference basketball games to date. Only six of those were on the road – an average of one per [team].
How has it damaged them to be so timorous? Not at all. Their teams have won 91.7 percent of their games overall, 93.5 percent of their non-conference games and 100 percent of the home games they arranged for themselves. None is ranked lower than No. 11 in the most recent Associated Press poll.
That last item is most illuminating, because no one agitates more for programs to increase the difficulty of their schedules than people in the media, be they reporters or commentators. That these teams mostly choose to play non-league games at home doesn’t hurt them in the least in the court of public opinion.
Neither will it damage them when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding.
As DeCourcy points out, there's no reason to collect impressive road games on your non-con schedule because all of those programs will notch impressive road game slates through their conference schedule. Sure, it makes sense that Gonzaga and Long Beach State load their non-conference schedule with road games against elite talent, but Syracuse and Duke are already playing dozens of elite programs whether they want to or not.
DeCourcy points out that Pitt did not play even one road non-con game last year and only two teams on their non-Big East schedule even made it to the NCAA Tournament. They were a No. 1 seed.
If anything, it's a good reminder not just to the critics but also to us as fans of an elite basketball program. Let the folks at ESPN or whoever complain about our (perfectly reasonable) schedule, it just goes to show they don't understand the sport they get paid to cover. And we'll do our best to appreciate the schedule we have instead of worrying about who we don't play. Besides, any self-respecting Big East fan knows we play our fair share of tough opponents. That goes for future ACC fans as well...