Our 2014-15 Black Bears basketball schedule was released, and can be found at this link:
Scheduling is one of the more important and misunderstood parts of running a college program. There are so many factors that go into scheduling that make it difficult. You want to set up your schedule to look a certain way – a balance of home and away games, some good home games for your fans, dates that make sense with the rest of your schedule, etc… But it’s hard to get it to look exactly how you want.
Our main goal with our non-conference schedule is always going to be to give us our best chance to win our league. The games that we play should help us when it comes to January and February when were are playing America East games. We want to play some games that are really going to test us – road games like Butler, Seton Hall and Boston College – that will prepare us to win our league. Going on the road to play high level teams is only going to help us when we go to Vermont and Stony Brook later in the year.
We also want to try and get some good home games, which isn’t always easy. Everyone wants to play at home, and more and more teams are willing to play D2 and D3 teams at home rather than set up a home and home series. When teams do agree to home and homes, they usually want trips that are somewhat cheap and convenient. Unfortunately we aren’t a convenient trip for too many schools, so a lot of teams are looking for other home and homes before they agree to come to Bangor. If they do agree, they almost always want to play at home first.
One factor that is very real for us at UMaine is the amount we travel. We know we are going to have some long trips when we go on the road, so we want to make our trips as practical as possible. Playing in cities that you can fly to direct from Bangor helps. Playing on weekends where we don’t have to miss class makes a difference – for example, our Northern Illinois game this year. You might look at the schedule and wonder why is Maine playing at Northern Illinois? We can fly direct to Chicago and get home after the game (on a Sunday) without missing class. They offered us a guarantee that will cover us flying out there and staying on Saturday, so it actually did make sense. It’s a road game, but one where we won’t miss class, the travel is direct and it works financially.
Finding trips where we can play two games – such as going to Seton Hall and then to Quinnipiac – make sense as well. When we are going to travel, it makes sense to play twice. But it’s often difficult to find two games around the same dates that make sense.
Once you start filling dates, your schedule gets more and more limited. Other games may pop up that are good games that make sense, but you don’t really have room on the schedule. When we got to Maine in May there were still 5 games to fill on our schedule, so with a number of games set in stone we didn’t have great flexibility. And finding the right games that late in the year can be very hard, another reason why Northern Illinois made sense. We didn’t have anything scheduled for the weekend after Thanksgiving, so that one fit in nicely.
Dates, budget, travel, classes, home vs. away, guarantee money, the home fans and competitiveness of the game are all factors when it comes to scheduling. Unfortunately you can’t just take one of them and make it work. It’s not as easy as saying let’s get some good home games this year, or we only want to play on these dates. With all of those factors there are so many moving parts to a schedule.
I like our schedule because I know it will challenge us. While I’d like to have a few more home games, playing on the road is something that will prepare us for our league. Our schedule will force us to prepare at a high level every day, and ultimately that is what we want.