Pioneers should take the tough road

DU is coming off a brutal seven-game road stretch. I’d argue that this should be the norm this time of year for DU during their non-conference schedule.

Ideally, with a 13 game non-conference schedule, DU should play only 4 games at Magness, 5 road games against power conference foes, and 4 games against mid-major on the road. 

With the University virtually closed from the week of Thanksgiving until early January, it is nearly impossible to play in front of large crowds while building a profitable basketball brand. According to Mike Davis, head coach of mid-major program Texas Southern “To have a home game, you’ve gotta pay the officials $4,000-$5,000. The people (working the scorers’) table are another $2,500. So, in order to have a home game, we’ve gotta clear $10,000. We’re not gonna clear $10,000. And I don’t want to waste my time playing NAIA teams. If we play a lower team, nobody’s gonna come in and see that. The math is simple.” DU has other expenses such as the conversion of the Magness from hockey to basketball and back again. No one is in town during late November thru December and many of the visiting teams have little or no relevance to regional basketball fans.

According to College AD, Texas Southern is going to earn a whopping $90,000 to travel and play Arizona this year. That gives the program additional operating cash, covers travel expenses, three quality meals per day, and top notch lodging while leaving extra cash for the program to reinvest in their program. The influx not only gives their program greater visibility, the players can travel and train in style.

If you are a competitive athlete, you welcome the opportunity to play large programs in large venues.

DU could secure big paydays ($40,000 – $90,000) for road games against power five conference schools while building strength-of-schedule and visibility at the same time. If DU basketball played Oklahoma State, Cal, Nebraska, Texas Tech, and Georgetown on the road and could win just one of those games, they would get more press in Denver than they would if they managed to go undefeated against fellow mid-major teams during their non-conference schedule.What about the brand value of playing power-five teams in cities where Denver has

What about the brand value of playing power-five teams in cities where Denver has large alumni and future student bases such as Atlanta (Georgia Tech) or Minneapolis (University of Minnesota Twin Cities)?

Fellow Summit League program Omaha took down Iowa in Iowa City several weeks ago…Why shouldn’t DU travel to Ames or Lincoln in the future?

It’s unrealistic to count on large basketball power programs to travel to Denver and play the Pioneers consistently. Generally, larger programs are reluctant to travel to a mid-major for a number of reasons – both financial and reputational. Even 2 for 1 home and away arrangements, popular in the past, are falling out of favor with large programs. Plus, the growth of holiday neutral-court tournaments (Hawaii, Orlando, Las Vegas, the Bahamas and big cities like New York ) is limiting the flexibility and willingness of many large programs to travel to face smaller programs for one-off games.

With the proposed 4 (mid-major road)- 5 (major road)- 4 (mid-major home) schedule, the Pioneers would still be playing eight of their pre-conference games against mid-majors. Assuming they play well, their preseason record does not need to be poor heading into Summit League play and they also would have the experience of playing some great teams with a chance at an upset or two and an improved RPI.

Sure this year’s road trip to Texas A&M was a mismatch but followed with two mid-major road wins, the Pios have shown no ill effects from the trip. Expect DU’s talent and cohesiveness to continue to improve over the next few years.

This year’s team has shown that the long winter break and a heavy road schedule can actually bring the team together, even on the road.