Photo: Courtesy of Denver Athletics
With major conferences adding more conference games (ACC, BIG 10, Pac-12) to their schedule this season as well as regularly scheduled conference challenges and holiday tournaments, there is less demand for non-conference games, especially against mid-major programs.
Ironically, this season DU is benefiting by fewer non-conference games as the Mountain West, having problems scheduling Power-5 opponents, has had to pay-to-play DU to fill out their schedule.
This has not gone over well with the Mountain West brass who threw shade at the Denver hoops program.
According to The Albuquerque Journal “We have two institutions vying to get the University of Denver for $100,000,” MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said before repeating with emphasis. “For the University of Denver.”
Boise coach Leon Rice added, “I think we’re getting squeezed out. The Power 5s are increasing their (league) games and there’s less and less opportunities.”
So what does this mean for the University of Denver basketball program?
First, it will become even more difficult to schedule Power-5 opponents as the opportunities to play shrink dramatically. Second, Denver may actually benefit short-term due to a location that is relatively easy and inexpensive to travel to for games. Denver as a recruiting area and a major metropolitan area may be seen as a positive by some programs versus trips to more remote, rural areas. However, longer term, DU will face the same scheduling problems other mid-majors face. Third, even road ‘bodybag games’ will become more rare as opportunities shrink and Power-5 programs want to play high mid-major programs or other Power-5 conference opponents to enhance their RPI. Fourth, rare appearances by ‘at large’ non-Power-5 schools will become even rarer. Fifth, expect fewer ‘giant killer’ upsets in March Madness as smaller conferences will not have adequate playing experience against top-tier competition.
And, as we have mentioned in a past article, the idea of a wide-open March Madness tournament, which includes all conferences, may eventually be a thing of the past as the competitive gap between Power-5 and mid-major conferences grows wider.