Jeez, these kinds of games get under my skin. I know that teams sometimes have a hard time filling out their pre-conference schedules and all that jazz. I know they don’t want to saddle themselves with losses they think may “hurt” when it comes time for the NCAA Tournament selection.
And I know when teams are in a tough league, as Oklahoma and Kansas State are, they have a lot of really hard games to navigate once conference season begins. So they want a “breather” here and there early on.
Oklahoma had no business playing North Carolina Central and Kansas State had no business playing Central Arkansas. The Sooners won their slaughter 89-25 on Sunday, while the Wildcats won theirs 81-38 on Saturday.
They are far from the only programs, of course, that play such “games.” I’m just using these two terrible excuses for games to make a point. Such meetings provide no entertainment value. All they do is make viewers _ those with any sense of empathy, that is _ uncomfortable watching a group of young people that is overmatched in every way get athletically humiliated. These games also are stark reminders that some schools have a wealth of resources while others have very little _ and that it’s even more glaringly and depressingly evident when comparing women’s sports programs.
Some may suggest these games give less-fortunate programs a “taste” of the big time, a memory to have of facing a better foe. Well, maybe that’s possible. But I can’t say it’s ever looked like that to me. Whenever I’ve watched such matchups, it doesn’t seem like the vanquished are enjoying anything about it.
Games like these make me fantasize about what would happen if the “tag-team” concept was used in basketball. Central Arkansas is getting blitzed 19-0 by K-State …
“But wait! What’s this? Is that Candace Parker standing behind Central Arkansas’ bench? What’s she doing here? Oh, good heavens! Cappie Pondexter, too? Sue Bird? Diana Taurasi? Lisa Leslie?
“Folks, you won’t believe this, but these pros are all slapping palms with Central Arkansas’ beleaguered players and coming onto the floor! Does the NCAA know about this? Oh, my gosh! Bird dishes behind the back for a Parker dunk! Taurasi steals the inbounds pass and tosses a no-look to Pondexter for a reverse layup! Leslie forces a 5-second call! Pondexter for 3 … good! Timeout, Wildcats!”
As for OU, coach Sherri Coale told reporters after the NCCU pounding: “[The Big 12] is an amazing league where every game is a challenge. [This game] helps you develop mental discipline, to play every possession like it’s the most important one.”
I can hardly believe she said that last part with a straight face. Still, I won’t give her or Oklahoma much grief because, overall, the Sooners’ non-conference slate is very good – the best in the Big 12.
According to Jerry Palm’s site, OU’s SOS is No. 8. The Sooners already have played Middle Tennessee State, North Carolina, Arizona State, Marist, Connecticut and Cal. Plus, they have Tennessee coming to Norman in February. I’d still prefer not to see a team as overmatched as NC Central on OU’s slate, but it’s really been the Sooners’ only game like that.
K-State, on the other hand, also had another revolting cupcake game – 80-22 over Alcorn State _ in December. But that brings up a broader topic concerning K-State.
Not only have the Wildcats not played a ranked non-conference foe this season, they’ve played just two since 2005 – both last season. Only one of those was scheduled (Michigan State in Cancun) and the other was in the NCAA Tournament (Louisville).
Considering K-State has been pushing multi-talented guard Shalee Lehning for various honors (for which she does deserve consideration), wouldn’t you think coach Deb Patterson might have scheduled a really top-notch non-league opponent at least ONCE in Lehning’s career?
(Facing the Spartans in Mexico does not fit this bill. Some astute fans may point out that K-State played a home-and-home against Louisiana Tech in 2005 and 2006. But Tech was already on its downhill path then.)
Now, I realize coaches don’t know for sure who’s going to be ranked when they’re making their schedules, but … come on. They can guess pretty well. And while it can be challenging to get teams to come to Manhattan, Kan. _ a difficult place for foes to win _ it’s hardly impossible. And there’s always the chance to go on the road for those games.
The Wildcats are currently 13-0, but their SOS is 241 – the second-worst in the Big 12, ahead of only moribund Colorado. K-State won the Big 12 regular-season title last year and returned four starters. So why play such a lackluster non-conference schedule?
Well, Patterson admires K-State football coach Bill Snyder (who’s back after a restless retirement) and, of course, he was legendary for lining up non-league lightweights. However, every loss means a lot more in football, so it made more sense (even if it annoyed outsider observers).
In hoops, November and December losses really do not hurt you with the selection committee if you’re a good team by tournament time. So it’s preferable to really challenge yourself at least once (if you have a veteran team, which K-State does). And who’s to say K-State wouldn’t win against higher-quality non-league foes? There’s only one way to find out.
Plus, I’d think K-State’s enthusiastic fans might want to see (deserve to see, in fact) at least one top team outside of the Big 12 come to Bramlage Coliseum every great once in a while. Penn State, then No. 14, was the last ranked non-conference foe to play there … that was in 2002, in the Preseason WNIT title game.
But if it didn’t happen this season, with Lehning still there, I wonder when it will again.