To cupcake or to not cupcake - that is the question. Or to be more precise – how often and where should we cupcake our preconference schedule. For all those who say there are no cupcakes, let’s not waste a lot of time here, there are and we play many of them every year.
Everybody loves cupcakes (via Creative Commons license)
The real question is does it really matter who you play getting ready for the conference schedule. Many argue that the preseason is a time to test your players against the toughest competition. They say you need to take teams to hostile environments, make them play three days in a row to simulate the tournament. They say the payoff comes with better NCAA seeds and a more tournament tough team.
More Cupcakeology after The Jump:
Others argue, just as passionately, the preseason is the time to bring kids along slowly, teach and try out some things against lesser competition. Empty the bench early and often and build confidence among a bunch of teenagers. Tournament seeds don’t matter that much, losses are bad no matter when and to whom and get the team to peak at the right time.
After exhaustive and highly technical research using the same methodology that created Google, I have come to the stunning conclusion that it just doesn’t matter. Actually, all I did was take the best two seasons under JT Jr., his worst season, the best and worst of Esherick and the same for JTIII. I could have taken a more exhaustive route but I got bored quickly with the research and I’d already reached my conclusion before doing any of it and didn’t want to find any data that contradicted my theory.
So here is data that says – it just doesn’t matter.
JT Jr’s best two seasons were 1983-84 and 1984-85. Both preseasons were dominated by cupcakes, big home wins and a test here and there.
At Hawaii Hilo, Hawaii Loa, Morgan State, St. Francis, St. Leo, At DePaul(#13), South Carolina State, American, Western Kentucky, Marshall (neutral), at UNLV and Monmouth
Hawaii Hilo, Hawaii Loa, Southern Connecticut State, St. Leo, UNLV, DePaul, Morgan State, At New Mexico State, Tennessee (neutral) North Carolina A&T.
Worst Season – 1997-98
Georgia State, Morgan State, Wake Forest(neutral), Cleveland State, at Miami, Bethune Cookman, St. Leo and Southern New Orleans.
Esherick Best season 2000-2001
Bethune Cookman, Central Florida(n), College of Charleston(n), Minnesota(n), Nicholls State, Grambling, Coastal Carolina, Howard, Maryland Eastern Shore and AT Houston
Worst (I know it’s hard to pick) 2003-2004
Grambling, AT Penn State, Coastal Carolina, Delaware State, Norfolk, Davidson, Elon, Howard and AT Citadel.
JT III’s best 2006
Hartford, AT Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, AT Fairfield, Ball State, Oregon, AT Duke, James Madison, Oral Roberts, Winston Salem State, Towson State, Navy and AT Michigan
Jacksonville, Drexel, Wichita State(n), Tennessee(n), Maryland(n), American, Savannah State, Memphis, Mt. St. Mary’s and Florida International.
Bottom line is all three coaches have different philosophies toward the preseason. But they implement that philosophy every year and it does not have any predictive effect at all on how the season will turn out or how tough the team will be by year’s end.
So now that we’ve all agreed that it just doesn’t matter, what should the criteria be for choosing pre-season opponents? Here’s my stab at it. Let me know what you think.
1) Home games – We all hate Syracuse, but the bottom line is they refuse to leave the Carrier Dome before New Years and that means more games for their students and fans to attend. And let’s face it, it’s about going to the games, having a beer, listening to Old Hoya berate the refs and watching Lordnick dance on the big screen.
Seriously, this is still college, not the pros, and it should be about maximizing the students, and alums, chances to see their team. Last time I checked it was our money that funded all this, so this doesn’t seem all that selfish. Naïve you say? Of course.
2) Real challenges – From more than thirty years of watching the Hoyas trust me when I say I don’t remember a single game against St. Leo. I do remember the epic matchup between Patrick Ewing and Ralph Sampson in 1982. Beating Memphis in overtime in 2008, Missouri at McDonough – you get my point. On the flip side, how do you think Louisville and Tennessee feel this morning after last night’s debacle?
3) Confidence builders – You have to play a few games against lesser opponents to give the bench a chance to perform in front of a crowd. There’s no denying how much fun last Sunday was, but I’d rather it be the exception, rather than the rule.
4) Preseason tournaments that allow you to play extra games. I’m not convinced that helps the team in the long run. But as a fan, two extra games to watch, two extra games of Casual Awards, is what it’s all about.
5) Recruiting Prizes – In the age of ESPN, you no longer need to travel to NY or Chicago or LA to showcase your program in front of potential recruits. It is a valuable reward to dangle in front of recruits as part of the process. How do you think Greg Monroe felt about opening his sophomore season in his hometown of New Orleans?
6) The family plan – giving exposure and revenue to former players who are now making their way in the coaching ranks. Savannah State should be on the schedule every year.
After these, I’m not sure what else should matter. I know college basketball isn’t really about what’s best for the students, the student athletes and the alumni. It’s about money, power and getting more money, much like everything else in the real world. But right here it’s not the real world, it’s the Casual world, and in the Casual world it should be all about the students and the memories their team creates for them.