WKU Basketball: 2017–18 Conference USA Schedule released
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, WKU basketball released their first glimpse of the 2017–18 schedule. We now know which Conference USA teams the Tops will play and when. Here are some quick thoughts on the conference schedule.
Home & Homes against MTSU, Marshall, Old Dominion, UAB & Charlotte
These games have been the same since WKU joined the conference in 2014–15. All those teams return a lot of talent next season and should be predicted to be in the top half of Conference USA . The early road swing against Marshall, ODU and Charlotte should be a big barometer on how Stansbury’s squad will handle life on the road while the late road swing against MTSU and UAB should give us an idea of how the team is peaking towards the post-season. Playing most of those teams twice should help bolster WKU’s RPI and schedule strength as they’ll get to avoid two games against teams like FAU, FIU and Southern Miss that could bring their numbers down rapidly.
Early January on the road during J-Term
While the J-term is a godsend for students, it is brutal for Diddle’s attendance and atmosphere. Bowling Green might support the team around the holidays but getting to avoid the sparse J-term atmosphere will help WKU with its home court advantage. The January 19th game against UAB should be right around the time most students return to campus and the following game against MTSU should be one of the best attended conference games this year. Late January/early February when the Tops are good is usually when Diddle becomes one of the top home court advantages in the conference. The players not being in class should also help them continue to come together as a team in December/January. The Tops should also be adding senior forward Justin Johnson back to the squad around this time after the football season ends and red-shirt freshman Robinson Idehen will become eligible as well so that’s two big additions to WKU’s frontcourt in the middle of the season.
A February in Texas
Unfortunately, the schedulers in the league have done a horrible job breaking up WKU’s road trips to furthest geographic state since joining the league. Having to travel to Texas once is bad but twice in three weeks is downright brutal. Luckily, only UTEP should be formidable talent wise with six upper classman (three seniors & three juniors) in one of the toughest environments in the league. North Texas & Rice are both breaking in new coaches and UTSA is annually in the lower half of the league. Hopefully the team can stay focused during that three-week span and don’t get worn out by the frequent plane travel across the Lone Star State & back to Bowling Green.
Continued Thursday/Saturday conference schedule
Conference USA has repeatedly limited their schedule to the Thursday/Saturday conference weekend. This is both good and bad. It does help build continuity and preparation helping the players lock in for three days but it also makes fans wait four days between games. This may be because of C-USA’s crappy TV partnerships (who really knows with Stadium, BeIN & CBS Sports Network) but I personally would prefer a more spread out schedule that regularly contains Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday mid week games and Saturday or Sunday weekend games to give fans and the team some variety.
Toughest Stretch & Easiest Stretch
The toughest stretch for the team will be from January 6th (at Marshall) to February 3rd (At UTSA). By the time Rick Stansbury’s squad is finished with this stretch, we should legitimately know if the team is worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. WKU realistically can only lose 1–3 conference games over the course of the season (if they have a solid non-conference resume) and make the tournament as an at-large. If they escape this stretch 8–0 or 7–1 then we can legitimately feel good about our March plans if they finish worse than that then it could be Frisco or bust.
The easiest stretch follows the toughest stretch. From February 8th (FAU) to February 17th (at Rice), the Tops will play the dregs of the league that should offer little resistance. Hopefully a few easy victories pave the way for a challenging finish against four teams they say earlier in the season.