Jun. 13—No offseason news in college basketball attracts more attention than recruiting and scheduling. Those also happen to be the hardest parts of the job for Dayton Flyers coaches.
Working on the schedule remains a big part of Athletic Director Neil Sullivan's job, and he said Monday the 2022-23 schedule may be complete in the next two weeks.
"I think scheduling is definitely definitely the most challenging thing we do," Sullivan said. "When you really look at the macro environment, it was hard for us to get certain games before, and then as leagues moved to 20 games, a certain number of games were sucked out of the universe, if you will. At the end of the day, the thing that really hasn't changed is we want to play a high-quality schedule that positions us for (a NCAA tournament at-large berth). We have the opportunity to do that this year. We really want Quad 1 and Quad 2 games. We want as many Quad 1 and Quad 2 games in the A-10 as possible. We want to play the best in the league twice. We want the home-and-homes with VCU and Saint Louis and others. Our position is for that to continue happening."
With Loyola of Chicago entering the A-10, there are now 15 schools in the league. Teams will continue to play an 18-game A-10 schedule. The additional team means everyone will play four schools twice instead of playing five schools twice. Sullivan said the A-10 makes the final decision on the schedule pairings but Dayton is not timid when it comes to letting its opinions known on who it wants to play twice.
Asked if it would make sense to play Loyola twice this season, Sullivan said he wouldn't want to speculate on what the A-10 will do but would echo that thought.
Four of Dayton's 13 non-conference opponents are known: Robert Morris (Nov. 19 at UD Arena); Western Michigan (Nov. 30 at UD Arena); Wyoming (Dec. 17 in Chicago); and Virginia Tech (in Blacksburg, Va., on a date to be announced). Dayton also knows it will play three teams from this group Nov. 23-25 in the Battle 4 Atlantis: Kansas; Tennessee; Southern California; N.C. State; Wisconsin; Butler; and BYU.
That leaves six opponents that have yet to be announced. Sullivan expects a "couple of other" games similar to the Wyoming and Virginia Tech games to be announced soon. These will be games against NCAA tournament at-large contenders.
"The challenge for us is trying to get the home-and-home games," Sullivan said. "We were really fortunate to get Virginia Tech last year, but we would really like to have three or four of those on an annual basis that are home-and-home games or neutral-court games."
If the early predictions by national college basketball writers are any indications, Dayton likely will start the season in the top 25 for the first time since the 2009-10 season. That hasn't changed the responses Sullivan has received when he seeks non-conference games for his team. Few programs in the top six-ranked conferences — the Big 12, Southeastern, Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac 12 — want to play Dayton. That's why Sullivan said UD has tried to look beyond those conferences into other multi-bid conferences ranked closer to the A-10, which was the 10th-best conference last season, according to the Ken Pomeroy ratings.
Dayton scheduled a home-and-home series with Southern Methodist, from the ninth-ranked American Athletic Conference, the last two seasons, and will play one of the seventh-ranked Mountain West's best teams, Wyoming, this season.
"They're expected to be top 50," Sullivan said. "Wyoming isn't Power Five, but they're a quality team that has everybody back from an NCAA tournament team. I understand there's some brand value of Power Five, but for us, it's really about the quality of the opponent."
Having a team that returns all five starters and seven of its top eight scorers also hasn't changed the math for Sullivan, who wants the best possible schedule every year regardless of the talent level and experience of the Flyers.
"I think this year there could be a wrinkle of maybe starting on the road," Sullivan said, "when we really had intended to start at home to make sure we're trying to get the best quality game. But for the most part, as long as I've been here, our expectation is to build an at-large contending schedule. We're happy to have a roster coming back and and all that, but our expectations and the way we go about it doesn't change a whole lot. It's modified here and there based on dates. If you think back when we went to Maui (in the 2019-20 season), we landed and turned right around (a week later) and went to Phoenix to play Saint Mary's. I think you might not do that with a young team. You might be willing to do that with a more veteran team."