MANHATTAN — When new Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber sought out Gonzaga for a series of neutral-court basketball games last week, he did so knowing that the Wildcats will have a veteran team capable of playing a difficult opponent early next season.
He also offered fans a glimpse into his scheduling philosophy.
“We are hoping each year to have some good quality games on our nonconference schedule,” Weber said. “If your league is as good as the Big 12 was last year with Kansas, Missouri and Baylor ranked in the top 10 and plenty of other good teams, your nonconference schedule can slip by a little bit. But if you don’t have that, you need to make sure you make some effort to play some quality people.
“You want to make sure you prepare yourself and make sure you have a good enough nonconference schedule to get you through, not just for making the NCAA Tournament, but making sure you get the kind of seeding you think you deserve.”
That doesn’t mean every game on K-State’s schedule will come against a big-name opponent. The Wildcats see enough of those during the Big 12’s double round-robin schedule. But Weber, much like former coach Frank Martin did before him, will always try to challenge his teams a few times before conference play begins.
After looking over the schedule he inherited for next year, which includes a spot in the NIT Season Tip-off along with Pittsburgh, Virginia and Michigan, a road game with George Washington and a game against Florida at Kansas City’s Sprint Center, he thought the Wildcats could handle more.
He wanted another test away from home, and decided to pass on an easy home game for a series with Gonzaga. That will not only enable K-State to strengthen its schedule next year, but will get them a return game with the Bulldogs the following year in Kansas City or Wichita. Weber hasn’t decided which.
He values games at nearby venues. When he was at Illinois, the Illini played at Chicago’s United Center and in the annual rivalry game against Missouri in St. Louis. The Wildcats have played a game in Kansas City for years, and hosted West Virginia in Wichita last season. Weber is considering the idea of rotating between both venues.
“We would like to play a game in Kansas City as many years as possible; if not every year, most years,” Weber said. “But I know at the same time that Kansas State had a real good crowd when they played West Virginia in Wichita. We have good fans in that part of the state. We would like to keep Wichita in mind, too."
While attending the Big 12’s annual coaching meetings, one of the main things on Weber’s mind was scheduling. He asked his peers about what has worked for them and then thought back to the schedules that benefited his teams at Illinois.
He liked the ACC-Big Ten challenge, which guaranteed a quality home game every other year. And he tried to put the Illini in an early-season tournament yearly.
Though he wishes the Big 12 still had a scheduling arrangement with the Pac-12, Weber said he will do his best to find an extra entertaining game on his own.
Weber said he might also be open to playing teams from the Missouri Valley Conference, including Wichita State.
“It’s a hard game, obviously,” Weber said. “When I was at Southern Illinois I wanted everyone to play us, but when you’re at Illinois or at K-State it’s a tough game to play. It’s something that we will consider as we get established with our schedules and the program.”
Two practices he will definitely continue are scheduling games close to the hometowns of his players and signing up for a nonconference tournament every year.
Weber said he has already had discussions with the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which would give Angel Rodriguez the chance to play in his hometown, as well as the CBE and the Las Vegas Invitational. Weber also thinks K-State stands a good chance of being invited to the Maui Invitational for the first time since 1998.