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Many home games might help MVC repair its men’s basketball power ranking

All Missouri Valley Conference schools released their men’s basketball schedules on Tuesday.
All Missouri Valley Conference schools released their men’s basketball schedules on Tuesday. The Wichita Eagle

In 2015-16, Wichita State’s 25 NCAA Division I victories carried an average rank of No. 175 in the RPI.

And that considers NCAA Tournament wins over Vanderbilt and Arizona. That total is weighed down by an 11-0 record against teams ranked No. 201 or lower, nine of them against Missouri Valley Conference teams.

In WSU’s four previous NCAA seasons, its lowest RPI average for wins was No. 158, in 2014-15.

So that trend is going in the wrong way. I don’t expect MVC schools to make dramatic rises this season, but perhaps some can schedule their way to an improved RPI.

It is a measure of Wichita State’s heft that it can schedule like it’s Duke in November and December. All that’s missing is a game at Madison Square Garden.

The Shockers play eight home non-conference games. They play one road game (at Colorado State) in an opponent’s gym.

They travel to Oklahoma City to play Oklahoma. The game is considered a home game for the Sooners, although it is played in Chesapeake Energy Arena, roughly 22 miles from campus. While that game is part of the Sooners season-ticket package, I expect WSU fans to make up a significant portion of the crowd.

The Battle 4 Atlantis, of course, should give the Shockers three opponents ranging from solid to excellent.

That’s a challenging schedule and it might overwhelm this team at times. But it’s not unfair. It’s helpful for a team with no scholarship seniors and replacing three starters.

WSU plays Oklahoma State at Intrust Bank Arena (considered a home game for NCAA resume purposes). Valley schools play 22 games against Power 5/Big East teams, 12 on the road, eight at neutral sites and two at home. That neutral-site total could change depending on how tournaments play out.

Butler is the only other Power 5/Big East opponent to visit an MVC arena. It plays at Indiana State.

In general, MVC schools loaded up on home games in the non-conference. Many are against weak opponents, so I don’t expect a strength of schedule bonanza.

Winning games can help everybody’s RPI to some level, as Southern Illinois showed last season. It went 11-2 in non-conference games and compiled a No. 136 RPI rank and a No. 329 non-conference strength of schedule rank. That may be the path to avoiding last season’s disaster in which half the conference ranked No. 170 or lower.

Missouri State, WSU, Evansville, Drake, Bradley, Loyola, Illinois State and SIU all play six or more home games in non-conference play.

Last season, MVC teams played 61 home non-conference games and 35 on the road. This season, it’s 66-31 with Northern Iowa trying to add two games.

Bradley

Road: Four games

Home: Six

Vs. Power 5/Big East: 2

Tournament/neutral: 3

▪  Bradley needs to win, so give coach Brian Wardle a pass on schedule scrutiny until 2017-18. The Braves play at TCU and Ole Miss. Nevada and Hofstra are also possibly helpful games.

Drake

Road: Two

Home: Six

Vs. Power 5/Big East: 2

Tournament/neutral: 4

▪  DePaul, Fresno State and Iowa State highlight this schedule. Drake also needs to win as it enters coach Ray Giacoletti’s fourth season. The Bulldogs finished with a losing record in all three previous.

Evansville

Road: Two

Home: Eight

Vs. Power 5/Big East: 1

Tournament/neutral: 3

▪  Evansville lost five of its top six scorers, including returner Blake Simmons to a recent knee injury. This is a good season to lose at Louisville to open the season and not play another road game until Dec. 17.

Illinois State

Road: Three

Home: Six

Vs. Power 5/Big East: 1 (pending tournament outcomes)

Tournament/neutral: 3

▪  The Redbirds are among the MVC’s top schedulers. They play at Murray State, TCU and Tulsa and get New Mexico and Saint Joseph’s at home.

Indiana State

Road: Four

Home: Five

Vs. Power 5/Big East: Three

Tournament/neutral: Two (pending tournament outcomes)

▪  The Sycamores probably over-scheduled, but they’ve given themselves a chance to be interesting. Credit coach Greg Lansing for not backing away from good games. Butler and Western Kentucky visit Hulman Center. Indiana State opens the Advocare Invitational against Iowa State and will play either Stanford or Miami.

Loyola

Road: Three

Home: Seven

Vs. Power 5/Big East: One (pending tournament outcomes)

Tournament/neutral: Three

▪  The Ramblers play at North Carolina State and get San Diego State at home. The Paradise Jam opens against Saint Joseph’s. A December stretch against Wright State, Milwaukee, Illinois-Chicago and Toledo will determine success.

Missouri State

Road: Three

Home: Eight

Vs. Power 5/Big East: Two (pending tournament outcomes)

Tournament/neutral: Two

▪  The Bears play at Southeast Missouri State (RPI rank No. 342 last season), which is the kind of game MVC schools need to stop. Another situation where the school loaded up on home games because a coach desperately needs wins. MSU is offering a money-back guarantee on some season-tickets this season, which is about as desperate as desperate gets, especially for a school with a proud history.

Northern Iowa

Road: Three

Home: Three

Vs. Power 5/Big East: Four (pending tournament outcomes)

Tournament/neutral: Four

▪  The Panthers plan to add two more games, presumably at home before it heads to Puerto Rico to play Arizona State on Nov. 17. The Panthers usually play a good schedule and a series with Xavier that starts this season is a gem.

Southern Illinois

Road: Five

Home: Eight

Vs. Power 5/Big East: Three

Tournament/neutral: None

▪  The Salukis will play at Arkansas, Minnesota, Louisville and UNLV. The games against Arkansas, Minnesota and Louisville (all one-timers) came about after a tournament in Texas failed to fill an eight-team field. SIU plays Saint Louis at home. It would help the MVC if the Billikens improve under coach Travis Ford.

Wichita State

Road: Two

Home: Eight

Vs. Power 5/Big East: Three (pending tournament outcomes)

Tournament/neutral: Three

▪  Good stuff. Home fans get Tulsa, Saint Louis and Oklahoma State. The trip to OKC is a rare treat for WSU fans, who are starved for games in easy driving distance.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

WICHITA STATE MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

Nov. 5 — Augusta (Ga.) (exhibition)

Nov. 11 — South Carolina State

Nov. 13 — Long Beach State

Nov. 16 —Tulsa

Nov. 20 — Maryland Eastern Shore, 2 p.m.

x-Nov. 23 — LSU, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)

x-Nov. 24 — Louisville or Old Dominion 1:30 p.m/8:30 p.m.

x-Nov. 25 — Michigan State/Saint John’s/Baylor/VCU

Nov. 29 — Southern Nazarene

Dec. 3 — at Colorado State

Dec. 6 — Saint Louis

Dec. 10 — Oklahoma (at Oklahoma City), 3 p.m. (ESPN2)

Dec. 17 — Oklahoma State at Intrust Bank Arena

Dec. 22 — South Dakota State

Dec. 28 — at Indiana State

Jan. 1 — Bradley

Jan. 4 — Drake

Jan. 8 — at Northern Iowa

Jan. 11 — Loyola

Jan. 14 — at Illinois State

Jan. 17 — at Evansville

Jan. 21 — Indiana State

Jan. 24 — Southern Illinois

Jan. 29 — at Bradley

Feb. 1 — at Drake

Feb. 4 — Illinois State

Feb. 9 — Missouri State

Feb. 12 — at Loyola

Feb. 15 — at Southern Illinois

Feb. 18 — Northern Iowa

Feb. 21 — Evansville

Feb. 25 — at Missouri State

March 2-5 — MVC Tournament, St. Louis

x-at Paradise Island, Bahamas

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