Travis Ford was talking about how many good players he will have at his disposal next season but said figuring out playing time should be fun. “I love competition,” Ford said.
Speaking of which, let’s have some in the non-conference next season. Time for Ford to beef up OSU’s non-conference schedule. Not that OSU has been playing embarrassing non-conference schedules, but the return of Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash gives Ford ammunition to seriously upgrade the OSU slate of opponents.
I wrote about Smart’s return for the Thursday Oklahoman. You can read that column here. Smart’s return affects many things, including scheduling. Ford says you have to be smart in your scheduling. I say that is trumped by having Smart.
After Smart, the OSU all-American, said Wednesday he would return for his sophomore year, Cowboy basketball looks like a national contender. OSU was danged good last season, despite a disappointing loss to underseeded Oregon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Now the Cowboys return everyone but center Phil Jurick off that team.
And it’s a great opportunity for Ford. The Cowboys have played a quality schedule, but with a team this loaded and this experienced, the 2013-14 season offers a chance for Ford to play a big-time schedule while also using it as barter for future considerations. For example, this team is good enough to go on the road and beat some quality teams. Maybe OSU can get a home-and-home with an opponent that is hard to bring to Stillwater; get it done with the carrot of this team.
But Ford said he doesn’t plan to changing his scheduling philosophy. He points out that State’s schedule was ranked somewhere in the 20s last season. “I don’t think you need to the play the No. 1-ranked schedule,” Ford said. “I don’t think you need to play the No. 50-ranked schedule,” meaning somewhere in between.
OSU next season plays in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, along with LSU, Memphis, Butler, Purdue, Washington State, Siena and Saint Joseph’s. So that’s a good start. But Ford said he won’t load up the schedule.
“You have to have games where guys can learn, rather than every game coming down to the last four, five minutes. You’ve gotta have balance.”
Ford said a couple of considerations go into scheduling:
1. RPI. How will the schedule affect OSU’s power rankings?
2. A good run of home games. “We want home games,” Ford said. “We want our fans to see this team.”
“You get 10 non-conference games,” Ford said. “You don’t need seven or eight top-15 games. You need to get three or four big games. Two or three below 100 (in the RPI). Two or three in the 200-250 range.”
Ford said he spent an hour Wednesday morning with administrative aide Joey Biggs, going over scheduling. The networks already are calling, trying to set up games. So it sounds like Ford will play a good schedule.