Low-major college basketball programs routinely sport with rough non-conference schedules. It’s a fact of early season hoops. The big schools offer big paydays in return for (what they hope) is a winnable game in front of home fans.
And some do it because they absolutely have to.
As Jeff Eisenberg writes in an excellent feature, Mississippi Valley State will play 13 straight road games to open its season, all because it’s the best way for the cash-strapped school to earn some money. The SWAC school will travel more than 12,000 miles and take in almost $700,000 in appearance fees.
“It’s tough on the kids to go to most of the toughest places in the country to play, but I know what we need to survive as a program,” MSVU coach Sean Woods told Eisenberg. “I’ve got to bring in a certain amount for the university and then I need a certain amount to get my program through the year. In order to do both, I’ve got to do a schedule like the one I put together.”
That schedule includes opponents such as Indiana, BYU, Arkansas, Butler, Marquette and Kentucky. The only somewhat equal matchup? The Nov. 26 date against Liberty during the SPI Invitational. That’s one of the reasons why the Delta Devils are just 3-34 in non-conference games the past three seasons.
But to keep a program afloat? I’d say it’s worth it.