It happens every single season.
A mid-major program has a successful season, returns a couple of stars and all of a sudden cannot find a quality team willing to play them, let alone play them at home.
We’ve written about the issues that Creighton is having scheduling opponents this season. Twice, actually. But the Bluejays are far from the only quality mid-major program that will struggle to fill their schedule. Case in point: Murray State.
The Racers shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. They won their first 23 games last year, finishing the season 31-2 (30-1 heading into the NCAA tournament) while beating Memphis, Dayton and Southern Miss in non-conference play. The problem? The Racers play in the Ohio Valley Conference, which was rated the 21st-strongest conference by the RPI, which is why that 30-1 record heading into the tournament afforded them a No. 6 seed against arguably the best No. 3 seed in Marquette.
And the schedule next year? Well, it did get a little bit better on Wednesday:
On Wednesday, Prohm accepted an invitation to the Charleston Classic, a solid eight-team tournament in mid-November featuring Baylor, Colorado, St. John’s, Auburn, Dayton, Boston College and Charleston. Murray State previously agreed to a home game against Western Kentucky and road games at Dayton, Lipscomb, Evansville and Arkansas State.
Colorado has a chance to be pretty good next season, as does St. John’s, but neither of them are guaranteed to be tournament teams. Baylor has yet another talented recruiting class coming in, but that didn’t exactly work in 2011 for the Bears. In other words, there is no guarantee — even if the Racers get lucky and play any or all of those three teams — that the Charleston Classic will do anything to boost their schedule.
“It’s just tough,” Murray State head coach Steve Prohm told Yahoo! Sports. “We’ve still got to get two more home games because so far we’re on the road for a tournament and four other games. We haven’t gotten anything confirmed yet, but hopefully we can get a couple good programs in here that can help us in the long run.”
Murray State still has two spots on their schedule to fill, and while I’m sure Prohm would love to schedule in-state opponents Louisville and Kentucky, the odds of either program being willing to play Murray State — let alone in Murray — is miniscule. So does he try and play a lowly BCS conference program? A quality mid-major? Does he take the paycheck to play a team that will help the RPI numbers even if it means traveling across the country in the middle of the week?
None of it is ideal. And all of it is frustrating. Murray State is good enough that they should be showcased and embraced this season. Instead, we may once again be forced to see them play lesser opponents on grainy online streams again.
And yes, I’m actually doing this as I type.