BOGACZYK: Herd Men's Hoops Scheduling Tougher
The Word on the Herd-April 8, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The rebuilding continues in Marshall men's basketball, and the Herd intends to bring a greater degree of difficulty to the task, too.
Coach Dan D'Antoni wants improvement in all phases of the program in which he starred as a point guard back in the late `60s. The 2015-16 schedule is an example of that.
With a team that will return only two players -- forward Ryan Taylor and guard Austin Loop -- who were on the floor in 2013-14 -- Marshall has 11 of its 13 non-league games scheduled to date, and the intention with the remaining two games is to have a schedule full of Division I programs.
"Dan wanted to play the best possible teams that we can, so we tried to balance things," said Jeff O'Malley, Marshall's associate athletic director and chief of staff who is the MU men's hoops administrator. "Some of next season's schedule was done already when Dan was hired (a year ago).
"We tried to balance what already was completed with Dan's philosophy on trying to get the best possible teams lined up. Then, you also want to try and build it with some winnable games as well."
D'Antoni said he doesn't want to play home guarantee games against non-Division I teams. Meanwhile, the Herd will play two "buy" road games against marquee opponents.
The Herd will visit Tennessee on Nov. 19 for a $90,000 guarantee. O'Malley said Marshall also is in discussions and negotiations with several big-name power programs for a second "buy" date.
The trip to Knoxville to meet the Vols and new Coach Rick Barnes will be the first Marshall-Tennessee game since 1945-46, the Herd schedule to date also includes the Capital Classic in the Charleston Civic Center against rival West Virginia -- on Dec. 17, a Thursday night -- and a game in Las Vegas against defending Mountain West Conference Tournament champ and 2015 NCAA tourney entrant Wyoming.
The Wyoming date is part of a four-game multiteam "exempt" event in which Marshall gets two home games, then goes to Vegas for Dec. 21-22 games in a tournament-style setup. The Marshall-Wyoming winner and loser will face the Grand Canyon-Houston winner and loser.
The Herd hasn't played Wyoming since 1992-93. Grand Canyon just finished its second Division I season. Houston -- a former Conference USA foe of Marshall -- played against the Herd for the first time on Feb. 1, 1968 at Madison Square Garden, when UH won 102-93 and D'Antoni was in the Marshall backcourt and the Cougars had All-American Elvin Hayes in the frontcourt.
That Las Vegas event is under the Global Sports Management umbrella. O'Malley said Marshall continues to work with Global Sports President Maury Hanks for its multiteam event scheduling.
The two home dates in the Global Sports event are against Eastern Illinois and North Carolina Central, which finished its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference season unbeaten, but fell in the MEAC Tournament and went to the NIT, where it lost a first-round game to eventual runner-up Miami (Fla.). Central finished 25-8.
Those games are Dec. 9 and 14, respectively.
"We've worked with Maury Hanks on our recent multiteam events and he's been outstanding in scheduling us and getting us teams," O'Malley said. "He's easy to work with, a man of his word and always comes through.
"It's not always the case with a lot of those (promoters). What really helps is getting your multiteam event locked in early, and then you can work around it. That really works in your favor."
O'Malley said that besides the four-game event organized by Hanks' firm, the 2015-16 games already set when D'Antoni took the job was a home date with Akron (date TBA) and a road game at Morehead State (Nov. 24) -- both dates end four-game contracts -- and the Capital Classic.
"Since Dan came in, we went out and got the Tennessee game," O'Malley said. "We also locked down a home-and-home with Eastern Kentucky, starting here (Dec. 12), and then next year on the road, and did a home-and-home with James Madison in the same year (Nov. 27 home, Dec. 5 road)."
Asked about playing a home-and-home in the same season against a non-league foe, O'Malley said, "If you have a good opponent and it's regional, I don't mind it, and it knocks out two of the games you need to get."
The final piece of the puzzle is a home-and-home O'Malley and D'Antoni hope to land against a mid-major or power conference team. That game, whether it's home or road, would be played Nov. 13 or 14.
If it's a Henderson Center date, it would be Nov. 13, because Marshall has a home football game against FIU the following day.
"Hopefully we'll get another home-and-home," O'Malley said. "That's what we'd like, and if it's a good fit for home-and-home we'll do it. That's what we're looking at right now. We're kind of waiting. Some things will fall late -- they always do -- and that's how we got the South Carolina home-and-home (in the last two seasons). Some things always break late."
O'Malley said D'Antoni also wants to play two exhibition games that haven't been scheduled to date.
For the following season (2016-17), O'Malley said the Herd already has the return game to Eastern Kentucky and "we've agreed in principal to extend Akron -- another four years -- but it's not done (contractually) yet. He said the Herd also is working a multiteam event that would provide three home dates in tandem with a road game at a power conference foe.
Marshall's 18-game Conference USA schedule remains in limbo. O'Malley said C-USA scheduling in most sports remains uncertain until university presidents in the league decide whether C-USA Tournament champ UAB will remain in the league or be forced out after dropping football following last season.
The 2015-16 Marshall men's basketball non-conference schedule (to date), with two games remaining:
19 -- at Tennessee; 24 -- at Morehead State; 27 -- James Madison.
5 -- at James Madison; 9 -- Eastern Illinois; 12 -- Eastern Kentucky; 14 -- North Carolina Central; 17 -- West Virginia at Charleston CC; 21 -- Wyoming, at Las Vegas; 22 -- Grand Canyon or Houston, at Las Vegas.