Justin Riley, forward for No. 13 Chapman, has been blogging for us throughout the Panthers season. This week he discusses the scheduling difficulties of being an island on an island. The only Division III conference within driving distance is the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) of which Chapman isn’t a member.
What comes to mind when you hear about this school? Location…academics…enrollment size…women…athletics?
Athletics…of course not.
Why would you think about athletics when thinking of Chapman? Why would ANY athlete choose a school that is not affiliated with a conference? In fact, why do athletes even go to Chapman when they know the chances of making the post-season aren’t very high?
These questions were the exact ones that circled my mind when deciding to attend Chapman, yet I still decided to come here.
Did the location of the school influence my decision? Yes.
Did academics influence my decision? Yes.
Did enrollment size influence my decision? Yes.
Did the women influence my decision? Yes.
Did choosing a school that had a basketball program that never made a post-season appearance influence my decision? Yes.
I decided to come to Chapman on all these accords, but there was nothing more important to me than having the opportunity to be part of a team that had the chance to make school history and earn the first ever post-season bid for the men’s basketball program. Upon my arrival, I quickly learned that earning a post-season bid wasn’t very easy to come by. After a 20-7 campaign my freshman year, we were left sitting on the couch reading who was doing what. Honestly, I didn’t feel that we truly deserved a bid due to key losses against La Verne and Redlands. I accepted it and moved on.
Sophomore year, we wanted to shake off another boring March and improve upon our record. With a starting group of three juniors and two sophomores, we finished the season 24-3, yet we still found ourselves sitting on the couch again. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around why we didn’t get the bid, so I decided to do some research to find out why we weren’t “good” enough to make the post-season. After reading through various board postings, blogs and other articles, I found out how important the strength of schedule is in the selection process. After finding this information out, I looked up our strength of schedule numbers based upon our opponents winning percentage (OWP) and opponents opponents winning percentage (OOWP) and found Chapman had the third easiest schedule in Division III. Frustrated about this statistic, I threw my hands up and accepted that with such an easy schedule and three in-region losses to Whitman, Whitworth, and UDallas, we probably weren’t the most deserving team of a Pool B bid.
But then I started to think: why was our strength of schedule so weak? There wasn’t much difference in the teams we played from the year before to now, so why was there such a disparity?
Answer: It’s simple—Chapman is left with very slim pickings of teams who are willing to play them once conference play starts. Since there are only two other Division III opponents in California that aren’t in the SCIAC, we are forced to play UC Santa Cruz and La Sierra multiple times. Unfortunately, UC Santa Cruz and La Sierra haven’t had the most successful seasons over the past years, which has lead to a decrease in our strength of schedule numbers.
Now we are left with the ultimate question: Why not stop scheduling La Sierra and UC Santa Cruz so much, and play better west region teams?
Answer: WE WANT TO!
Problem: Once conference play starts, we are left with those two teams and other meaningless, in terms of a post-season bid, games against NAIA and NCCAA opponents. Of course we would like to play all the SCIAC schools twice a year, but the reality is, they don’t want to play us. Can you blame them? If I were a coach, why would I play a non-conference game during the midst of conference play to help out another team? What if a player gets injured? What if we lose? Will our team morale be affected? Yes, playing us will increase their strength of schedule and give them another west region game, but at the same time, focusing a team’s energy on a non-conference opponent during conference play might not be the best idea. Some may agree with this statement while others will disagree, but the reality is come conference time, teams do not want to play us, PERIOD.
So what is the solution? I wish I had the magic potion to sprinkle on the heads of the SCIAC to let us in or to at least schedule us during conference play, but the truth is, I don’t. Knowing these statistics, should we fill up our November and December schedule with tougher opponents? Maybe. Should we try and compete in tournaments that feature these opponents? Maybe. Should we stop complaining when year after year we find ourselves not playing in March? Maybe. There are many questions that are left unanswered, but one thing I am confident about is that Chapman is a strong force in not only the West, but in all of Division III. Our schedule may not match up with other top teams in America, but once again, I am confident that we have the talent to compete with any team. I only have one more year of eligibility after this season, but I promise I will not be satisfied until we get the opportunity to shine in March.
To everyone who mocks our schedule, doubts our abilities, or just downright doesn’t like us…thank you!
The more you doubt, the more motivated we become!