Seton Hall's non-conference scheduling cheat sheet

Kevin Willard and DOBO Stephen Sauers (right) have a lot to do with Seton Hall's non-conference scheduling. - USA TODAY Sports

Following the Stony Brook Model of Non-Conference Scheduling, I took a look at a handful of regional schools that posted an RPI between 50 and 200 (with an exception or two) this season. Additionally, I found the average RPI of these schools over the past three seasons and their rough distance from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Not surprisingly, there are enough teams to form non-conference schedules for multiple schools. Predictably, Seton Hall has scheduled just 3 of these schools over the past three seasons: UMass (2011), Richmond (2011), St. Francis-NY (2012), while scheduling schools such as Longwood (#319, 2011), N.J.I.T. (#315, 2011), Longwood (#332, 2012), N.J.I.T. (#304, 2012), Saint Peter's (#305, 2012), Maine (#264, 2013), Saint Peter's (#290, 2013), N.J.I.T. (#300, 2013) and Longwood (#332, 2013).

That's an average of 3 schools per season. I would argue that these 9 opponents have done nothing to increase exposure, are an anchor on Seton Hall's RPI/SOS, are a lose-lose situation (what if Eugene Harvey missed his half-court heave?), and do nothing to entice fans to purchase season tickets or single-game tickets to these specific games.

What is most alarming is that Seton Hall's non-conference strength of schedule has taken a nose dive since Kevin Willard's arrival. It started at 101 in 2011, fell to 256 last season, and continued its downward trend by finishing at 318 this season (KenPom SOS). This trend follows the public declaration from Kevin Willard that he would aim to create an easier non-conference schedule than the one he dealt with in his first season at Seton Hall (2011, #101.) So far, he has succeed to this end.

Prior to Kevin Willard, Bobby Gonzalez had compiled a mess of opponents during the 2009 season: Monmouth, N.J.I.T., Hartford, VMI, and Navy. Not to mention the fact that Saint Peter's and Long Island weren't too hot that season either. One of the few things Gonzalez did do right at Seton Hall was putting together a very nice schedule for the season that he didn't coach at the school.

So, why not trim the trans-fatty mess that has accumulated since Willard's arrival and replace it with the whole grain of local and regional schools that have posted RPIs in the sweet spot (75-200) over the last few seasons? It can't be that hard to do, if desired. Even I was able to accurately predict this season's poor non-conference RPI/SOS months before the season started.

The following list does not include the new addition of Stony Brook to the non-conference schedule, which this entire piece is based off of. It also does not include games played against Saint Joseph's (2012), Rhode Island (2013) and Long Island (2013), which were a result of various non-conference events and not direct scheduling.

Opponent: Saint Joseph's
Conference: Atlantic-10
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 82, 69, 164 (105)
Distance from Newark: 90~ miles

Opponent: Richmond
Conference: Atlantic-10
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 91, 126, 41 (86)
Distance from Newark: ~300 miles (DMV bonus)

Opponent: Iona
Conference: MAAC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 97, 40, 68 (68)
Distance from Newark: ~33 miles (Willard, Lyons bonus)

Opponent: Lehigh
Conference: Patriot
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 107, 91, 205 (134)
Distance from Newark: ~75 miles

Opponent: Boston College
Conference: ACC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 111, 244, 58 (137)
Distance from Newark: ~230 miles (HM + recruit bonus)

Opponent: Robert Morris
Conference: NEC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 124, 99, 100 (107)
Distance from Newark: ~380 miles

Opponent: Princeton
Conference: Ivy
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 125, 88, 40 (84)
Distance from Newark: 42 miles (NJ bonus)

Opponent: Wagner
Conference: NEC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 127, 92, 170 (129)
Distance from Newark: 20 miles

Opponent: Albany
Conference: America East
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 131, 214, 216 (187)
Distance from Newark: ~150 miles

Opponent: St. Bonaventure
Conference: A-10
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 139, 72, 122 (111)
Distance from Newark: ~330 miles

Opponent: Delaware
Conference: CAA
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 141, 153, 140 (144)
Distance from Newark: 120 miles

Opponent: George Washington
Conference: A-10
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 143, 188, 145 (158)
Distance from Newark: 220 miles (DMV bonus)

Opponent: Rider
Conference: MAAC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 146, 200, 105 (150)
Distance from Newark: ~55 miles (NJ bonus)

Opponent: Towson
Conference: CAA
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 157, 311, 287 (251**)
Distance from Newark: 220 miles (DMV bonus)

Opponent: Northeastern
Conference: CAA
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 160, 172, 178 (170)
Distance from Newark: ~230 miles

Opponent: George Mason
Conference: CAA
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 163, 82, 24 (89)
Distance from Newark: ~240 miles (DMV bonus)

Opponent: Fairfield
Conference: MAAC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 175, 115, 97 (129)
Distance from Newark: ~70 miles

Opponent: James Madison
Conference: CAA
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 182, 261, 88 (177)
Distance from Newark: ~350 miles (DMV bonus)

Opponent: UMass
Conference: Atlantic-10
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 56, 77, 151 (94)
Distance from Newark: ~200 miles

Opponent: Quinnipiac
Conference: NEC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 191, 155, 144 (163)
Distance from Newark: ~100 miles

Opponent: St. Francis (NY)
Conference: NEC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 207, 211, 213 (210***)
Distance from Newark: ~20 miles

Opponent: Rhode Island
Conference: Atlantic-10
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 201, 257, 101 (186)
Distance from Newark: ~170 miles (Hurley bonus)

Opponent: Long Island
Conference: NEC
Average RPI Last 3 Seasons: 179, 80, 75 (111)
Distance from Newark: 12 miles

** - While Towson's average RPI is below 200, they are in the midst of a dramatic turnaround under new coach Pat Skerry. After going 1-31 last season, Towson posted an 18-13 record this campaign.

*** - St. Francis is just outside of the Top-200 RPI, but their proximity to Newark cannot be ignored.

Beyond the above teams, I am an advocate of continuing a series with Stony Brook, adding Rutgers (and possibly UConn), and monitoring the local cupcakes for their RPI pulse every off-season. Here is a list of these schools from the New Jersey and NYC area that are not on the above list due to poor RPIs:

New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, N.J.I.T., Saint Peter's

New York City: Fordham, Hofstra, Manhattan

Even with all of the above data in hand, the old adage of "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" comes into play. Either the Seton Hall staff doesn't fully understand how to schedule (doubtful), or they just prefer an unproductive cakewalk in November and December that does little to further the program. If there is a third possibility, I'm unaware of it and am open to any and all suggestions.

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