It could still be a few weeks before any official word comes down about the 2012-13 Valparaiso men's basketball schedule, but everything looks to be in place right now according to ESPN's Andy Katz.
The Crusaders are set to play Murray State, New Mexico, St. Louis, Oakland, Kent State, Missouri State and Nebraska on the road. Home games will include IPFW, IUPUI, Chicago State, Bethune-Cookman/Nebraska-Omaha and Georgia Southern.
The immediate uproar from fans has been that the home schedule is very weak this season and that is a correct statement. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing. Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew is smart to schedule the way he has this season.
I don't think it's going out on a limb to say that expectations for this team are higher than they've been since 2001-02. The Horizon League constantly talks about being "built for At-Large" and Drew has set up a schedule that mirrors that statement. If the Crusaders falter again in the Horizon League title game, they will have already had the chance to earn quality road wins against some of the Top RPI teams in the country.
Let's not kid ourselves. Scheduling Duke and North Carolina looks good on the schedule, but those games aren't truly winnable unless something magical happens. Teams like New Mexico, Murray State and St. Louis, all conference favorites who are expected to be in the NCAA tournament, those games are winnable.
Now let's get to home vs. road. Road wins against quality competition are huge when it comes to determining At-Large bids. This particular Valparaiso team has the best chance of any to earn an At-Large bid. I think it's safe to say that next season's team, without Broekhoff, Van Wijk, Buggs, Kenney, Bogan and Boggs, will likely not be built to win an at-large bid. That team will be stocked with freshmen who will now get the chance to play some big teams at home to cut their teeth. Broekhoff and Co. are good enough to win on the road. They don't need the advantage of playing at home as much as they need to be able to capitalize on the disadvantage of playing on the road. The 2013-14 squad will be the opposite.
I know the ARC schedule doesn't look great this year, but the team does and getting to the NCAA tournament is what matters. This schedule is setup to do that.