Key information was made public today in the form of Penn State's 13-game non-conference schedule. With their sights set on making the postseason in a judgment year for the program, constructing a quality schedule was paramount to that goal. Pat Chambers' scheduling formula over the years has been more postseason-friendly than not, but his teams never won enough for it ever to be tested against the committee.
That could change this year, which makes today's embarrassing schedule all the more frustrating. After throwing his prized freshmen into the fire last season with games against Duke and Cincinnati, Chambers either pulled back the reigns or simply failed to land marquee games to match last year's strength of schedule. The Lions now have a much slimmer margin of error if they are to remain in contention for a March Madness bid.
In fairness, this was a particularly challenging year to schedule due to the Big Ten's decision to book Madison Square Garden for the conference tournament (which has to be played a week earlier because the Big East obviously exists). With the conference season ending earlier, the league must play two conference games during the first week of December to compensate. That's generally a prime week for big non-conference games, since it's post-Thanksgiving but ahead of finals and the holidays that make late December scheduling a chore.
The severe effect this decision had on PSU's schedule is obvious. The Lions are playing four home games during the very first week of the season and four games after finals week. Chambers also booked six buy games against sub-250+ opponents, by far the most during his years in State College. The Lions won't be playing in any made-for-TV events like the Never Forget Classic last year, and they weren't able to book a game in either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Instead they will be taking on the likes of Fairleigh Dickinson, Binghamton, and Coppin State.
While scheduling difficulties should be acknowledged, this particular slate is completely unacceptable in such a critical year for the program to make the postseason. As Ed DeChellis learned in 2009, this kind of unimaginative schedule will likely be punished if PSU finds itself on the fence on Selection Sunday. It goes against everything in the RPI formula, and the Lions will likely need to win 11 or even 12 league games to make up for it.
|11/10/17||Campbell||Bryce Jordan Center||19-18||278||247|
|11/12/17||Fairleigh Dickinson||Bryce Jordan Center||11-19||267||273|
|11/15/17||Montana||Bryce Jordan Center||16-16||194||221|
|11/17/17||Columbia||Bryce Jordan Center||11-16||235||262|
|11/20/17||vs. Pitt / OK St / Tx A&M||Barclays Center||-||-||-|
|11/21/17||vs. Pitt / OK St / Tx A&M||Barclays Center||-||-||-|
|11/24/17||Oral Roberts||Bryce Jordan Center||8-22||236||292|
|11/29/17||@ N.C. State||PNC Arena||15-17||109||141|
|12/9/17||George Washington||Bryce Jordan Center||20-15||132||102|
|12/17/17||@ George Mason||EagleBank Arena||20-14||123||103|
|12/19/17||Binghamton||Bryce Jordan Center||12-20||314||311|
|12/22/17||Rider||Bryce Jordan Center||18-15||208||198|
|12/30/17||Coppin State||Bryce Jordan Center||8-24||343||336|