The schedule puzzle got one piece closer to completion today when news leaked that the Florida A&M Rattlers will be coming to Omaha for a game. Predictably, the development was met with a mixture of apathy and anger among Jays fans.
The MEAC foe is, if you can believe this, worse than Arkansas Pine-Bluff — the team I declared the be The Worst Team Ever after they played something I guess you could call basketball in a 2006 visit, missing their first 17 shots of the second half, shooting just 17% for the entire game and scoring 29 points in 38 minutes of “action.” Those Golden Lions had an RPI of 311; these Rattlers are 331.
That’s out of 347 teams.
My buddy Gilby was not enthusiastic about Florida A&M coming to town. “Count me out for that game, chief. Sounds like as much fun as a Coldplay concert.” He’s not a fan. Of Coldplay, I mean.
I wasn’t thrilled, either, as I noted that FAMU (can we at least agree their acronym is pretty sweet?) is like a super-creampuff made up of parts from lesser creampuffs. They’re significantly worse than Arkansas Pine-Bluff, if you can wrap your mind grapes around THAT.
Games against 300+ RPI teams aren’t great for your RPI, your schedule strength, or for gauging your team’s progression. About all they’re good for is experimentation, getting lots of players lots of minutes, and getting a win.
But every school in Creighton’s position in the NCAA Universe plays these games, so while the opponent may be of dubious quality, think positively: you’ll get to watch rotations you might not see the rest of the year, the reserves will get lots of playing time, and if you have bad seats you can probably move up when people leave early!
FAMU is not really that different than Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Towson State, North Carolina A&T, or any of the other lower-tier teams that have opposed the Jays a couple of times a year in recent seasons. And its not a recent development, either. They’ve played these “tune up” games for decades, and will do so for decades to come.
So while I’m not excited, I’m not upset either. Its schedule filler. It (should) be a good developmental game and a win. No shame in that.
The reality is that while some fans like to complain about them, these games do NOT make or break your season unless you lose them. The ESPN crew has uttered a wheelbarrow-and-a-half of nonsense about mid-major teams in general and Creighton in particular recently, and even they’ve never taken the bait of listing “Bad Wins.” Their overly-simplistic talking points revolve around good wins, bad losses, RPI, strength of schedule, and an unfunny quip from/about Digger Phelps. FAMU is not going to be listed by name in any of those categories.
To put it bluntly: if the Jays lose to them at home, they deserve the slings and arrows that would follow — and if you’re losing to a 300+ RPI team at home, you are not an NCAA Tourney at-large team anyway. And if they win, it will basically be forgotten come March.
Personally, I believe the handful of games against teams 100-150 in the RPI, teams that can and probably will beat the Jays at some point, will be a much bigger issue come March.
And while a schedule littered with 200+ or 300+ RPI teams is bad gravy when it comes to politicking for an at-large bid, the Jays’ schedule is hardly littered with them this year. Last year there were SIX — count ‘em, SIX — games like that on the schedule. This year, most estimations put it at two, and that’s if the last open date is filled with another creampuff.
One or two such games are nothing to get worked up about.
The last time the Jays played Florida A&M was December 22, 1993, and the Jays won 74-70, in a game played at, of all places, the old Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum!
It was one of just seven wins that year for Rick Johnson’s final Jays squad, and just 2283 folks witnessed it in person that night.
Fun Fact #2:
Florida A&M is the alma-mater of Andre Dawson. Yes, THE Andre Dawson. Cubs fans remember him fondly for being “The Hawk”, for winning the 1987 MVP on a last-place team, and for being a big piece of their run to the AL East title in 1989.
I remember him because back in the late-80s the Cubs were about the only game you could watch every day, because of WGN. Even though I’ve always been a die-hard Twins fan I used to enjoy watching those Cubs teams play. Sandberg, Grace, Sutcliffe, Mitch Williams, Dunston, and The Hawk. That was a classic group.
True story: I’ve only been to Wrigley Field once; I was five years old and do not remember it. But I have seen the Cubs play in person…three times — all at the Metrodome. About as far removed from Wrigley as you can get, huh? The first was a preseason exhibition in 1990, where a bunch of Cubs fans tried to turn the left-field seats into the Wrigley Bleachers — and where three drunken Cubbie fans bowed to The Hawk every time up. Problem was, they forgot they had beers in their hands. And 12-year old Max Univers wound up wearing most of that beer. Fun times.