BY JEREMY HOECK
On Thursday, USD released its 2013-14 men’s basketball schedule without much fanfare. With all but one of the games previously released by other schools, there wasn’t much in the way of a surprise at the schedule for the Coyotes.
Perhaps the one theme: Fans in the DakotaDome won’t have flashy non-conference games to watch.
The USD men open their season with four straight games on the road, starting Nov. 9 at St. Bonaventure (N.Y.). From there, the Coyotes will play Canisius (N.Y.), Wyoming and Texas State (a return game from the ESPN BracketBuster series).
USD then plays two straight NAIA home games with Graceland (Nov. 30) and Iowa Wesleyan (Dec. 2).
When USD moved its home game with Wyoming to Rapid City as part of a women’s/men’s doubleheader on Dec. 7, it took away a notable game from the Dome. That leaves Green Bay (Dec. 14), Cal State Northridge (Jan. 2) and NAIA Peru State (Feb. 4) as the other non-conference home games.
As we’ve pointed out before, USD asked for and was granted permission by the Summit League to add additional lower-level games — the previous max was two — following the departure of Oakland from the Summit. (USD had previously altered its 2013-14 schedule following the exit of Kansas City).
As a result, it’s not the best-looking non-conference schedule, specifically for games at home. There will naturally be some criticism from fans at the schedule (especially at the 3 NAIA games), and I’m not here in a position to defend USD. But make no mistake, USD has found it tough to attract Division I teams to the DakotaDome. Division I teams are usually in the market for home-and-home series, and I’ve been told that USD has struggled in that department — struggled to find teams willing to come to Vermillion and play in the Dome.
That’s where the new arena will really help. That’s when you’ll start seeing USD bring in “bigger” mid-major names, and of course, success would play a big role in that. A team with an RPI in the 200 range isn’t going to find it easy to schedule a home game with a team in the 100 range.
There have, of course, been exceptions to USD’s scheduling struggles. You might remember a couple years ago when Cornell came to the Dome (that was more a special situation than anything) and when Morehead State (with Kenneth Fareid) came to Vermillion. A year ago, USD brought in Ball State as part of a home-and-home, as well as Morehead State, NAIA Culver-Stockton and Waldorf College.