BTH Mailbox Monday: What's the deal with the UALR schedule?


“What is the holdup with the UALR schedule? It can’t be that difficult to put together, can it? There are teams on Basketball Travelers looking to start home-and-home series. Why don’t we just play them and be done with it?”


Scheduling has to be one of the most difficult things in all of college basketball. And if your team is supposed to be good the following season, it’s nearly impossible – especially for mid-majors.

That brings us to UALR and the 2013-2014 schedule, which remains unreleased. This season’s home schedule figures to be one of the most unattractive in recent years.

It’s unfortunate because UALR has done as good a job as any school in this area at scheduling home-and-home series during Coach Steve Shields’ time with UALR. They have had home-and-home series with SMU, Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Missouri State, Memphis, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, Rice, Centenary, Texas State, Bowling Green, Wright State, Appalachian State, St. Bonaventure, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Cal Poly. UALR also has done some attractive 2-for-1s with Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Creighton.

Some of those were the result of the hard work of the coaching staff. Others UALR lucked into. This year, they haven’t been so lucky.

Here’s the problem. UALR figures to have a very good team this season. UALR has an appreciated name nationally among basketball coaching types. UALR has an unappreciated name nationally – or even regionally, heck even in state – among typical college basketball fans. This becomes a problem for opposing coaches because they don’t want to take a chance losing to a school like UALR. It’s a game coaches could live with because UALR’s RPI figures to be decent. But it’s a game fans can’t live with when it doesn’t work out. See SMU, Oral Roberts, Louisiana Tech, etc. By the way, all three are uninterested in scheduling UALR.

Available dates are another issue. We know of a regional Division I program who has mutual interest in playing UALR and scheduling a home-and-home series. But UALR’s available dates and this school’s don’t match up this season. They’ll likely play next season.

Location can also be a problem. UALR already has road games at Florida, Memphis, Oklahoma, Southern, Middle Tennessee and Tulsa. UALR also has a couple of neutral site games in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Trojans need home games – badly. And most teams looking to start home-and-home series are looking to start those series at their home. It further reduces the pool of available teams.

So what can we look forward to with this year’s home nonconference schedule? We know North Florida is coming as part of the event that got UALR the Canada trip and the Florida, Middle Tennessee and Southern road games. We know UALR will play Arkansas-Fort Smith. And UALR will likely play at least one more in-state non-Division I school. And they’re on the lookout for another home game that matches their available dates. For now, they’ll wait it out and hope someone gets desperate.

And they’re still chasing teams that claim to have an interest in starting series on the road. There are a couple of nice possibilities out there. But UALR needs some things to go their way.

Don’t despair. Next year’s home schedule already looks better than this year. UALR has Tulsa coming back and could get a couple of home games as part of a tournament they are participating in (similar to the deal that got them two home games last year when they went to Puerto Vallarta). Add the regional school we spoke about earlier and a couple of guarantee road games and they’re off to a solid start.

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