- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Since he was hired at Memphis three years ago, Josh Pastner has been consistent on the topic of scheduling: Year in and year out, he wants the Tigers to play one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the business. After last fall’s relative Maui disappointment, Pastner reiterated this idea; the trip may not have ended in any marquee Tigers wins, but it did provide a very solid RPI foundation upon which the rest of Pastner’s nonconference season would stand. Sure enough, come March, Memphis finished with the No. 16 RPI and the No. 5-ranked nonconference strength of schedule.
Memphis released its 2012–13 nonconference schedule last week, and the reveal was a little bit underwhelming. The good news? The Tigers will play in the Battle 4 Atlantis, which boasts an absolutely loaded field; Memphis opens with VCU on the same side of the bracket as Duke and Minnesota, with chances to play Missouri or Louisville depending on which teams advance (or meet in the consolation bracket). But according to Pastner, the rest of Memphis’s schedule – which includes Ohio, Louisville, Oral Roberts and Loyola-Maryland all at the FedEx Forum in December, as well as a potential swan song game at Tennessee on Jan. 4 – has caused some people to question the lack of marquee home games. From the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Jason Smith:
While Pastner believes he’s put together a nonconference schedule that will be ranked among the 10 toughest in the country, he said he’s had some people ask him since its release why Memphis doesn’t have more “marquee” home games this season. ...
“Couple things: One, I tried to go out and get some of the blue bloods out there (Kansas and Michigan State) to play us in a home-and-home and they didn’t want to,” Pastner said. “After they didn’t want to, I wasn’t going to continue asking around because a lot of teams wanted just to play a neutral-site game. Secondly, it’s not as easy (to schedule home-and-homes) because we don’t know where we’re at with the Big East (for 2013–14). Are we playing 20 (conference) games? 18? 16? What’s the deal with Boise State and San Diego State (and those home-and-home series beginning in 2013 as part of Memphis’ move to Big East)? Are we in the Big East/SEC Challenge? There’s so many things out there.”
It’s never truly easy to schedule, especially at an elite non-BCS school like Memphis, but it’s far more difficult when you have no idea what your future conference’s potentially expanded schedule will look like in just one year’s time. Considering that limbo, Memphis’s schedule doesn’t really look all that bad. Louisville is a monster game, and Ohio is intriguing, and the Battle 4 Atlantis is the real RPI and SOS guarantee. Depending on the future of the Big East, Pastner will be able to work out more home and homes going forward. It might even be easier than scheduling from a perch in Conference USA. But whatever the eventual outcome, a one-year realignment holdover was always just the cost of doing business.
Plus, if you’re a Memphis fan, you now have an awesome excuse to go to the Bahamas in November. As silver linings go, that’s a pretty good one.