Being an Independent creates an interesting quandary in terms of scheduling for Longwood basketball. Our schedule, especially home games, were always hard to fill, which resulted in a plethora of non-Division I match ups. We’ve been plagued to watch games of schools that some of may have never even heard of in UVA-Wise, Washington Adventist, Montreat, Southern Virginia, Shenandoah, Virginia Intermont, and others. Last year alone the team had to avoid what would have been a beyond embarrassing loss in a two point victory to Washington Adventist.
Since we went to a Division I schedule for the 2004-05 season we have taken on twenty-one non-Division I opponents who were not transitional in Farmville, and twenty-two match ups total. Longwood’s record in those games is 21-1, with the only loss coming at Hampden-Sydney in 2004. Over that span the Lancers’ average margin of victory has been 26 points. The biggest blowout was a 60 point win against Columbia Union in 2009. The slimmest margin of victory comes against that very same school, which is now Washington Adventist, this past year in a two point win. These margins go to show the risk and reward of playing these teams.
So what’s my point? Obviously, at this point, Longwood doesn’t have to worry about RPI and being a bubble team. But there is still something to be said for playing stiffer competition. Longwood will once again invite three non-Division I opponents into “the Will” this season, in hopes of blowing them out and sending them back on their activities bus to Nowhere, Virginia. Thankfully the Big South has instituted a rule beginning in the 2013-14 season where teams can only play two of these opponents. I do like playing one of these teams as a, sort of, preseason game to start the year and get the chemistry of the team in order. But lets get rid of the school’s where you have to go to wikipedia to find out where they are and what level they play at. Eliminate the NAIA schools altogether.
Virginia has great and historic Division II and III programs. Why not step it up and take these schools on, or at least invite those that are notable. I understand the risk of taking a Virginia Wesleyan, Randolph Macon, or Christopher Newport. But we should still beat these schools. At the very least, why not invite more recognizable schools that may draw community and student interest? Schools like Lynchburg, Randolph, Roanoke, Bridgewater, or Washington & Lee? If we lose to any of these schools then we have a serious problem, but the important thing to remember now is nothing really matters beyond the Big South schedule. Norfolk State lost to Elizabeth City State this year, a Division II school that went 15-14 last year. But no one remembers the loss for Norfolk State, they remember they went 13-3 in their conference, won the MEAC tournament, and took down Missouri in the NCAA tournament.