Eighteenth-ranked UW opens its men's basketball season at 1 p.m. Saturday against the McNeese State Cowboys of Lake Charles, La.
The teams have met once before: with McNeese taking an overtime victory in the 1985 First Bank Tulsa Classic. However, this is the first time UW has invited the Southland Conference school to its campus.
So: Why McNeese?
The apparent answer is to provide a trip home – or near home – for senior guard Diego Kapelan of Vancouver, B.C.
That’s an increasingly common trend, and UW coach Lorenzo Romar said the Huskies “probably will” do something similar over the next few years by scheduling a Louisiana opponent as a sort of homecoming for Jernard Jarreau of New Orleans, the only non-Northwesterner among the four-man recruiting class UW announced Thursday. The school also is believed to be looking to schedule Missouri next season, which would give senior-to-be Scott Suggs a trip home while also easing the loss of an automatically appointed opponent from the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
Also announced Thursday was the new scheduling format that the conference will use starting next season when Colorado and Utah join. The Pac-12 will retain the current 18-game conference schedule and will not break into divisions. Each school will retain home-and-away games with its traditional rival (in this case, Washington-Washington State) every season and with six other opponents that will rotate in two-year cycles, while playing the other four league members once – two of them at home only, two away only.
“Given the circumstances, I thought they did about as good a job as they can do,” Romar said. “I wasn’t a fan of the divisions and all that.”
The new scheduling format means that UW won't visit one set of travel partners each season. In 2011-12 it will be the Bay Area schools. In 2012-13 it will be newcomers Colorado and Utah. However, every five seasons it will be UCLA and USC. However, Romar doesn't see that as significant a problem for recruiting as the football teams do.
For one thing, there are a couple of options in basketball that don't exist as readily in football. UW could manufacture a trip to LA simply by scheduling a game at Loyola Marymount or Pepperdine or any of several other D-I schools in the area. Or, UW could signal its availability in those years to holiday tournaments such as the John R. Wooden Classic or the 76 Classic in Anaheim.
Speaking of tournaments, it is believed (though not confirmed) that after the Maui Invitational this Nov. 22-24, it is believed the Huskies will host a relatively minor tournament next season at Hec Ed, before going glamour again with an appearance at the 2012 K2 Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at New York's Madison Square Garden.