Monday’s announcement that the Griz will travel to Davidson (N.C.) on Feb. 23 for a BracketBusters game should be looked at as an opportunity for the Griz to improve their own RPI and that of the Big Sky in general, neither of which are good right now. The Griz have won 12 straight league games – 25 straight since last season – and are 16-4 overall, yet stand at just 118 in the latest RPI. Second-place Weber State is at 136 and the Big Sky stands 28th our of the 31 leagues getting automatic NCAA berths.
The game at Davidson will be played at 1 p.m. MST and televised on ESPNU.
Davidson is 10-1 in the Southern Conference and 15-7 overall. The Wildcats’ RPI, though, is only marginally better than Montana’s at 115.
“It is a concern,” Griz coach Wayne Tinkle said following the Grizzlies’ win at Eastern Washington on Saturday night. “We win two games at home and we drop 25 points two weeks ago. The answer is simple: The rest of the teams in the league need to win more D-I games. It’s easier said than done. When certain schools are asked to play four, maybe five, guarantee games, they can’t get opponents at home that they should beat. It’s a tough battle. But it starts there, to somehow get to where the rest of the league is winning games in the non-league. However they have to do it, it’ll really help our RPI.”
Should the league’s RPI drop low enough, the Big Sky champ might find itself in one of the first-round play-in games.
“I know what the commissioner’s concern is that we’re going to end up in the play-in game, not that that’s the end of the world,” Tinkle said. “The teams that are playing in that are in the NCAA tournament. I know it’s a concern from the conference office.
“You look at some leagues – and I’m not going to mention them by name – four or five years ago that were one-bid leagues and are now getting multiple teams in. Is it a little bit of a dream? Maybe, but with all the shifting and realignments and everything, if we can bump that up a little bit who’s to say in four or five years two teams from the Sky can’t go.”
The reason teams are asked to play multiple guarantee games is to kick back funds into the school’s athletic budget.
“The financial woes and the burdens that have been put on our athletic departments … we never used to have to play guarantee games,” Tinkle said in explaining the need to play guarantee games against bteams from more powerful conferences. “Now we have to play at least one for the school. Other schools have to play four, five or six just to help their athletic department’s budget.
“There are really good coaches in this league, top to bottom, really good. And really good players. But a lot of teams get beat up in the preseason, playing schedules that maybe they shouldn’t play. When they’re not winning games, teams aren’t able to build any confidence and I think that’s a big reason why we’re in the situation we are.”