UTA Magazine
Have talent, will travel
Recent Texas Hall success makes hosting top basketball programs difficult

The men’s and women’s basketball teams have adopted a prizefighter mentality. The Mavericks and Lady Mavericks will play any team, any time, anywhere.

After they went a combined 22-3 at Texas Hall last season, they’re resigned to being road warriors for another year.

It’s a good problem to have.

Steven Thomas and Rola Ogunoye
Junior forward Steven Thomas and senior forward Rola Ogunoye helped the men's and women's basketball teams go a combined 22-3 in Texas Hall last season. This year, the Lady Mavericks will travel more than 3,400 miles while playing 10 of 11 nonconference games on the road.

Call it the price of success after the men won their first Southland Conference regular-season title in 40 years and the women won 19 games and advanced to the finals of the league’s postseason tournament. Both teams find it difficult to lure the premier squads to Arlington.

Filling a schedule sounds simple. Contact the biggest programs in the country, pick a mutually open date and make it happen.

You don’t really think it’s that easy, do you?

For men’s coach Eddie McCarter and women’s coach Donna Capps, the scheduling game is rather complicated:

  • Don’t play (or practice) at Texas Hall for much of December.
  • Schedule “guarantee” games—games against bigger Division I programs on the road in return for a hefty payoff.
  • Play teams ahead of you in the ratings power index (RPI) in order to improve your own RPI.
  • Avoid final exams week.

“In some ways, our scheduling is the same,” said McCarter, who last season surpassed Bob “Snake” LeGrand as the winningest men’s basketball coach in UTA history. “Your non-Division I teams want to play you, no matter what. I think our success from last year actually helped us [schedule] this season. A lot of higher profile teams won’t play you unless your RPI is a certain level. They want to play good teams. For us to play them, we have to go on the road.”

The men’s basketball team plays 14 home games beginning Nov. 20 against U.T. Permian Basin. The remainder of the nonconference home schedule includes the 50th meeting against Texas Wesleyan (Nov. 30), plus San Diego (Dec. 4), U.T. Tyler (Dec. 22), New Mexico (Jan. 3) and St. Edward’s (Feb. 14). The nonconference road schedule includes New Mexico State (Nov. 24), Wyoming (Nov. 27), TCU (Dec. 2), U.T. Austin (Dec. 15) and South Florida (Dec. 29).

“It was much easier to schedule as a high school coach,” said Capps, who won more than 510 games in 22 seasons at North Mesquite, Mabank and Crandall high schools. “We (UTA) have limited travel budgets, so we have to loop together games so we can get two or three in on a trip where we fly. We will try to get into tournaments where we can get multiple games. Consequently, we play more guarantee games to cover our budget.”

But Capps just can’t lure a top-tier team to Texas Hall. After her Lady Mavs went 10-1 there and added road wins at Oral Roberts, Oklahoma State and Hawaii last season, prospective opponents are exiting stage left.

“I don’t think you get better unless you play a Division I schedule. For us to get to that next level, you have to compete against that other level,” she said.

“I guess the fact teams don’t want to come to Texas Hall is a compliment, but it makes scheduling that much tougher. Big-time programs want to come to the Metroplex because of all the high school talent around here, but we can’t get them to come to Texas Hall. Mid-major programs like ours are tough to work into our schedule because everyone wants to play one game at their place and one game at our place in a season. But we have a limited number of dates available, with Texas Hall booked in December.”

The Lady Mavs, who return four starters off last year’s 19-12 squad, are tentatively scheduled to play one home game (New Mexico State on Dec. 4) before their conference home opener against Northwestern (La.) State on Jan. 12. UTA’s nonconference schedule includes road trips to the UNLV Classic in Las Vegas and to Arkansas-Little Rock, Kansas, Southern Utah, SMU, Florida State, U.T. Austin, North Texas and TCU.

Any team, any time, anywhere.

Online: http://utamavs.collegesports.com/

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