It’s no secret that Liberty’s strength of schedule this past season was a weak point for the team and its resume heading into March.
According to KenPom, Liberty’s schedule ranked 345 out of 353 Division I teams this season. That was down from the 230 strength of schedule ranking in 2018-19 and the lowest the Flames have had in quite some time. Over the previous 15 seasons, Liberty’s average strength of schedule ranking was 281.
Some of that is due to the fact that Grand Canyon and Vanderbilt did not have seasons they were certainly capable of having. Also, McKay has frequently mentioned how he and his staff had difficulty getting games for this season after Liberty’s 29 win season and NCAA Tournament victory in 2019. With 4 seniors returning, many Power Conference teams shied away from playing the Flames.
“It’s a compliment that some people would avoid you in scheduling,” McKay said in an exclusive phone interview with ASOR. “It means they think that they could potentially lose a home game against a quality mid-major.”
Because of the NCAA’s new metric, the NET, Power Conference teams don’t need to schedule games outside their conference, and certainly not games away from home. Instead, these teams have resorted to playing buy games against teams they think will be decent but should be easy wins.
Additionally, many of the top conferences are increasing their conference schedules, going to as many as 20 league games, further shrinking the opportunities for up and coming mid-major programs, like Liberty to grab a quality non-conference game.
“You’ve got to be fortunate,” McKay said of scheduling. “You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to wait it out at times to try and secure one of those (quality) games. Trust me when I say we’re in that mode, we’re trying everything.”
Coming off a 30-win season and what would have been a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the secret is out – Liberty is a team that won’t be an easy win for those top 50 programs.
Scheduling will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future for McKay and the Flames, but it won’t be for a lack of trying. That’s just part of the growing pains for a program that has finished in the top 100 of all major metrics the past two seasons.