If you were excited (like we were) for the announcement that Houston would play Texas A&M in men's basketball on December 1 of this year, that's great. If you were hoping that the game against the Aggies represented a paradigm shift in how the Cougars schedule in non-conference, I've got some bad news for you.
The Coogs announced their full schedule on Friday, and it was cupcakes galore.
The Cougar slate inexplicably includes not one but two exhibition games. Houston faces Concordia in an exhibition on November 6th to open the season, which makes enough sense. But the Coogs then face Louisiana College 13 days later. The athletics department would like you to believe that the Louisiana College game isn't an exhibition, calling the Concordia game the "lone exhibition", but it's a lie. Games against non-Division 1 teams (like the D-3 Wildcats) are not recognized by the NCAA. (It's not like playing an FCS program in football, which counts as long as you only do it once a year. Playing a D-3 school never counts for anything.) That makes the game, by every definition of the word, an exhibition.
As far as the 12 non-conference games that actually count, eight of them are at home, with four on the road. TCU's 2012 RPI of 119 sadly makes them the "best" team on the schedule, followed by A&M (166) and Louisiana-Lafayette (195). Now, the NCAA ranked 344 teams last year in the RPI. Out of 12 non-conference games (and the 13 that Houston could have scheduled), only two of them will be against statistically above-average teams. Eight games will be against teams that finished in the bottom 100.
Really, there's no excuse to be scheduling like this. Mack Rhoades and James Dickey are entering their fourth and third years at Houston, respectively, so it's not as though they're still waiting out a bunch of bad scheduling contracts. This is a schedule of their doing, and it's one that woefully falls short of the goal of preparing the team to be NCAA tournament at-large berth-caliber. Playing these teams won't prepare Houston as a squad, and even if the Cougars are fortunate enough to beat most or all of them, it won't give them a resume that will impress the committee on Selection Sunday.
Recruiting well and coaching up your talent is difficult because it's a zero-sum game. Somebody wins, somebody loses. But scheduling well is a choice, and it's a choice that the Cougars have failed to make, yet again. And come basketball season, they'll have the nerve to turn around and wonder why there aren't any fans at the games.