There’s an epidemic taking hold of college hoops: Too many games staged early in the season are mismatches. According to FanMatch, there were 1,451 games played from the beginning of last season through December 7. Of those games, the underdog had at most a five percent chance of winning in 288 of them. In addition, there were 217 games involving a D-I team playing a non-D-I team. Overall, there were 505 glorified exhibitions played in the first four weeks of the season, which means a little more than one in every three games was decided before it started. Underdogs won 18 of these games.

College basketball struggles to make a splash when its season begins and there’s incentive to make early-season hoops more interesting to the casual fan. My idea is to turn over the first week of the season to my game generator, ScheduleMatic, which will schedule the first two opponents for every Division I team.

What’s ScheduleMatic? It’s an algorithm that finds competitive matchups among nearby teams, the types of games that generate interest among the die-hard and casual fan alike. ScheduleMatic accomplishes this by putting the 344 Division I teams in random order and then conducts an automated draft, matching nearby teams with a small difference in their ranking from the previous season. (In this case, I’ll use my own ratings, but any system will do.) In a matter of seconds, ScheduleMatic produces a complete schedule of one home and one road game for each team.

I ran ScheduleMatic based on last season’s rankings in order to provide an example of how it works. In the draft for the upcoming season, 341st ranked Alcorn State was the first team up and they drew (326) Louisiana Monroe as their home opponent, a mere 127-mile road trip for the Warhawks. Then (204) McNeese State draws (209) Houston (214 miles), (59) Seton Hall draws (65) Iona (38 miles) and so on. It works as expected until you get to the back end of the draft. Since an opponent can be selected only once, there are fewer choices for each successive team in the draft.

For example, the last team in the draft was (206) William & Mary. The Tribe was forced to host (345) Southern, which results in a 1,500-mile road trip for a not-so-competitive matchup. Not exactly what we want. A worse case is the fourth-to-last team to pick, (194) Yale drawing (259) Montana State, a less-than-optimal 3,100-mile trip for the Bobcats.

But ScheduleMatic’s algorithm includes a second part to the process that attempts to remove these undesirable games in order to keep true to our objective. This process is iterated several times as it looks for ways to eliminate the uninteresting matchups. (A process that is similar to that used to solve the traveling salesman problem like Sagarin has used to try to create geographically optimized sectionals.) Once this is complete, William & Mary’s home opponent becomes (213) Charlotte and Southern travels to (335) Central Arkansas.  Yale ends up hosting (199) VMI and Montana State travels to (265) Seattle. Each team gets a better game with less travel involved.

The complete list of opponents derived from this method is below. One thing that I haven’t done here is control for opponents already on a team’s schedule since games for the upcoming season are just now being released, but that could be easily added to the process. It’s better for the transparency of the method to ignore those in this example, anyway. The relative weights of the proximity and competitiveness parameters could be adjusted, but after several attempts to tune these, I feel like the right balance has been struck.

I don’t expect the NCAA to adopt ScheduleMatic. While the NCAA does meddle in schedule to some degree, they don’t dictate specific opponents for anyone. Furthermore, it would undoubtedly make certain coaches uncomfortable having to play nearby teams that they would rather avoid. (In this case, Maryland is forced to play Georgetown. Wichita State gets to play Kansas and Kansas State.)

Nonetheless, a change like this would be good for the game. Matchups would be announced on October 1st to generate interest in the upcoming season and allow for the algortihm to account for opponents already on a team’s schedule. The first week of the season would be left open to allow these games to be easily scheduled.  With ScheduleMatic, 344 compelling games are added to the first week of play, each with some doubt surrounding the outcome. Exciting finishes would be frequent and every team would have a significant test or two on which to be judged early.

One of the spoils for a surprisingly good year would be to get high-profile teams on the schedule to start the next season. Imagine the anticipation of the announcement of these games for schools like Belmont and George Mason. In this example, the reward for the Patriots’ work in 2010 is games against Syracuse and Virginia Tech, programs that otherwise wouldn’t bother playing them. Belmont gets Illinois and Vanderbilt on its schedule.

It is safe to say that if the NCAA was willing, ScheduleMatic would transform the beginning of the season. So contact your school’s coach today, and tell him to support ScheduleMatic now!

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
Air Force              New Mexico St.         Northern Colorado     
Akron                  Wright St.             James Madison         
Alabama                Missouri               UAB                   
Alabama A&M            Kennesaw St.           Florida A&M           
Alabama St.            Chattanooga            South Alabama         
Albany                 Siena                  Wagner                
Alcorn St.             Louisiana Monroe       Howard                
American               William & Mary         Loyola MD             
Appalachian St.        NC Asheville           Tennessee Tech        
Arizona                San Diego St.          Nevada Las Vegas      

Arizona St.            Northern Colorado      Northern Arizona      
Arkansas               Tulsa                  South Dakota St.      
Arkansas Little Rock   Southern Illinois      Drake                 
Arkansas Pine Bluff    Central Arkansas       Louisiana Monroe      
Arkansas St.           Miami OH               Tulane                
Army                   Fordham                New Hampshire         
Auburn                 Tennessee Tech         Western Carolina      
Austin Peay            Lipscomb               St. Louis             
Ball St.               Bradley                Evansville            
Baylor                 Missouri St.           Texas El Paso         

Belmont                Vanderbilt             Illinois              
Bethune Cookman        Florida Gulf Coast     Stetson               
Binghamton             Colgate                Niagara               
Boise St.              Montana                Oregon                
Boston College         Connecticut            College of Charleston 
Boston University      Northeastern           Harvard               
Bowling Green          Wake Forest            Elon                  
Bradley                Loyola Chicago         Ball St.              
Brigham Young          Utah St.               San Diego St.         
Brown                  Lafayette              Sacred Heart          

Bryant                 Hartford               Marist                
Bucknell               Drexel                 North Carolina St.    
Buffalo                Rhode Island           Canisius              
Butler                 Michigan St.           Missouri              
Cal Poly               Nevada                 San Jose St.          
Cal St. Bakersfield    San Diego              Sacramento St.        
Cal St. Fullerton      Eastern Washington     Pepperdine            
Cal St. Northridge     Loyola Marymount       Lamar                 
California             St. Mary's             Santa Clara           
Campbell               NC Wilmington          Liberty               

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
Canisius               Buffalo                IUPU Fort Wayne       
Central Arkansas       Southern               Arkansas Pine Bluff   
Central Connecticut    Holy Cross             George Washington     
Central Florida        North Carolina St.     South Florida         
Central Michigan       St. Francis PA         Southeast Missouri St.
Charleston Southern    Georgia St.            Southern Illinois     
Charlotte              Mercer                 William & Mary        
Chattanooga            Missouri Kansas City   Alabama St.           
Chicago St.            Western Illinois       SIU Edwardsville      
Cincinnati             Florida St.            Michigan              

Clemson                West Virginia          Florida               
Cleveland St.          Kent St.               Oakland               
Coastal Carolina       South Carolina         Davidson              
Colgate                Dartmouth              Binghamton            
College of Charleston  Boston College         Miami FL              
Colorado               New Mexico             Texas A&M             
Colorado St.           Iowa                   Iowa St.              
Columbia               St. Francis NY         Stony Brook           
Connecticut            Wisconsin              Boston College        
Coppin St.             Towson                 Navy                  

Cornell                DePaul                 Quinnipiac            
Creighton              Iowa St.               Nebraska              
Dartmouth              Fairleigh Dickinson    Colgate               
Davidson               Coastal Carolina       NC Asheville          
Dayton                 Murray St.             Indiana St.           
Delaware               Florida Atlantic       Saint Joseph's        
Delaware St.           NJ Inst of Technology  Samford               
Denver                 Wyoming                Texas San Antonio     
DePaul                 Illinois St.           Cornell               
Detroit                IUPUI                  Long Island           

Drake                  Arkansas Little Rock   Virginia Military Inst
Drexel                 Princeton              Bucknell              
Duke                   Ohio St.               West Virginia         
Duquesne               Seton Hall             Virginia Commonwealth 
East Carolina          Hofstra                Furman                
East Tennessee St.     James Madison          Wright St.            
Eastern Illinois       North Carolina A&T     Northern Illinois     
Eastern Kentucky       Western Kentucky       Youngstown St.        
Eastern Michigan       Niagara                Jacksonville St.      
Eastern Washington     UC Davis               Cal St. Fullerton     

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
Elon                   Bowling Green          Georgia St.           
Evansville             Ball St.               Middle Tennessee      
Fairfield              Harvard                Providence            
Fairleigh Dickinson    Marist                 Dartmouth             
Florida                Clemson                Florida St.           
Florida A&M            Alabama A&M            Georgia Southern      
Florida Atlantic       Jacksonville           Delaware              
Florida Gulf Coast     Florida International  Bethune Cookman       
Florida International  Stetson                Florida Gulf Coast    
Florida St.            Florida                Cincinnati            

Fordham                New Hampshire          Army                  
Fresno St.             UC Santa Barbara       San Francisco         
Furman                 East Carolina          Southern Methodist    
Gardner Webb           The Citadel            Savannah St.          
George Mason           Syracuse               Virginia Tech         
George Washington      Central Connecticut    Western Michigan      
Georgetown             Georgia                Maryland              
Georgia                UAB                    Georgetown            
Georgia Southern       Florida A&M            South Carolina St.    
Georgia St.            Elon                   Charleston Southern   

Georgia Tech           Marshall               Wofford               
Gonzaga                Washington St.         Washington            
Grambling              Texas Pan American     Houston Baptist       
Hampton                North Florida          Winthrop              
Hartford               Monmouth               Bryant                
Harvard                Boston University      Fairfield             
Hawaii                 Pacific                Oregon St.            
High Point             NC Greensboro          North Carolina Central
Hofstra                Rider                  East Carolina         
Holy Cross             Youngstown St.         Central Connecticut   

Houston                Stephen F. Austin      McNeese St.           
Houston Baptist        Grambling              Prairie View A&M      
Howard                 Alcorn St.             MD Baltimore County   
Idaho                  Utah                   UC Santa Barbara      
Idaho St.              North Dakota           Norfolk St.           
Illinois               Belmont                Kansas                
Illinois Chicago       Liberty                Texas Arlington       
Illinois St.           Winthrop               DePaul                
Indiana                Morehead St.           Missouri St.          
Indiana St.            Dayton                 Valparaiso            

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
Iona                   St. John's             Rutgers               
Iowa                   Northern Iowa          Colorado St.          
Iowa St.               Colorado St.           Creighton             
IUPU Fort Wayne        Canisius               Miami OH              
IUPUI                  Wisconsin Milwaukee    Detroit               
Jackson St.            Tennessee Martin       Troy                  
Jacksonville           South Florida          Florida Atlantic      
Jacksonville St.       Eastern Michigan       Texas Southern        
James Madison          Akron                  East Tennessee St.    
Kansas                 Illinois               Wichita St.           

Kansas St.             Wichita St.            Michigan St.          
Kennesaw St.           Mississippi Valley St. Alabama A&M           
Kent St.               Virginia               Cleveland St.         
Kentucky               Texas                  Pittsburgh            
La Salle               Quinnipiac             Rider                 
Lafayette              Sacred Heart           Brown                 
Lamar                  Cal St. Northridge     North Florida         
Lehigh                 Pennsylvania           Siena                 
Liberty                Campbell               Illinois Chicago      
Lipscomb               Middle Tennessee       Austin Peay           

Long Beach St.         Stanford               UCLA                  
Long Island            Detroit                St. Peter's           
Longwood               Norfolk St.            NJ Inst of Technology 
Louisiana Lafayette    McNeese St.            Southeastern Louisiana
Louisiana Monroe       Arkansas Pine Bluff    Alcorn St.            
Louisiana St.          Southeastern Louisiana Stephen F. Austin     
Louisiana Tech         Northwestern St.       Texas St.             
Louisville             Xavier                 North Carolina        
Loyola Chicago         Oral Roberts           Bradley               
Loyola Marymount       UC Irvine              Cal St. Northridge    

Loyola MD              American               NC Wilmington         
Maine                  Massachusetts          Northeastern          
Manhattan              Maryland Eastern Shore Monmouth              
Marist                 Bryant                 Fairleigh Dickinson   
Marquette              Michigan               Northwestern          
Marshall               Mississippi            Georgia Tech          
Maryland               Georgetown             Penn St.              
Maryland Eastern Shore MD Baltimore County    Manhattan             
Massachusetts          Yale                   Maine                 
McNeese St.            Houston                Louisiana Lafayette   

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
MD Baltimore County    Howard                 Maryland Eastern Shore
Memphis                Mississippi St.        Morehead St.          
Mercer                 Western Carolina       Charlotte             
Miami FL               College of Charleston  Seton Hall            
Miami OH               IUPU Fort Wayne        Arkansas St.          
Michigan               Cincinnati             Marquette             
Michigan St.           Kansas St.             Butler                
Middle Tennessee       Evansville             Lipscomb              
Minnesota              Oakland                Tennessee             
Mississippi            Southern Mississippi   Marshall              

Mississippi St.        Texas Tech             Memphis               
Mississippi Valley St. South Carolina Upstate Kennesaw St.          
Missouri               Butler                 Alabama               
Missouri Kansas City   Northern Illinois      Chattanooga           
Missouri St.           Indiana                Baylor                
Monmouth               Manhattan              Hartford              
Montana                Portland               Boise St.             
Montana St.            Utah Valley            Seattle               
Morehead St.           Memphis                Indiana               
Morgan St.             Wagner                 Mount St. Mary's      

Mount St. Mary's       Morgan St.             Towson                
Murray St.             St. Louis              Dayton                
Navy                   Coppin St.             St. Francis PA        
NC Asheville           Davidson               Appalachian St.       
NC Greensboro          Troy                   High Point            
NC Wilmington          Loyola MD              Campbell              
Nebraska               Creighton              Washington St.        
Nevada                 San Francisco          Cal Poly              
Nevada Las Vegas       Arizona                Utah St.              
New Hampshire          Army                   Fordham               

New Mexico             Southern California    Colorado              
New Mexico St.         Northern Arizona       Air Force             
Niagara                Binghamton             Eastern Michigan      
Nicholls St.           Tulane                 Tennessee St.         
NJ Inst of Technology  Longwood               Delaware St.          
Norfolk St.            Idaho St.              Longwood              
North Carolina         Louisville             Purdue                
North Carolina A&T     North Carolina Central Eastern Illinois      
North Carolina Central High Point             North Carolina A&T    
North Carolina St.     Bucknell               Central Florida       

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
North Dakota           South Dakota           Idaho St.             
North Dakota St.       Western Michigan       Wisconsin Green Bay   
North Florida          Lamar                  Hampton               
North Texas            Rice                   Texas Christian       
Northeastern           Maine                  Boston University     
Northern Arizona       Arizona St.            New Mexico St.        
Northern Colorado      Air Force              Arizona St.           
Northern Illinois      Eastern Illinois       Missouri Kansas City  
Northern Iowa          Valparaiso             Iowa                  
Northwestern           Marquette              Xavier                

Northwestern St.       Texas Southern         Louisiana Tech        
Notre Dame             Washington             Wisconsin             
Oakland                Cleveland St.          Minnesota             
Ohio                   Wisconsin Green Bay    Robert Morris         
Ohio St.               Pittsburgh             Duke                  
Oklahoma               Southern Methodist     Oral Roberts          
Oklahoma St.           Texas El Paso          Tulsa                 
Old Dominion           Richmond               St. John's            
Oral Roberts           Oklahoma               Loyola Chicago        
Oregon                 Boise St.              Portland              

Oregon St.             Hawaii                 Pacific               
Pacific                Oregon St.             Hawaii                
Penn St.               Maryland               Villanova             
Pennsylvania           Saint Joseph's         Lehigh                
Pepperdine             Cal St. Fullerton      UC Irvine             
Pittsburgh             Kentucky               Ohio St.              
Portland               Oregon                 Montana               
Portland St.           Seattle                UC Riverside          
Prairie View A&M       Houston Baptist        Texas A&M Corpus Chris
Presbyterian           Savannah St.           The Citadel           

Princeton              Rutgers                Drexel                
Providence             Fairfield              Rhode Island          
Purdue                 North Carolina         Texas                 
Quinnipiac             Cornell                La Salle              
Radford                South Carolina St.     Toledo                
Rhode Island           Providence             Buffalo               
Rice                   Sam Houston St.        North Texas           
Richmond               Virginia Commonwealth  Old Dominion          
Rider                  La Salle               Hofstra               
Robert Morris          Ohio                   St. Bonaventure       

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
Rutgers                Iona                   Princeton             
Sacramento St.         Cal St. Bakersfield    UC Davis              
Sacred Heart           Brown                  Lafayette             
Saint Joseph's         Delaware               Pennsylvania          
Sam Houston St.        Texas Christian        Rice                  
Samford                Delaware St.           South Carolina Upstate
San Diego              UC Riverside           Cal St. Bakersfield   
San Diego St.          Brigham Young          Arizona               
San Francisco          Fresno St.             Nevada                
San Jose St.           Cal Poly               Weber St.             

Santa Clara            California             Stanford              
Savannah St.           Gardner Webb           Presbyterian          
Seattle                Montana St.            Portland St.          
Seton Hall             Miami FL               Duquesne              
Siena                  Lehigh                 Albany                
SIU Edwardsville       Chicago St.            Southern              
South Alabama          Alabama St.            Tennessee Martin      
South Carolina         Vermont                Coastal Carolina      
South Carolina St.     Georgia Southern       Radford               
South Carolina Upstate Samford                Mississippi Valley St.

South Dakota           Southeast Missouri St. North Dakota          
South Dakota St.       Arkansas               Texas Tech            
South Florida          Central Florida        Jacksonville          
Southeast Missouri St. Central Michigan       South Dakota          
Southeastern Louisiana Louisiana Lafayette    Louisiana St.         
Southern               SIU Edwardsville       Central Arkansas      
Southern California    Texas A&M              New Mexico            
Southern Illinois      Charleston Southern    Arkansas Little Rock  
Southern Methodist     Furman                 Oklahoma              
Southern Mississippi   Tennessee              Mississippi           

Southern Utah          Texas St.              Utah Valley           
St. Bonaventure        Robert Morris          Wisconsin Milwaukee   
St. Francis NY         Stony Brook            Columbia              
St. Francis PA         Navy                   Central Michigan      
St. John's             Old Dominion           Iona                  
St. Louis              Austin Peay            Murray St.            
St. Mary's             UCLA                   California            
St. Peter's            Long Island            Vermont               
Stanford               Santa Clara            Long Beach St.        
Stephen F. Austin      Louisiana St.          Houston               

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
Stetson                Bethune Cookman        Florida International 
Stony Brook            Columbia               St. Francis NY        
Syracuse               Temple                 George Mason          
Temple                 Villanova              Syracuse              
Tennessee              Minnesota              Southern Mississippi  
Tennessee Martin       South Alabama          Jackson St.           
Tennessee St.          Nicholls St.           Western Kentucky      
Tennessee Tech         Appalachian St.        Auburn                
Texas                  Purdue                 Kentucky              
Texas A&M              Colorado               Southern California   

Texas A&M Corpus Chris Prairie View A&M       Texas Pan American    
Texas Arlington        Illinois Chicago       Wake Forest           
Texas Christian        North Texas            Sam Houston St.       
Texas El Paso          Baylor                 Oklahoma St.          
Texas Pan American     Texas A&M Corpus Chris Grambling             
Texas San Antonio      Denver                 Wyoming               
Texas Southern         Jacksonville St.       Northwestern St.      
Texas St.              Louisiana Tech         Southern Utah         
Texas Tech             South Dakota St.       Mississippi St.       
The Citadel            Presbyterian           Gardner Webb          

Toledo                 Radford                Western Illinois      
Towson                 Mount St. Mary's       Coppin St.            
Troy                   Jackson St.            NC Greensboro         
Tulane                 Arkansas St.           Nicholls St.          
Tulsa                  Oklahoma St.           Arkansas              
UAB                    Alabama                Georgia               
UC Davis               Sacramento St.         Eastern Washington    
UC Irvine              Pepperdine             Loyola Marymount      
UC Riverside           Portland St.           San Diego             
UC Santa Barbara       Idaho                  Fresno St.            

UCLA                   Long Beach St.         St. Mary's            
Utah                   Weber St.              Idaho                 
Utah St.               Nevada Las Vegas       Brigham Young         
Utah Valley            Southern Utah          Montana St.           
Valparaiso             Indiana St.            Northern Iowa         
Vanderbilt             Virginia Tech          Belmont               
Vermont                St. Peter's            South Carolina        
Villanova              Penn St.               Temple                
Virginia               Wofford                Kent St.              
Virginia Commonwealth  Duquesne               Richmond              

Team                   Home Opponent          Road Opponent
Virginia Military Inst Drake                  Yale                  
Virginia Tech          George Mason           Vanderbilt            
Wagner                 Albany                 Morgan St.            
Wake Forest            Texas Arlington        Bowling Green         
Washington             Gonzaga                Notre Dame            
Washington St.         Nebraska               Gonzaga               
Weber St.              San Jose St.           Utah                  
West Virginia          Duke                   Clemson               
Western Carolina       Auburn                 Mercer                
Western Illinois       Toledo                 Chicago St.           

Western Kentucky       Tennessee St.          Eastern Kentucky      
Western Michigan       George Washington      North Dakota St.      
Wichita St.            Kansas                 Kansas St.            
William & Mary         Charlotte              American              
Winthrop               Hampton                Illinois St.          
Wisconsin              Notre Dame             Connecticut           
Wisconsin Green Bay    North Dakota St.       Ohio                  
Wisconsin Milwaukee    St. Bonaventure        IUPUI                 
Wofford                Georgia Tech           Virginia              
Wright St.             East Tennessee St.     Akron                 

Wyoming                Texas San Antonio      Denver                
Xavier                 Northwestern           Louisville            
Yale                   Virginia Military Inst Massachusetts         
Youngstown St.         Eastern Kentucky       Holy Cross