Hutchinson Community College has taken a lot of (deserved) razzing through the years regarding its nonconference men’s basketball schedule.
Basically, it’s a schedule that neither Willie Nelson nor Johnny Cash would have pieced together. Road games? Except for a trip to Iola to play Allen, the Blue Dragons have played their entire nonconference slate at home in recent years.
How would Willie write that song?
“Back at home again. Just can’t wait to get back home again. Life I love is playing basketball in the Sports Arena. And I just can’t wait to play at home again.”
That hasn’t been a good thing for a few reasons. First of all, the Blue Dragons often haven’t been prepared for the rigors of Jayhawk West road games. They aren’t ready for hostile environments, like Seward County’s Green House. They aren’t ready to sit half the day on a bus. They aren’t ready to eat bad food.
Second, when you have all those home games, fans become indifferent. The Blue Dragons are always at home, so let’s just sit at home and watch football tonight. We’ll catch them next week.
The Blue Dragons announced their 2013-2014 men’s basketball schedule on Tuesday, and shock of shocks, there are THREE road games. That still means there’s a saturation of home games (13), but three road games – at Butler, Allen and Johnson County – are good, and it will benefit the Blue Dragons.
What’s more, Hutchinson and Butler opted to continue it’s long-standing rivalry. The teams have played since 1929, but Butler’s departing for the Jayhawk East next season. With Highland, Johnson County, Kansas City and Fort Scott dropping down to Division II, the East was down to six Division I teams, compared to nine on the West. The easy solution was to move over Butler. The East now has seven teams in Division I, and the West has eight.
Next season, the Blue Dragons and Grizzlies will play home and home in men’s basketball, and probably women’s basketball too.
These two schools have such a great rivalry in many sports. Soccer is by far the best and most heated. Football, while lopsided, is always interesting and usually once a year competitive. Women’s basketball usually features low-scoring slugfest, often won by Hutchinson, and last year’s Region 6 semifinal was an instant classic.
Men’s basketball has been interesting in that the road teams have had the upper hand lately. And the connections between the programs make this an even better rivalry.
Butler coach Mike Bargen is a Hutchinson native, and his dad Gary is one of the HCC’s greatest basketball coaches ever. I also consider Mike the greatest gameday coach in the Jayhawk Conference.
Hutchinson coach Steve Eck, the conference’s best recruiter, used to coach Butler.
These schools have done the right thing by playing each other twice next season, and probably for years to come. And considering how good these teams are – each has won Region 6 in the last four seasons – a third meeting isn’t out of question.