By A.J. Speier
The Buffalo State women's basketball team had a season to remember, winning a program-record 25
games, but losing to Oneonta in the SUNYAC championship proved to cost the Bengals their only shot at
a NCAA tournament bid.
With the Bengals' postseason fate hanging in the balance, the NCAA selection committee passed over
Buffalo State for an at-large bid last week, mostly due to its strength of schedule.
According to Pat Coleman, who analyzes the field of Division III basketball programs as executive editor
of D3Hoops.com, the Bengals were one of a handful of NCAA tournament at-large candidates with an
overall strength of schedule below .500.
"When I was looking at Buffalo State when we were doing our projected brackets, the thing that stuck
out for me was that their strength of schedule was very low," Coleman said." They were one of the few
at-large candidates with an overall strength of schedule below .500, so I'm sure that had a lot to do with
it. That's the reason why I didn't put them in my projection and I guess that's why the NCAA didn't select
One of the reasons for the lack of strength in Buffalo State's schedule was the quality of their non-
conference opponents. Every non-SUNYAC team the Bengals faced finished the season with a record
Buffalo State's weak non-conference schedule consisted of D'Youville (4-21), Hilbert (3-22), Alfred
State (8-17), Nazareth (12-13), Drew (9-16), Bates (11-13) and Pitt-Bradford (11-14). The Bengals' non-
conference opponents finished with a combined win percentage of .333.
When comparing the Bengals' non-conference schedule to a team like Hartwick (22-5), the only East
Region team to receive an at-large bid, it's easy to see how Buffalo State could be passed over.
Hartwick's ten non-conference opponents had a combined win percentage of .557. Their non-
conference schedule consisted of Suffolk (18-10), St. Lawrence (21-5), Oneonta (19-8), Vassar (18-9),
Massachusetts College (15-13), Union (13-12), Western New England (14-13), Morrisville State (10-15),
Sage (9-15) and Drew (9-16).
Quality non-conference opponents are very important when it comes to impressing the NCAA
tournament committee. However, the vast majority of Buffalo State's schedule is full of SUNYAC games.
In fact, 18 of the Bengals' 25 regular season games this past season were in-conference.
"Since the SUNYAC is so large, (the Bengals) play so many conference games," Coleman noted. "It
doesn't give teams a whole lot of opportunity to impress the committee outside of the conference."
Coleman also said common opponents factor into the committee's decision, as well.
"Since Buffalo State and the rest of the SUNYAC play so many games within their conference, they don't
have a lot of these points to compare with," he said. "You couldn't put them in with say, Bowdoin out
of Maine, necessarily in the same place and say well, these teams both play somebody like say Vassar
because the SUNYAC schools don't have a lot of opportunity to play those teams."
With so many SUNYAC games in each season, Buffalo State will be required to seek quality non-
conference opponents going forward. The top teams in the East Region this year who could potentially
be on the Bengals' schedules in the future include: Medaille (22-5), Ithaca (23-4), Hartwick (22-5), St.
Lawrence (21-5), and Vassar (18-9).
"Strength of schedule is definitely something that hurt us in the process and it's a tough call," said head
coach Sue Roarke. "With our non-conference schedule there are a certain number of schools that we
like to play as well because of the rivalries with some of the local schools, so it's something that we need
to look to balance a little bit."
Missing out on the NCAA tournament this season was disheartening for the Bengals, especially for four-
year starter and captain Barb Kiliszek.
"It would've meant a lot," Kiliszek said of a conference championship. "That's honestly what my goal
was from the beginning, without even mentioning that I play soccer. It would've been nice to do it in
both sports, but I've wanted to win a SUNYAC (championship) for a long time."
Heading into next season, the Bengals will look toward Staci McElroy and Bianca Smiley with the hope of
contending for another shot at a SUNYAC Championship and an NCAA tournament bid.
"It was awesome to do that well, but at the same time it was such a disappointment not to just go all the
way," McElroy said. "I think it definitely will be a motivational tool for us. The excitement was just unreal
and I think that we all want to do that again. That loss was one of the worst feelings to experience and
we don't want to experience that ever again."
A.J. Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.