You're right — it's not about scheduling. It's about performance and perception of the importance of the non-conference schedule. Sure, we all would have loved to have beaten St. John's, UCF and Creighton on the road, or Kansas at home. But even as we went 0-4 in those games, at least my perception was "OK. So no signature wins, but no stumbles either. Perform in conference games, and we're in." Then as we continued to excel (mostly) in the B1G, it started to become clearer that our non-conference losses would matter. A lot. But it wasn't until last night and the ultimate revelation of the NIT bracket that we should have considered each of those four early losses as having been critical to our post-season chances.
At the time of the games, I thought:
St. John's loss: Bad matchup from the start, and this team is just starting to play together. No big deal.
UCF loss: Tough start doomed us, but at least we'll pick up a couple of victories to give these guys some confidence.
Creighton loss: We were there at the end, and could have won if we'd gotten a couple of calls. Creighton's a top 25 team, so this close loss may actually help.
Kansas loss: Damn, that was a tough one. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Either way, another top 25 game will help our RPI and SOS, right?
What I should have thought:
St. John's loss: Damn. I hope St. John's doesn't suffer any debilitating injuries going forward. This one could really hurt if St. John's doesn't finish in the upper half of the Big East.
UCF loss: Killer. Needed to win one even if it means two losses over the next two games. UCF is good, but if they lose Fall, they fall.
Creighton loss: Crap. It'd be just like Creighton to fall apart down the stretch and lose games they shouldn't, hurting us as well. We HAVE TO BEAT KANSAS.
Kansas loss: That's it. We now pretty much have to go 18-1 the rest of the way to make the tournament. The Big One that got away.
Next year, every game is gonna have to be, in the words of Joe Biden, "a big f*ckin' deal."