Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Colorado and UtahPosted by Andrew Murawa on October 15th, 2013
October is here, and that means we are just weeks away from real, live basketball games. In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’re going to break down all 12 non-conference slates over the next couple of weeks. Up next; the schools in the Rockies.
Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.
Cream of the Crop: vs. Baylor (70) in Dallas, vs. Harvard (92), vs. Kansas (5), Oklahoma State (27) in Las Vegas
For a team with high expectations, Tad Boyle has put together a schedule worthy of the attention. They begin with a talented Baylor team on what amounts to the sport’s opening night, but that’s just the first of three quality games against former Big 12 rivals. Their two biggest non-conference games are the other two of those three games, against the two favorites in the Big 12, with Kansas coming to Boulder on December 7, and the Buffaloes meeting Oklahoma State in Las Vegas two weeks later. The good news is that none of those games are true road games, so the Buffs should find a way to win at least one of those three against the Big 12; if they win two, they’re golden. But, just in case everything goes to hell against those Big 12 teams, the Buffs do get a chance to welcome in a Harvard team that has the chance to be a fixture in the Top 25 for much of the year; the bad part is that the Crimson are a team that could give CU all they can handle.
Solid Names: vs. Wyoming (73), @ Air Force (79), @ Colorado State (18), vs. Georgia (140)
Aside from the big names on the schedule, the Buffaloes will also face three Mountain West teams and one SEC team. The bad news there is that none of these teams are expected to be NCAA Tournament contenders this season. Nevertheless, wins over these four teams, especially those two tough in-state roadies, could help bolster the team’s RPI numbers.
RPI Anchors: vs. UT Martin (312), vs. Jackson State (309), vs. Arkansas State (163), vs. UC Santa Barbara (245), vs. Elon (177)
It is befuddling that in this era of rampart early season exempt events, the best that this Colorado program can do is something called the Global Sports Main Event, a round-robin that occurs over the course of two weeks in early November. While other Pac-12 schools will find themselves in premiere events like the NIT Season Tip-Off, the Old Spice Classic, the Diamond Head Classic, the Wooden Legacy and the Maui Invitational, the Buffaloes find themselves in a tournament that will tie them to ratings rocks like UT-Martin and Jackson State, without a ton of upside (the best team aside from Colorado in that event is Wyoming). Fortunately, Boyle was able to schedule those big boys we mentioned in the top section to keep their schedule strong.
Cream of the Crop: at Boise State (44), vs. BYU (63)
For a team like Colorado above, whose realistic goals for the season include not only an NCAA Tournament appearance but a significant run in March, ideally the non-conference schedule would include several chances for significant wins. For a team like Utah for which an NCAA appearance would be a serious surprise, such a schedule would be a death wish. Still, you want to challenge your team and you want to give the home crowd something worth coming out for in the middle of a rough Utah winter. On the latter point, really the only big non-conference home game for the Utes is the basketball version of the Holy War with bitter rival BYU, a game that the Utes can very much win this season. Even their toughest road trip, a jaunt up-continent to face the rising Broncos, is a game that Larry Krystkowiak and company can reasonably expect to compete in. These types of games are just what this Utah team needs – plenty challenging, but not overkill.
Solid Names: vs. Fresno State (135)
The real weakness of the Utah schedule is in the middle. They’ve got those two solid games above in which they’ll likely be underdogs, but there are very few toss-up games. Aside from this game against an improving Fresno State team, all the rest of the games below are contests in which the Utes, even with a developing roster, should be heavily favored. But this game against the Bulldogs is a game in which both teams are fairly evenly matched, providing a good challenge for both sides.
RPI Anchors: vs. UC Davis (234), vs. Lamar (335), vs. Savannah State (166), vs. Ball State (233), vs. Idaho State (338), vs. Texas State (272)
Much like the Buffaloes above, this Utah team is stuck with an awful exempt event. Yes, the Utes get to stay at home for three games over three consecutive days in mid-November, but for the home fans that choose to pony up the dough to come out and support their team, they are rewarded with games against Grand Canyon, Lamar and Savannah State. No offense to those three teams, but I’m not sure I’d walk across the street to watch Utah play any of them. Throw in the rest of these stinkers and a pair of other non-conference games against non-Division I schools and Ute fans can feasibly ignore their basketball team until Pac-12 play, with the possible exemption of the BYU game.
Note: Utah will play Saint Martin’s in an exhibition game on 11/1, plus regular season games against non-Division I schools Evergreen State (11/8), Grand Canyon (11/21) and St. Katherine (12/28).