Evaluating AAC Non-Conference Schedules: The Bad and the Ugly…Posted by CD Bradley on October 30th, 2013
We looked at the best of the AAC non-conference schedules in Part I, after explaining a bit of what makes for a good non-conference schedule. This season, there’s quite a bit more bad than good, which could drag down the collective RPIs of AAC members and ultimately lead to lower NCAA Tournament seeds come March.
- Cincinnati: The Bearcats return the favor of a visit last season from MW favorite New Mexico with a road trip of their own to The Pit. They also will play former Big East rival and mid-level ACC squad Pitt at Madison Square Garden. Then… well, there’s the rivalry game with Xavier, which seems poised to finish in the bottom half of a newly constituted (read: relatively weaker) Big East; N.C. State, clearly headed toward the bottom of the ACC, and Conference USA also-ran MTSU. That trio might end up in the RPI top 100; it’s highly unlikely any other team on the schedule will come close.
- Louisville: If the defending champs can escape Rupp Arena with a win, all will be forgiven by both their fans and the committee, as a road win against Kentucky is perhaps the highest quality victory available in college basketball this year. Southern Miss, which finished with an RPI of #30 last season, is favored to win Conference USA. They face a potential Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off final against North Carolina at the Mohegan Sun. They need the Tar Heels to be there, because the rest of their foes are middling teams in weak leagues, with Charleston the most likely to crack the top 100, and several – we’re looking at you, Hofstra and UMKC – seeming likely to end up north of #300.
- Rutgers: This is probably a generous positioning, given that all that’s good here is basically tied to the Scarlet Knights’ involvement in the Preseason NIT. Assuming they beat Canisius (one of the MAAC’s best teams, so not a gimme), they could face either Elon or Drexel in the second round (the first round victory may help slip that team into the RPI top 100). Another win gets them to MSG, where Arizona and Duke (among others) might lurk. So that’s the possibility of four top 100 foes, two at home and two on a neutral court. After that… Seton Hall? At George Washington or UAB? Unlikely to get a top 100 team there, and it only gets worse. So if they don’t win those first two NIT games, they probably belong in the group below.
- South Florida: The Bulls host Oklahoma State, Alabama and Florida Gulf Coast this season. The first two will be in the RPI top 100, if not the top 50, and the third will probably join them. All three will probably be a road favorite in Tampa. Beyond that, and a visit to Bradley (which could flirt with the top 100), Bowling Green and George Mason (no return trip to the Final Four this year, I assure you), they face two of the worst teams in the MEAC and one of the worst in the OVC, possible RPI 300+ teams all. Meh.
- Central Florida: Meh would be an upgrade. Like Memphis, the Knights face two Division II squads. Unlike Memphis, they play nobody else good. The two best teams here – Florida State and at Miami – both look like they’re way back in the ACC pack this year, and with enough losses might well fall outside the top 100. No one else should be close, but two bottom feeder MEAC teams might find themselves close to #351.
- SMU: The Mustangs, with Larry Brown, five starters returning and talented newcomers joining them, are a hot sleeper pick this season. Sleepy well describes their schedule, too. They travel to Charlottesville to face Virginia, a real contender in the ACC this year, and a strong favorite in that match-up. That’s really all there is. The only other team they play projected to finish above seventh in its conference is from the SWAC, so good luck against the Cavaliers!
- Houston: The Cougars play Stanford and possibly Pittsburgh in a Thanksgiving tournament in Brooklyn. That’s probably it for top 100 foes, but there’s no shortage of 300+ opponents; you could say they hit for the circuit there, facing bottom-tier teams from the SWAC, MEAC, Southland and WAC. They also play the teams picked to finished last and next to last in Conference USA, either (or both) of which could join the group with RPIs over #300. When nearly half the teams on your non-conference schedule may end up in that neighborhood, you’ve clearly violated one of the cardinal rules of scheduling: “Don’t schedule terrible teams. Ever.”