Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Part IIPosted by Brendan Brody on November 6th, 2013
Highlighted by the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the B1G non-conference slate is filled with intriguing match-ups that will the test each team in unique ways. Starting with Nebraska taking on “Dunk City” on opening night, and stretching deep into December, the teams from the conference will all face games ranging from a glorified scrimmage to an absolute test that will determine RPI and seeding in March, and influence the general perception of each team and the league as a whole. What follows is the second of a two part breakdown showing what each team is up against before the league schedule tips off on New Year’s Eve (the first installment can be found here). I’m not going to hypothesize when it comes to tournaments that involve different teams and who they might play; rather, I’m going to just look at games that are definitely going to be played.
- Biggest Test: @Creighton (12/8): Creighton is where Nebraska wants to be in terms of the scope of basketball in the state of Nebraska. What better way to sway recruits around that region than beating them in their own gym.
- Other Challenges: UMass (11/21), Miami (FL) (12/4), @Cincinnati (12/28): I’d highlight Cincinnati out of all of these, because Nebraska will have to prove its toughness in this one. The Bearcats always play a rugged brand of basketball where they get after teams defensively, and they hit the boards hard. Nebraska couldn’t shoot straight from outside last year (30.7 percent), and they were only 319th in the country in offensive rebound percentage. The Minutemen are looked as potential challengers in the Atlantic 10, while even though Miami is predicted to have a down year, they still have some experience left over from last year’s ACC championship team.
- Mid-Major Scare: Florida Gulf Coast (11/8): Without looking at the Vegas line, this might be the only time in history that an Atlantic Sun team would be favored over a B1g team at home. It actually ends up as a pretty good home opener for Nebraska, because after last year’s surprise Sweet Sixteen run, I’m sure there’s a lot more interest in this game then there would have otherwise been. We’ll see whether a new coach with all but two players who played big minutes on that Cinderella squad can knock off its first power conference team on opening night.
- Biggest Test: UCLA (11/29): Former Iowa coach Steve Alford gets to match wits with Chris Collins in this neutral match-up in Las Vegas. Can Alex Olah be a factor against the Wear twins and a slimmed down Tony Parker inside? If so, they have a shot.
- Other Challenges: @Stanford (11/14), Missouri (11/28), @N.C. State (12/4): The Missouri game stands out here because of the potential match-up between the combo of Drew Crawford-JerShon Cobb taking on Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkston. Both teams have really good wings, and the key might be whether Dave Sobolewski can win the point guard battle. Stanford and N.C. State would be great wins as the team heads into league play.
- Mid-Major Scare: @UIC (11/20): This battle for bragging rights in the city of Chicago comes after UIC won 50-44 last season in Evanston. If UIC gets the Wildcats two years in a row, Collins will have to some major problems on the horizon (pun intended). The Flames lost four of their top six scorers from last season, but they get ex-Purdue starter Kelsey Barlow in the mix after a transfer year.
- Biggest Test: @Marquette (11/16): Marquette has point guard questions right now, but they are generally in everyone’s top 15. The Buckeyes can harass point guards with the best of them with Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott applying the pressure, but they will have to deal with Davante Gardner down low, which is never an easy task.
- Other Challenges: Maryland (12/4), Notre Dame (12/11): Both of these games will be a tough test for different reasons. Maryland has two beasts on the low block with Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare, meaning that Amir Williams will have to be a factor and avoid foul trouble. Notre Dame poses the opposite problem, as they have two experienced guards in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, and a top 50 point guard recruit in Demetrius Jackson that may not get as rattled as others may against the hellacious ball pressure of Craft and Scott.
- Mid-Major Scare: Ohio (11/12): Ohio lost a lot off of the team that tied Akron for first place in the MAC last season, but always beware the mid-major in your own state that has a lot of players looking to prove themselves against the state school that may or may not have recruited them.
- Biggest Test: St. John’s (11/29): St. John’s is almost getting to the point of being overrated by all the people talking about the Red Storm as underrated. They are pretty much the Big East’s version of Iowa, in that they have a team that hasn’t tasted NCAA Tournament glory yet, but return pretty much everybody. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill will have their work cut out for them going up against Rysheed Jordan and D’Angelo Harrison in the backcourt.
- Other Challenges: La Salle (11/19), @Pittsburgh (12/3): Two intrastate battles highlight the rest of Penn State’s non-conference slate, as La Salle looks to prove last year wasn’t a fluke with pretty much the same cast of characters, and Pitt looks to try to match the physical nature that Pat Chambers-coached teams have come to be known for in his two years in State College.
- Mid-Major Scare: Princeton (12/14): Princeton loses leading scorer Ian Hummer from last year, but returns five of their top six players. They were second in the Ivy League last season and playing against their system is pretty much basketball’s version of a root canal.
- Biggest Test: Oklahoma State (11/28): Terone Johnson has been getting a decent amount of buzz as a potential All-B1G performer, and this match-up with Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State will be a tremendous opportunity for him to prove himself against a future lottery pick.
- Other Challenges: Boston College (12/4), Butler (12/14), West Virginia (12/22): All of these are winnable games and are victorires the Boilermakers need to have if they want to be factor in March. The rivalry game with Butler in the sneaky good Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis resulted in a tip-in to win the game for the Bulldogs two years ago. With Butler potentially down a bit with a new coach and best player out with an injury, Purdue can get revenge here if A.J. Hammons has a monster game against Butler’s lack of size. Boston College is an ACC squad trending upward that is looking to climb back into the upper echelon of its league.
- Mid-Major Scare: Northern Kentucky (11/8): This is only because the Boilermakers will be without Hammons as he serves the rest of his suspension. It gives Northern Kentucky a 12 percent percent chance to win as opposed to a two percent chance, but regardless, if they slip up here, it will be in large part because they are missing their best player.
- Biggest Test: Florida (11/12): Florida will be without three key players for this one due to suspension. Still, this will be an absolute battle on the defensive side of the floor, as it matches up two of the top four defensive teams from last year according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defense metrics. Frank Kaminsky will have his hands full with Patric Young in the post.
- Other Challenges: St. John’s (11/8), St. Louis (11/26), @Virginia (12/4), Marquette (12/7): The Badgers usually challenge themselves in their non-conference match-ups, and this year is no different. I’ve mentioned various problems that come with playing Big East members St John’s and Marquette, but St. Louis and Virginia will be unique from a style vantage point. Both teams play similarly in that they don’t really push the pace, meaning offensive execution will be at a premium. The Virginia game could honestly end up being somewhere in the 38-35 range after the clock hits zeroes.
- Mid-Major Scare: @ Wisconsin-Green Bay (11/16): Another game with the same corollary about Ohio State-Ohio could be in play. Green Bay also features 7’1″ senior Alec Brown, who has been on the NBA’s radar screen for quite some time. Not too many mid-majors have a player with that kind of size, so this one is worth watching simply to see if he has a statement game against a major opponent to help his draft stock.