Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Arizona and Arizona StatePosted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 6th, 2013
In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’ve been breaking down all 12 non-conference slates over the last few weeks. To close out the series, we take a look at the Arizona schools.
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: @ San Diego State (#30), UNLV (#23), @ Michigan (#21)
All three of these will be must-see television. This isn’t as good of a San Diego State team as Steve Fisher has had the last couple of years, but it will still finish in the top four of the Mountain West and compete for an NCAA bid. The Aztecs and their raucous student section, The Show, will be waiting for the top-10 Wildcats for a 7:05 PM tip-off less than a week after the season begins. The Rebels started last season 13-2 but dropped a heart-breaker, 64-61, against California in their NCAA Tournament opener. The toughest of the marquee group will be a road trip to Michigan, which the AP has ranked seventh nationally in its preseason poll. The game will be a 9:00 AM start on the west coast and will be televised nationally by CBS on December 14. The Wolverines lose two premier guards from last year’s team but will still compete with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State for the Big Ten title behind forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.
Solid Names: Cal Poly (#164), Long Beach State (#115), New Mexico State (#56), Southern U. (#180)
Long Beach State plays the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, and Arizona joins the likes of Michigan, Creighton and NC State to play the 49ers this season. LBSU loses three key players off last year’s team but still boasts enough talent to give the Wildcats a game. Three days before Sean Miller’s team hosts Long Beach State, Cal Poly will visit the McKale Center on opening night. Senior Chris Eversley is the top forward in the Big West and returns from a team that made its first postseason appearance in Division I history. Still, the Mustangs struggled on the road last season and the trend will continue at Arizona. New Mexico State will make the short road trip on the night of December 11 to face Arizona, and Southern U. rounds out the group by coming to Tucson on December 19 for a game that will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks at 6:00 PM. The Jaguars are picked by most to win the SWAC a year after winning 23 games.
RPI Anchors: Fairleigh Dickinson (#299), Rhode Island (#201), vs Metro State (N/A), Texas Tech (#216), Northern Arizona (#255)
Four cupcakes sprinkle Arizona’s schedule. It’ll host Fairleigh Dickinson on November 18 at 8:00 PM on ESPNU to open the NIT Season Tip-Off, and will face either Rhode Island or Metro State the next night. The Cats will open the month of December with a visit from Texas Tech, a team they beat by 28 on the road last season. Intrastate rival Northern Arizona will close out non-conference play for the Wildcats. The Lumberjacks finished their 2012-13 campaign at an 11-21 clip and are projected for yet another lower half finish in the Big Sky.
Cream of the Crop: @ UNLV (#23), Marquette (#13), vs Creighton (#24), vs San Diego State (#30)
Arizona State’s first test of the season will be November 19 in Las Vegas against UNLV. That game will tip off at 7:00 PM on CBS Sports Network. Six days later the headliner of this group will travel to Tempe for a 6:00 PM start on Fox Sports 1. Marquette boasts one of the top front lines in the nation behind Davante Gardner and Chris Otule, but question marks certainly exist after the loss of three key guards. The final known marquee game will take place on November 28 against Creighton in Fullerton. The Bluejays return do-everything forward Doug McDermott, who averaged 23.2 PPG and 7.7 RPG in the 2012-13 campaign. The Sun Devils could meet San Diego State after the meeting with Creighton in the second round of the Wooden Legacy tournament if everything sets up perfectly.
Solid Names: vs College of Charleston (#133), UC Irvine (#126)
UC Irvine is the only definite “middle of the road” team on Arizona State’s non-conference schedule. The Anteaters and Sun Devils will jump at 11:00 AM on December 28, making it Arizona State’s final game before league play. Projected to win the Big West, Irvine returns guard Alex Young, the league’s co-Freshman of the Year from 2012-13, in addition to explosive center Will Davis II, a likely candidate to finish first team All-Big West at season’s end. Russell Turner has his best team in Irvine in his fourth season, and it would be a big surprise if the Anteaters didn’t improve for the fourth straight year. You can catch the game on the Pac-12 Networks.
RPI Anchors: Maryland Baltimore County (#298), Miami (Ohio) (#258), Idaho State (#338), Bradley (#191), @ DePaul (#204), Grambling (#347), Texas Tech (#216)
This isn’t the worst group of cupcakes a team could have, that much is for sure. Bradley is the class of the seven teams. The Braves will compete with Wichita State and Indiana State for the Missouri Valley crown, but without Creighton it is not as strong a league as we have seen in years past. The game comes in-between match-ups with UNLV and Marquette, so Herb Sendek cannot afford to overlook the Braves and risk going 0-3 in that stretch. The next best game is a road trip to Chicago to face DePaul, which is technically a power conference road game. They’ll meet at 4:00 PM Pacific time on December 6 in a game to be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.