Ranking the Big 12’s Non-Conference Schedules

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 20th, 2015

Breaking down non-conference schedules are a strange thing to do but I enjoy watching the inter-conference challenges or anytime a Duke plays a Kentucky. If you gave me a fresh list of every high-major program’s non-conference schedule each week, that would be enough for me. Yes. They wouldn’t even have to play the actual games or put them on TV. I would simply be satisfied looking at the schedules themselves because my idea of how those games would play out are perfect and infallible. The best players would score the most points with a side of all the ridiculous buzzer-beaters you can eat. But first, a few notes about these rankings.

Games Like These Are Great For College Basketball (USAT Images)

Games Like These Are Great For College Basketball (USAT Images)

  1. The rankings will go from #10 to #1, representing the range from the weakest non-conference schedule to the strongest.
  2. The rankings do not represent where each team will finish in conference play. Seriously, it’s not that. Don’t be the person who thinks it is.
  3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff appears on three of the Big 12’s 10 non-conference schedules. If a plan is in the works for this program to be added to the Big 12, that’d be amazing. [starts up online petition]
  4. This ranking system is science. Pure science. Take this to a lab. It all checks out.

10. Texas Tech 

Working from home is great. You can get so much done without the hassle of putting on pants. Three seasons ago, the Red Raiders pulled off a feat of which few power conference schools are capable: spend November and December entirely at home. This season Texas Tech runs through its toughest stretch of non-Big 12 play at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a game against Utah (a loss), a game with Mississippi State, and a third contest that could include Minnesota or Missouri State. Outside of that, there’s really nothing here. They will play three schools from the state of Arkansas and none are likely to make the NCAA Tournament. Meh.

9. Texas Christian

There’s actually some meat on TCU’s non-conference schedule this season. The Horned Frogs will face a wounded but still solid Rhode Island team, potentially Maryland if they’re able to hold on versus the Rams, SMU and a true road game at a young Washington team. The most intriguing matchup will be against the Houston Baptist Huskies because I’d expect it to go a little like this. If you watched the video, the point is that this game will be uneventful. Goodnight everybody!

8. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are in the eighth spot in our countdown largely based on maybes. Maybe they’ll play Virginia at the Charleston Classic. Maybe the Tulsa team that took down Wichita State will still be pretty good in two weeks. Maybe Florida and Auburn will be better than projected when December and January rolls around. Maybe someone will admit agreeing to play Minnesota in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was a really weird idea, at best. Maybe all these things come true. Maybe.

7. West Virginia

The Mountaineers will miss having Juwan Staten pilot the offense at point guard but the hope is the interior will be rock solid as they return Jonathan Holton and Devin Williams. Their non-league schedule, however, is rather unambitious. Programs like Texas Tech or TCU schedule weaker because they can hide behind the fact that they aren’t basketballing at the level West Virginia has for so long. The Mountaineers’ schedule features a game with Virginia and another with either San Diego State or California, which is good. Outside of the Cavaliers, Bob Huggins‘ program will play four other schools located in either Virginia or West Virginia. Most of them won’t do much to boost one’s RPI and strength of schedule.

6. Kansas State

Clearly, this is an outdated photo of Kansas State coach Bruce Weber but I thought Wildcat fans could use a laugh. (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

Clearly, this is an outdated photo of current Kansas State coach Bruce Weber but I thought Wildcat fans could use a laugh. (AP Photo/M. Conroy)

So you’ve lost your leading scorer and important role players through transfers and graduation. How do you build a schedule with a really young team? Like this: a potential date with North Carolina; a true road game at Texas A&M; difficult home games against Georgia and Ole Miss; and Colorado State down the road in Wichita. This season is going to be dark in Manhattan. Cherish those little bright lights. Cherish them.

5. Iowa State

Cyclones fans made up most of the “home court” advantage in a hard fought win against Colorado to open up the season last week in Sioux Falls but it’s going to get tougher than that looking ahead. Sure, they have their fair share of cupcakes but they still have to contend with Iowa at home and Northern Iowa in Des Moines. Add on two true road games against offensively potent Cincinnati (wut) and Texas A&M in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. It’s a grueling schedule that kind of sneaks up on you.

4. Baylor

One can argue that Baylor’s first two games of the year were the toughest of any Big 12 team. They beat the living snot out of Stephen F. Austin but the Lumberjacks still figure to win the Southland Conference once again. Playing Oregon close in Eugene is encouraging since the Ducks will likely finish in Pac-12’s top three. In addition, the Bears will host a Vanderbilt team that projects to finish in the SEC’s top three; a Georgia team likely fighting for an at-large bid; two favorites to win the WAC and SWAC in New Mexico State and Texas Southern; and another true roadie at Texas A&M (notice a theme here?). This is truly a masterful schedule. Whoever is in charge of Baylor’s scheduling should get some award for locating most of these games in the state of Texas.

3. Oklahoma

Lon Kruger has a built a serious Final Four contender in his fifth season with Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Lon Kruger has a built a serious Final Four contender in his fifth season with Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

It takes a lot of guts for a power-five school to tip its season off on the road, and Oklahoma did just that. The Sooners edged out Memphis in what turned out to be an entertaining 40 minutes of basketball earlier this week. There are still a lot of potential roadblocks between now and their Big 12 opener vs Iowa State, however. Home dates against Creighton and national runner-up Wisconsin; a trip to Hawaii to face Big East favorite Villanova; another trip to Hawaii to participate in the Diamond Head Classic (BYU, Harvard, New Mexico, Northern Iowa, Auburn, Washington State and Hawaii); capped off by a road game against Basketball Hercules Ben Simmons and LSU. There’s plenty of belief that this schedule was jam-packed in November and December to prepare the Sooners for March and April.

2. Kansas

Kansas never disappoints with scheduling. It’s always a grind; the opponents are high-profile; and you know you won’t have to scour the internet to watch (most of) these games live. The Champions Classic against Michigan State is always beneficial for both teams. The Jayhawks will also take the trip to Hawaii as the favorites for this year’s Maui Invitational because, outside of Indiana and Vanderbilt, there doesn’t seem to be another serious challenger. There’s a home game with Harvard, the yearly Kansas City game with Oregon State (they’ve improved!), a visit to San Diego State and another club-banger with Kentucky in late January. You will enjoy this schedule.

1. Texas

Congrats, Shaka Smart, new head coach at Texas! Your team will face the roughest non-conference in the Big 12! (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Congrats, Shaka Smart, new head coach at Texas! Your team will face the roughest non-conference in the Big 12! (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

One of the only legacies that former athletic director Steve Patterson will leave at Texas is international travel. The basketball team got the brunt of that this season, starting its year against Washington in Shanghai where they lost and Bill Walton informed the public of his love for China and danced back into our hearts. After a brief stop back in the States, the Horns head to the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas for a guaranteed game with Texas A&M, because of course. Provided they advance past the Aggies, another game with Washington would emerge, or a tilt with Final Four darkhorse Gonzaga. Their third game would feature one of these four: a hopefully healthy Michigan, UConn, Charlotte or Syracuse. Okay, this gets much more interesting. Texas also welcomes North Carolina into Austin in mid-December followed by a road game at Stanford, a guaranteed home game with UConn and then Vanderbilt to wrap it all up at the end of January.

Remember these rankings are not a forecast where any of these teams will finish in the Big 12 but will hopefully serve as a guide to judge if any team is truly as good as their record indicates. If you’ve made it this far, you are free to enjoy the biggest dessert you can find. You earned it.

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