Nonconference schedule analysis: A-10

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
11:56
AM ET
For the rest of the week, ESPN.com will be breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen different leagues. Tuesday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. Wednesday, we continued with the Big East and now it's time to move on to the Atlantic 10 ...

CHARLOTTE

Toughest: Miami (Dec. 22), at Arkansas (Dec. 28), at Memphis (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: at Lamar (Nov. 19), at Wright State (Nov. 26), Davidson (Dec. 10)
The rest: North Carolina Central (Nov. 11), at Central Michigan (Nov. 15), East Tennessee State (Nov. 22), at East Carolina (Dec. 3), at Radford (Dec. 6), Coppin State (Dec. 19), Kennesaw State (Jan. 18)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- For a team that won just 10 games last season, this is a pretty hefty slate. Second-year coach Alan Major does have four returning starters, so if they can weather this schedule and use it to prepare for the conference season, the 49ers could be the better for the early tough run.

DAYTON

Toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 24-27), Alabama (Dec. 7)
Next-toughest: at Murray State (Dec. 4), Seton Hall (Dec. 21), Ole Miss (Dec. 30)
The rest: Western Illinois (Nov. 12), at Miami-Ohio (Nov. 15), UNC Wilmington (Nov. 19), Buffalo (Nov. 30), Alabama State (Dec. 7), South Carolina Upstate (Dec. 11), Florida International (Dec. 17), Illinois-Chicago (Dec. 23)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Flyers did little to help their NCAA cause last year with a so-so schedule, and this one follows suit. It's not a bad schedule, but it doesn't help that the Old Spice field is fairly weak, with an opener against rebuilding Wake Forest and a second-round game against either Arizona State or Fairfield. There is a new coach in place and certainly holes to fill with the loss of Chris Wright, but for a team with the rep that Dayton has, this slate should have a little more meat. Almost makes you feel like Bama is a must-win if UD is to be in the bubble discussion.

DUQUESNE

Toughest: at Arizona (Nov. 9), vs. Pittsburgh in CONSOL Energy Center (Nov. 30)
Next-toughest: vs. Akron in Valparaiso, Ind. (Nov. 19), at Valparaiso (Nov. 20), at Western Michigan (Dec. 17), at George Mason (Dec. 21)
The rest: Green Bay (Nov. 13), District of Columbia in Valparaiso, Ind. (Nov 18), Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 26), Tennessee Tech (Dec. 3), Robert Morris (Dec. 6), Penn State (Dec. 10), Bowling Green (Dec. 28), Houston Baptist (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Ron Everhart has put together a nice challenge for a team that will be without its best player this season. The Dukes open at Arizona, plus face city rival Pitt in the Penguins’ downtown arena. What really adds teeth to this schedule are the mid-majors Duquesne has added -- Western Michigan will be on most sleeper lists this season, fellow MAC squad Akron will challenge for another NCAA bid and George Mason is George Mason.

FORDHAM

Toughest: at Syracuse (Nov. 12), at St. John’s (Dec. 17), Harvard (Jan. 3)
Next-toughest: Lehigh (Dec. 1), Georgia Tech (Dec. 29)
The rest: Binghamton (Nov. 18), Loyola-Chicago (Nov. 26), Colgate (Nov. 29), Hampton (Dec. 5), at Manhattan (Dec. 7), at Monmouth (Dec. 10), at Siena (Dec. 12), Texas State (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Give Tom Pecora credit -- he’s not shying away from the task of rebuilding the Rams. This schedule is tough but manageable. Syracuse and St. John’s might be tall orders.Lehigh, Hampton and Harvard are favorites in their respective leagues, but those could be winnable games for a Fordham team that has four starters back and a solid New York-flavored recruiting class.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Toughest: at Cal (Nov. 13), at Kansas State (Dec. 1), vs. VCU in Washington, D.C.'s Verizon Center (Dec. 4), at Syracuse (Dec. 10)
Next-toughest: vs. Detroit in Bowling Green, Ohio (Nov. 21), vs. Austin Peay in Bowling Green, Ohio (Nov. 22), UAB (Dec. 28)
The rest: at Bowling Green (Nov. 23), Loyola-Md. (Dec. 7), Bradley (Dec. 15), James Madison (Dec. 22), Delaware State (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The Colonials have the players to vie for their first NCAA tournament bid since 2007 and smartly put together a schedule that could give them the proper bonus points. New coach Mike Lonergan, with help from leading scorer Tony Taylor, has plenty of big names to gun for, plus some high-level mid-majors that could add to GW's cred, too.

LA SALLE

Toughest: at Villanova (Nov. 15), at Pittsburgh (Nov. 22)
Next-toughest: vs. Rider at the Palestra (Nov. 26), at Central Connecticut State (Dec. 22), Boston U. (Dec. 29)
The rest: Lafayette (Nov. 11), James Madison (Nov. 19), vs. Robert Morris at the Palestra (Nov. 25), Northeastern (Nov. 30), Bucknell (Dec. 3), at Towson (Dec. 7), Army (Dec. 10), at Delaware (Dec. 19), Hartford (Dec. 31), at Penn (Jan. 10)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- If Villanova were more of a surefire top-25 team, this number would be higher. But since the Wildcats are something of a question mark, their Big 5 rival Explorers suffer the consequences. There are some decent mid-majors on the slate -- and playing at Pitt is obviously brutal -- but without Aaric Murray (transferred to West Virginia), John Giannini could be forgiven for not scheduling too boldly.

MASSACHUSETTS

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 24-26), at Miami-Fla. (Dec. 3)
Next-toughest: at Boston College (Nov. 21), Davidson (Dec. 22), Central Connecticut State (Dec. 28)
The rest: Elon (Nov. 11), Northeastern (Nov. 14), NJIT (Nov. 17), Towson (Nov. 30), at East Carolina (Dec. 6), vs. Siena in Springfield, Mass. (Dec. 9), Quinnipiac (Dec. 17)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- This isn’t an overly ambitious schedule, but for where Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen are right now, that’s understandable. UMass is getting better but hasn’t yet fully arrived. Certainly this slate could move up the meter if the Minutemen could somehow upset Florida State in the Bahamas and move along in the Battle 4 Atlantis, where they'll face either Harvard or Utah in the second game.

RHODE ISLAND

Toughest: at George Mason (Nov. 11), at Texas (Nov. 15), Virginia Tech (Dec. 7)
Next-toughest: at Nebraska (Nov. 20), Boston U. (Nov. 26), Providence (Dec. 23), UCF Holiday Classic (Dec. 29-30), at Boston College (Jan. 2)
The rest: Hofstra (Nov. 25), Cleveland State (Nov. 27), at Brown (Nov. 30), Maine (Dec. 4), at Georgia State (Dec. 10), Yale (Dec. 18)
Toughness scale: 6 -- This would have been a heckuva schedule a year ago -- back when Texas was prowling in the top 10, Norris Cole was at Cleveland State, Charles Jenkins was at Hofstra and Boston College was surprising folks in the ACC. This season, though, the Rams are the unfortunate recipients of good teams in rebuilding years. This is still an impressive schedule, though. Give Rhody credit for the late addition of George Mason for the opener.

RICHMOND

Toughest: Cancun Challenge (Nov. 22-23), at VCU in Richmond Coliseum (Dec. 10), Iona (Dec. 14), Old Dominion (Dec. 20), at UCLA (Dec. 23)
Next-toughest: at Davidson (Nov. 14), at Wake Forest (Dec. 3)
The rest: American (Nov. 11), Hampton (Nov. 17), Sacred Heart (Nov. 19), at William & Mary (Nov. 30), at Bucknell (Dec. 17), Liberty (Dec. 28), UNC Greensboro (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The trip to Cancun brings a game against Illinois and either Rutgers or Illinois State on the second day. Davidson, Iona and ODU have the potential to be the Spiders of this season -- March Madness darlings that stun more than a few people. Big brownie points to Chris Mooney for taking his team across the country for a date with a very good UCLA team. And of course there’s the real highlight -- the intra-city game against VCU, the city of Richmond's other Cinderella story from last season.

SAINT JOSEPH'S

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 17-20), at Iona (Nov. 23), Creighton (Dec. 10), Villanova (Dec. 17), at Harvard (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: at Western Kentucky (Nov. 11), Drexel (Nov. 30), Boston U. (Dec. 7)
The rest: Penn State (Nov. 26), at American (Dec. 4), Coppin State (Dec. 21), Morgan State (Dec. 28), at Penn (Jan. 21)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- This is about on par for a St. Joe’s team that is trying to regain its footing after some precipitous freefalling. The Hawks are still young, so a crazy schedule could have ruined their confidence. This is manageable, winnable but also has enough teams with NCAA tournament potential -- Creighton, Villanova, Iona, Drexel, Boston University, Morgan State and Harvard -- to get the proper strength of schedule boost. The Charleston Classic isn't stacked, but the opener against Georgia Tech is a good test and either Seton Hall or VCU will await on the second day.

SAINT LOUIS

Toughest: Washington (Nov. 20), at New Mexico (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: 76 Classic (Nov. 24-27)
The rest: Tennessee State (Nov. 11), at Southern Illinois (Nov. 15), at Loyola Marymount (Nov. 29), Portland (Dec. 3), Vermont (Dec. 7), Illinois-Springfield (Dec. 10), Alabama State (Dec. 17), Arkansas State (Dec. 22), Texas Southern (Dec. 27)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Have to give credit to anyone willing to travel across the country for a New Year’s Eve trip. Extra credit when that trip takes you to a serious contender like New Mexico at a very serious place like the Pit. Would be nice if there were a little more of a smattering of good mid-majors to compliment the two heavy hitters, but the 76 Classic offers a decent field that begins with rebuilding BC and likely continues with Villanova on the second day if the Billikens take care of business. Either Oklahoma, Santa Clara, Washington State or New Mexico await on the third day.

ST. BONAVENTURE

Toughest: at Virginia Tech (Nov. 27), at Illinois (Dec. 7), vs. NC State in Rochester, N.Y. (Dec. 20)
Next-toughest: at Cleveland State (Nov. 18)
The rest: Cornell (Nov. 11), at Siena (Nov. 21), Arkansas State (Dec. 1), at Buffalo (Dec. 3), Canisius (Dec. 10), St. Francis-Pa. (Dec. 23), at Niagara (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Big things could be coming to Olean, thanks to NBA prospect Andrew Nicholson. Though Virginia Tech and Illinois aren’t tops in their leagues, the fact that the Bonnies are traveling for those games will make all the difference in the world if this team is in the mix down the stretch. Four mid-major road games could also quietly help the power rating.

TEMPLE

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 17-20), Villanova (Dec. 10), at Texas (Dec. 17), Duke (Jan. 4)
Next-toughest: Maryland (Jan. 21)
The rest: at Penn (Nov. 14), at Bowling Green (Nov. 27), Central Michigan (Dec. 3), at Toledo (Dec. 7), at Rice (Dec. 19), Buffalo (Dec. 28), at Delaware (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Fran Dunphy has never been afraid of a tough schedule, and this is another example. Though some of its best games are in Philly, Temple serves itself well by going to Austin for a mid-December game with Texas. This rigorous slate could jump even higher if the Owls move on in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where TU opens with Western Michigan, faces a tough second game against Purdue or Iona and a third game against probably either Alabama or Wichita State.

XAVIER

Toughest: at Vanderbilt (Nov. 28), Purdue (Dec. 3), at Butler (Dec. 7), Cincinnati (Dec. 10), Gonzaga (Dec. 31), at Memphis (Feb. 4)
Next-toughest: Georgia (Nov. 25), Oral Roberts (Dec. 18), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
The rest: Morgan State (Nov. 11), IPFW (Nov. 15), Miami-Ohio (Nov. 18)
Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Chris Mack is either insane or a genius. Come March, we’ll know which one. He has a first-class team with a first-class nonconference schedule. The fact that there are just three games in “the rest” category says it all. After those initial three games, X faces off with five straight NCAA tourney teams from last season (UGA, Vandy, Purdue, Butler and Cincinnati), then gets Summit League favorite ORU, then a trip to Hawaii to face off with Big West favorite Long Beach State and likely Clemson or Kansas State eventually. Oh, and then the Musketeers come back stateside for a New Year's Eve date with Gonzaga. That is some 10-game stretch. Throw in the February trip to Memphis and you have yourself a battle-tested group for March.

Dana O'Neil | email

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