- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. We started Tuesday with the A-10 and Big East and now it's off to the Colonial Athletic Association ...
Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23), at Duke (Dec. 1)
Next-toughest: at Temple (Nov. 25), at Villanova (Dec. 16)
The rest: at Lafayette (Nov. 28), Radford (Dec. 4), Delaware State (Dec. 8), Penn (Dec. 21), Rider (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale: 8 -- Kudos to Monte Ross for giving a fairly veteran Blue Hens team a schedule to truly test its worth. Delaware is trying to make inroads in this tough league and the best way to do that is to play big-boy teams. If the Blue Hens can beat Penn in the NIT, they'll most likely play at Virginia with a chance to advance to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals. It would be a huge spotlight for the program.
Toughest: Anaheim Classic (Nov. 22-25), Saint Joseph's (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: at Kent State (Nov. 9), Illinois State (Nov. 15), at Princeton (Dec. 8 )
The rest: at Penn (Nov. 17), Rider (Dec. 1), Tennessee State (Dec. 4), Fairfield (Dec. 16), Davidson (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale: 3 -- Really? After missing out on the NCAA tournament last season because of their lack of nonconference schedule strength, this is the best the Dragons could come up with? For a team that should be favored to win this league? They'll open with tough Saint Mary's in Anaheim, but the field out there is just not that strong. Kind of like this schedule.
Toughest: Virginia (Nov. 9), Paradise Jam (Nov. 16-19), vs. Maryland (Dec. 2 in Washington, D.C.), at South Florida (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: at Bucknell (Nov. 13), Boston U (Nov. 24), Northern Iowa (Dec. 8), vs. Richmond (Dec. 22 at Richmond Coliseum)
The rest: at Rhode Island (Nov. 28), UMBC (Dec. 4)
Toughness scale: 8 -- This could get even better if the Patriots make their way through the Paradise Jam and square off against UConn (the opener is against A-Sun favorite Mercer). As it is, it’s pretty darned good anyway, what with the likes of the three big six tourney contenders at the top and some decent mid-majors filling out the middle.
Toughest: at Duke (Nov. 9), at BYU (Nov. 13)
Next-toughest: Southern Miss (Dec. 18), at Rhode Island (Dec. 22)
The rest: Monmouth (Nov. 19), Tennessee State (Nov. 20), South Alabama (Nov. 21), East Carolina (Nov. 26), Louisiana Tech (Nov. 30), at Liberty (Dec. 2), Southern Poly (Dec. 8), at Troy (Dec. 15), at Georgia Southern (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 7 -- Ron Hunter didn’t take long to put his stamp on the Georgia State program, leading the Panthers to the second-most wins in school history. This team might have a hard time matching that number with a schedule like this (opening at two of the toughest places to play in the country), but recognizing the value of playing people for a mid-major, Hunter built a good foundation for the Panthers this season with this nonconference slate.
Toughest: at Purdue (Nov. 11)
Next-toughest: Marshall (Nov. 18), at LIU-Brooklyn (Dec. 8 )
The rest: at Monmouth (Nov. 9), District of Columbia (Nov. 17), at Manhattan (Nov. 21), at George Washington (Nov. 24), SMU (Dec. 1), Wagner (Dec. 4), Wright State (Dec. 15), vs. Tulane (Dec. 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), at Florida Atlantic (Jan. 1)
Toughness scale: 4 -- Mo Cassara is trying to get things back on track at Hofstra and has a fairly young roster, so a little wiggle room is understandable. Still, for a team that has its share of talent to call on in the form of Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Taran Buie (who were suspended for the first two games of the season), you’d kind of hope for and expect more.
Toughest: at UCLA (Nov. 15)
Next-toughest: Richmond (Dec. 8), at Miami (Ohio) (Nov. 24)
The rest: at Duquesne (Nov. 19), vs. Youngstown State (Nov. 20 in Pittsburgh), vs. North Dakota State (Nov. 21 in Pittsburgh), George Washington (Nov. 28), Winthrop (Dec. 1), East Tennessee State (Dec. 5), UNC-Greensboro (Dec. 16), vs. San Jose State (Dec. 22 in Las Vegas), vs. San Diego (Dec. 23 in Las Vegas), at Hampton (Jan. 7)
Toughness scale: 7 -- Nothing like two cross-country trips from Harrisonburg, Va., to make life fun, especially when one includes a stop in Westwood. There are some opportunities here for a roster that includes three returning starters -- and getting Richmond and GW at home is nice.
Toughest: at Princeton (Nov. 13), Massachusetts (Dec. 4)
Next-toughest: Boston U (Nov. 9), Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 21-24), La Salle (Dec. 8), UNC Asheville (Dec. 18)
The rest: Vermont (Nov. 17), Maine (Nov. 28), at Central Connecticut State (Dec. 21), at UAB (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 3 -- Besides home games against A-10 sleepers UMass and La Salle, not much here to get terribly excited about, not when the rest of the league is putting some name-brand games on the schedule. Maybe a second-round game against Belmont in Anchorage?
Toughest: at Murray State (Nov. 24), VCU (Dec. 7), vs. Virginia (Dec. 22 in Richmond)
Next-toughest: at Cleveland State (Nov. 17), Richmond (Dec. 4), UCF (Dec. 14), at Charleston (Dec. 18)
The rest: Holy Cross (Nov. 10), UTSA (Nov. 11), VMI (Nov. 21), Fairfield (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 7 -- In his last go-round in the CAA, Blaine Taylor has a good schedule that is both meaty and winnable, the perfect combination of games that might catch the committee’s eyes but aren’t impossible mountains for his team to climb.
Toughest: at Georgetown (Dec. 8), at Temple (Dec. 12), at Oregon State (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: at Charleston (Nov. 9), at Vermont (Dec. 5)
The rest: vs. Radford (Nov. 16 in Richmond, Ky.), at Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 17), vs. Kennesaw State (Nov. 18 in Richmond, Ky.), vs. Cincinnati Christian (Nov. 19 in Richmond, Ky.), at UMBC (Dec. 1), North Dakota State (Dec. 15), Coppin State (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale: 5 -- After the Tigers finished 1-31 a season ago (the one win came in conference play), there are plenty of games you can go ahead and put in the L column, including those toughies on the road in December. But Towson should be improved enough -- and a few opponents bad enough -- that a repeat of the one-win nightmare is highly unlikely.
Toughest: at Ohio (Nov. 16), at Purdue (Nov. 21), at Davidson (Dec. 15)
Next-toughest: UNC Asheville (Nov. 11), at Richmond (Nov. 13), at Marshall (Dec. 1), at Georgia Tech (Dec. 8 )
The rest: Wofford (Nov. 24), Hampton (Nov. 25), Coker (Dec. 5), UNC-Greensboro (Dec. 19), at Campbell (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 6 -- Buzz Peterson still has work to do in Wilmington, so a schedule that doesn’t kill his team makes sense. But Coker? Really? That said, there's quite a road gantlet here -- one that includes stops at Purdue, Ohio, Davidson, Richmond, Marshall and Georgia Tech. That should be fun.
WILLIAM & MARY
Toughest: at Purdue (Dec. 29), at Vanderbilt (Jan. 2)
Next-toughest: at Wake Forest (Nov. 23), at Richmond (Nov. 28)
The rest: Hampton (Nov. 9), at Liberty (Nov. 12), at High Point (Nov. 17), Miami (Ohio) (Nov. 21), Howard (Dec. 6), at Radford (Dec. 8), Salisbury (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale: 4 -- This is the all-name schedule. Purdue, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest have the national recognition, but none of them will exactly be at their best this season -- although each will be heavily favored over the Tribe. For a program that has struggled so much lately, though, there are some winnable confidence-builders mixed in.