College Basketball Nation: Nonconference schedule analysis

The 10 best nonconference schedules

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
11:45
AM ET
Editor's Note: This week, ESPN.com broke down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC. Today we focused on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Missouri Valley and Big 12.

A quick note: I limited this list to teams from the top 12 conferences, i.e. the ones we covered in detail during this week's scheduling analyses. For a list of teams from outside these leagues with notably difficult schedules (hello, Long Beach State), see Myron Medcalf's "Others" piece here.

10. MARSHALL

Toughest: at Villanova (Nov. 11), vs. West Virginia (Dec. 5 in Charleston, W.Va.), vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 15 in Charleston, W.Va.), at Kentucky (Dec. 22), at Ohio (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: vs. South Dakota State (Nov. 17 in Hempstead, N.Y.), Nevada (Nov. 24)
The rest: Longwood (Nov. 9), vs. District of Columbia (Nov. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y.), at Hofstra (Nov. 18), Morehead State (Nov. 28), UNC-Wilmington (Dec. 1), Coppin State (Dec. 8), Savannah State (Dec. 19), Delaware State (Jan. 2)

Not only is this schedule brutally tough, it's also smart. Why? Because even if Marshall comes away from that Dec. 22 visit to Rupp Arena with a loss -- and it almost certainly will -- it is the perfect embodiment of a no-risk/all-reward, RPI-driven scheduling trick. Loss? Who cares? Marshall's RPI won't take a hit. If anything, it will improve. Anyway, that's beside the point. On balance, this is a deep, strong schedule, with a variety of challenges on the road, on neutral courts, and at home. Perfect for a possible bubble team.

9. NORTH CAROLINA

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), at Indiana (Nov. 27), at Texas (Dec. 19), UNLV (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: at Long Beach State (Nov. 16)
The rest: Gardner-Webb (Nov. 9), Florida Atlantic (Nov. 11), UAB (Dec. 1), ETSU (Dec. 8), East Carolina (Dec. 15), McNeese State (Dec. 22)

Before digging into this stuff, I wouldn't have thought a UNC schedule that didn't include Kentucky could still be this difficult. But the Tar Heels drew the short ACC/Big Ten Challenge straw, landing a trip to raucous Bloomington, Ind., and the Maui Invitational includes either Butler or Marquette in the semis and then likely Texas if the Heels get to the finals. UNLV is going to be fearsome come late December and a date in Long Beach on the way to Maui is plenty tricky, too. Oh, and a potential Round 2 with the Longhorns awaits. Carolina will travel far and wide this season; we'll see if ol' Roy's talented young squad is up to the task.

8. BUTLER

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), at Northwestern (Dec. 8), vs. Indiana (Dec. 15 in Indianapolis), Gonzaga (Jan. 19)
Next-toughest: at Xavier (Nov. 13), at Vanderbilt (Dec. 22)
The rest: Elon (Nov. 10), Hanover (Nov. 27), Ball State (Dec. 1), IUPUI (Dec. 5), Evansville (Dec. 22), Penn (Jan. 2), New Orleans (Jan. 5)

Even when Xavier and Vanderbilt are in rebuilding mode -- as they decidedly are this season -- you'd prefer not to play in either building. Butler will play in both this season, and those aren't even the toughest games on the schedule. Maui features an opening game against Marquette, and with a win, likely North Carolina a day later. Meanwhile, Butler got Purdue last season in the Crossroads Classic, so it's the Bulldogs' turn to take on the Hoosiers -- just in time for Cody Zeller and Co. to turn into a juggernaut. And for what it's worth, I love that Gonzaga-Butler fixture in Indianapolis on Jan. 19 with College GameDay in town. Perfect.

7. TEMPLE

Toughest: vs. Duke (Dec. 8 in East Rutherford, N.J.), vs. Syracuse (Dec. 22 in New York), at Kansas (Jan. 6)
Next toughest: at Kent State (Nov. 13), at Villanova (Dec. 5), Detroit (Dec. 28)
The rest: Rice (Nov. 17), Delaware (Nov. 25), at Buffalo (Nov. 28), Wagner (Dec. 1), Towson (Dec. 12), Alcorn State (Dec. 17), Canisius (Dec. 19), Bowling Green (Dec. 31), Penn (Jan. 23)

As Andy wrote in his original breakdown of Temple's schedule, you won't find too many teams slated to play three opponents as good as Duke, Syracuse and Kansas. One is a true road game (KU), the other is ostensibly so (Syracuse at MSG), the third is in Jersey (Duke), but the Blue Devils' fans swarm East Rutherford as though it were adjacent to Durham. There isn't as much heft in the middle portions of this schedule as, say, Marshall, but the strength at the top is a distinguishing factor.

6. KANSAS

Toughest: vs. Michigan State (Nov. 13 in Atlanta), at Ohio State (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Kansas City), Colorado (Dec. 8), Belmont (Dec. 15), Temple (Jan. 6)
The rest: SE Missouri State (Nov. 9), Chattanooga (Nov. 15), San Jose State (Nov. 26), vs. Oregon State (Nov. 30 in Kansas City), Richmond (Dec. 18), American (Dec. 29)

This may not be a vintage Kansas schedule -- you could certainly argue that last season's was tougher overall -- but it is nonetheless robust. There are the two marquee events against Michigan State and at Ohio State, and the CBE Classic could include a game against a tough defensive squad in Saint Louis. That's solid enough. But then you pepper in games like Colorado (where Andre Roberson could morph into a stud), Belmont (one of the nation's best mid-majors) and Temple (hardly an easy out), and you end up with an even tougher schedule than might initially be apparent.

5. FLORIDA

Toughest: Wisconsin (Nov. 14), at Florida State (Dec. 5), at Arizona (Dec. 15), Kansas State (Dec. 22 in Kansas City)
Next-toughest: vs. Georgetown (Nov. 9 in Jacksonville), UCF (Nov. 23), Marquette (Nov. 29)
The rest: Alabama State (Nov. 11), vs. Middle Tennessee (Nov. 18 in Tampa), Savannah State (Nov. 20), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 19), vs. Air Force (Dec. 29 in Sunrise, Fla.), at Yale (Jan. 6)

When your "next-toughest" category lists Marquette and Georgetown, your schedule is downright brutal. The Gators host Wisconsin and Marquette, play the Hoyas on an aircraft carrier in Jacksonville and travel to FSU, Arizona and Kansas State (in Kansas City). There may not be a top-five team in that mix (though let's keep an eye on Arizona), but there are a lot of Top 25 teams to deal with. Oh, and let's not forget Middle Tennessee, which returns much of a team that finished 27-7 overall and ranked No. 60 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency in 2011-12.

4. MEMPHIS

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), Louisville (Dec. 15), at Tennessee (Jan. 4)
Next-toughest: Harvard (Nov. 19), Ohio (Dec. 5), Loyola-Maryland (Dec. 30), at Xavier (Feb. 26)
The rest: North Florida (Nov. 12), Samford (Nov. 17), Tennessee-Martin (Nov. 29), Austin Peay (Dec. 8), Lipscomb (Dec. 20), Oral Roberts (Dec. 28)

The Battle 4 Atlantis is this season's best nonconference tournament, hands down, and by "best" I mean "most obviously loaded." Memphis will open with VCU, play either Duke or Minnesota in the second round, and then face possible matchups with Louisville, Missouri, Northern Iowa and/or Stanford. There is no escape from tough games in that field. And that's just the start of the Tigers' season. They'll also travel to Tennessee -- a game Vols fans will be amped for, given coach Josh Pastner's desire to end the rivalry series -- host Final Four favorite Louisville on Dec. 15, travel to Xavier in the middle of the conference season and host two other potential at-large tournament teams in Harvard and Ohio. This schedule is excellent. The question is whether Memphis -- which stumbled out of the gate last season and never really regained the reputation squandered during early-season losses -- can take advantage from the start.

3. UCLA

Toughest: Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20), vs. San Diego State (Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Calif.), vs. Texas (Dec. 8 in Houston), Missouri (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Dec. 18)
The rest: Indiana State (Nov. 9), UC Irvine (Nov. 13), James Madison (Nov. 15), Cal Poly (Nov. 25), Cal State Northridge (Nov. 28), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 15), Fresno State (Dec. 22)

If UCLA beats Georgetown in the semifinals of the Legends Classic, it will likely play the Indiana Hoosiers. When you picture that next to the rest of that schedule, which reads "Georgetown, Indiana, San Diego State, Texas (in Houston), and Missouri," well, it's hard to do much better than that, noncon-scheduling-wise. The only problem with this schedule is what happens if stud freshman forward Shabazz Muhammed isn't cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center in time to take the floor in November and early December. We're still waiting for definitive answers.

2. DUKE

Toughest: vs. Kentucky (Nov. 13 in Atlanta), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), Ohio State (Nov. 28)
Next-toughest: Delaware (Dec. 1), Temple (Dec. 8 in East Rutherford, N.J.), vs. Davidson (Jan. 2 in Charlotte)
The rest: Georgia State (Nov. 9), Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 18), Cornell (Dec. 19), Elon (Dec. 20), Santa Clara (Dec. 29)

A few years back, the Blue Devils were often criticized for not playing true nonconference road games. I joined this chorus a time or two. Lamentable though it may be, as we see Kentucky's John Calipari and other coaches more frequently eschew campus sites for nonconference venues, it's safe to say Coach K and his staff were merely ahead of their time. In any case, there's no reason to criticize Duke for this slate. The Blue Devils have a load of difficult tests ahead -- a game against Kentucky in the heart of SEC country, the aforementioned loaded Battle 4 Atlantis field, a trip to Columbus at the end of November, and a second-tier group of teams that includes experienced Davidson and Delaware and a tough Temple on a neutral floor in East Rutherford.

1. TEXAS

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), vs. Georgetown (Dec. 4 at the Jimmy V Classic in New York), vs. UCLA (Dec. 8 in Houston), North Carolina (Dec. 19), at Michigan State (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Fresno State (Nov. 9)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 12), Sam Houston State (Nov. 27), UT-Arlington (Dec. 1), Texas State (Dec. 15), Rice (Dec. 29)

Here it is, folks -- your toughest schedule of 2012-13. Maui has quality opponents, as mentioned above, but the Longhorns' schedule is so much more than Maui. Georgetown is a quality neutral-court opponent, UCLA with a full roster is arguably a top-5 team, North Carolina won't be easy to host, and Michigan State is nearly impossible to take down in the confines of the Breslin Center. What's especially interesting about this schedule is where Texas sits in relation to most of the other teams on this list. Duke, UCLA, Memphis, Florida, Kansas -- these are teams expected to contend for (or win) conferences titles, teams with designs on deep tournament runs, teams with tons of talent. The Horns are talented too, of course, but probably not as much as we've grown accustomed to. They're also very young, and few expect them to contend on the national stage this season. But Rick Barnes didn't noticeably lighten the load for his young team. Indeed, this baptism will come by fire.

The 10 worst nonconference schedules

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
11:20
AM ET
Editor's Note: This week, ESPN.com broke down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC. Today we focused on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Missouri Valley and Big 12. We also analyzed the schedules of 10 prominent mid-majors from outside those 12 conferences.

A quick note: You may notice that many of the below schedules come from unsurprising places. When ranking and grading nonconference schedules, we try to take into account the relative strength of a team, if a program is rebuilding, and so forth. But for the purposes of this post, such distinctions were difficult to parse.

I understand many of these schedules are constructed in order to help teams along in their development, and also -- let's just be honest about it -- inflate win totals. Even so, these are all high-major teams. They could all do better. In the end, I tried to find the 10 worst high-major schedules, with only minimal (but not zero!) consideration for program context. OK, let's begin (in alphabetical order):

DEPAUL

Toughest: Cancun Challenge (Nov. 20-21)
Next-toughest: at Arizona State (Dec. 12)
The rest: UC Riverside (Nov. 9), Gardner-Webb (Nov. 15), Austin Peay (Nov. 17), Fairfield (Nov. 27), at Auburn (Nov. 30), at Chicago State (Dec. 5), Milwaukee (Dec. 9), Northern Illinois (Dec. 16), UMBC (Dec. 22), Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 29)

DePaul is getting better under third-year coach Oliver Purnell, especially compared to where the Blue Demons were (hint: in the absolute talent cellar) when he took over. Unfortunately, the schedule is not following suit. The Cancun Challenge is the only thing worth noting here, and it features Wichita State (which is also a rebuilding program) and either Iowa or Western Kentucky. If that's Iowa, great -- the Hawkeyes are a trendy Big Ten sleeper pick. That said, when Iowa is your best possible opponent, sorry, your schedule is bad.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Toughest: South Florida (Dec. 5), Gonzaga (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18), at Virginia Tech (Dec. 1)
The rest: UC Davis (Nov. 9), Portland State (Nov. 25), Missouri State (Dec. 8), Central Arkansas (Dec. 16), UT-Arlington (Dec. 19), Tennessee Tech (Dec. 22)

This schedule is not as bad as some of the others you'll see on this list. However, it is the worst of any team you'll see that also has two McDonald's All-Americans on its roster. There are no true road challenges, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off field is good but not great, and Gonzaga is the only top-25 team anywhere near the slate if the Pokes fall flat in San Juan. This isn't a great nonconference schedule by any metric, but when you take into account Oklahoma State's talent level -- and their chances of playing spoiler in the Big 12 this season -- it is rather blasé.

OLE MISS

Toughest: Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25 in Honolulu)
Next-toughest: at Middle Tennessee (Dec. 8), at Loyola Marymount (Dec. 19)
The rest: Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 9), Coastal Carolina (Nov. 13), Arkansas-Little Rock (Nov. 16), McNeese State (Nov. 20), Lipscomb (Nov. 23), Rutgers (Dec. 1), ETSU (Dec. 14), Fordham (Jan. 4)

There are some who believe Ole Miss will be an NCAA tournament team in 2012-13. Others claim the Rebels can hang near the top -- or at least in the middle of the pack -- in the SEC this season. That may or may not be true, but we won't really find out until SEC play begins. Other than a possible matchup with San Diego State on a neutral court, and a road game at Middle Tennessee -- points for that, but not too many -- Ole Miss has absolutely nothing on its schedule. With a few exceptions, most of the teams on this list are rebuilding, and their schedules say so. Andy Kennedy's team is supposed to be rounding into form, but you wouldn't know it from the above schedule.

PITTSBURGH

Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23)
Next-toughest: Detroit (Dec. 1)
The rest: Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 9), Fordham (Nov. 12), Oakland (Nov. 17), Howard (Nov. 27), vs. Duquesne (Dec. 5 at Consol Energy Center), North Florida (Dec. 8), Bethune Cookman (Dec. 15), Delaware State (Dec. 19), Kennesaw State (Dec. 23)

It's hard to fault Jamie Dixon for his scheduling philosophy. As SI.com's Luke Winn wrote last month, Dixon is the nation's best RPI exploiter; he slips in every crevice of the NCAA's crude metric, all while rarely putting his team at risk. And with due praise out of the way, sorry, but this schedule is really ugly. Pitt is likely to play Michigan and either Virginia or Kansas State in the NIT Season Tip-Off, but even if those games were guaranteed they're not enough to keep the Panthers off this list. Besides, sure, Pitt was bad last year, but let's not forget that this is still Pitt, one of the most comprehensively consistent programs of the past decade. Their scheduling sights should be set much higher.

PROVIDENCE

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18)
Next-toughest: Mississippi State (Dec. 1), at Boston College (Dec. 22)
The rest: NJIT (Nov. 10), Bryant (Nov. 12), Fairfield (Nov. 23), Holy Cross (Nov. 27), Rhode Island (Dec. 6), Colgate (Dec. 18), at Brown (Dec. 28)

The differences between what this schedule could be, and what it is, are stark. For example, had the Friars got Mississippi State in any of the past five years -- rather than this one -- that would be a quality opponent. And if Boston College wasn't undergoing its own rebuilding project, and if PC were to topple UMass in the first round in Puerto Rico (opening up possible games against NC State and Tennessee), then we may be talking. Alas, the schedule as it is is downright brutal, with Mississippi State and BC and then a bunch of really cupcake-y low majors (NJIT, Bryant) rounding out the badness.

RUTGERS

Toughest: at Ole Miss (Dec. 1)
Next-toughest: at Princeton (Nov. 16), vs. Iona (Dec. 8 in NYC)
The rest: St. Peter’s (Nov. 9), Sacred Heart (Nov. 12), Boston U (Nov. 20), UNC Greensboro (Nov. 25), George Washington (Dec. 11), UAB (Dec. 16), Rider (Dec. 28)

As medium-to-low mid-majors go, Princeton and Iona are pretty solid. As the lynchpins of the schedule you create -- that game at Ole Miss is part of the Big East/SEC Challenge, so minimal points are awarded -- they are not exactly beasts. And ... that's pretty much it! Most of the schedules on this list at least have a token mediocre early-season tournament to their credit. Rutgers doesn't even have that. Gross.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Toughest: at St. John’s (Nov. 29)
Next-toughest: Hoops for Hope Classic (Nov. 24-25 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), Clemson (Dec. 2)
The rest: Milwaukee (Nov. 11), Morgan State (Nov. 16), Rider (Nov. 19), Elon (Nov. 21), Jacksonville (Dec. 7), Appalachian State (Dec. 19), vs. Manhattan (Dec. 22 in Brooklyn), Presbyterian (Dec. 29), South Carolina State (Jan. 5)

You'll have to forgive South Carolina: It's going to take some time to get used to this whole "basketball being important" thing. That's the promise of coach Frank Martin's hire, and there's every reason to believe Martin will get the Gamecocks and their fans there eventually (by dragging them kicking and screaming, if needed). But this schedule still reflects the old South Carolina, where the Gamecocks would routinely (attempt) to feast on early-season cupcakes in the hopes of inflating their win totals and getting to the NCAA tournament. It never really worked. The game at St. John's is a must, thanks to the Big East/SEC Challenge. Other than that, yikes.

TCU

Toughest: South Padre Island Invitational (Nov. 23-24)
Next-toughest: Houston (Dec. 4), at Tulsa (Dec. 9)
The rest: Cal Poly (Nov. 9), Centenary (Nov. 12), SMU (Nov. 15), Prairie View A&M (Nov. 18), Navy (Nov. 20), Southern Utah (Nov. 29), Southern (Dec. 18), at Rice (Dec. 22), Mississippi Valley State (Dec. 30)

Look, it's hard to fault TCU -- and especially first-year coach Trent Johnson -- for having one of the worst schedules in the country. Of course the Horned Frogs are scheduling soft. They've been rebuilding for ... forever, basically. But still, we're in high-major territory now. Let this be a friendly reminder that it's time to start scheduling like it.

TEXAS TECH

Toughest: Arizona (Dec. 1), Alabama (Dec. 19)
Next-toughest: Arizona State (Dec. 22)
The rest: Prairie View A&M (Nov. 9), Nebraska-Omaha (Nov. 14), Grambling State (Nov. 20), Jackson State (Nov. 26), Northern Kentucky (Dec. 4), McNeese State (Dec. 16), North Carolina A&T (Dec. 28), Florida A&M (Dec. 31)

Perhaps this is now-deposed Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie's final legacy at the school: The strategy of somehow getting away with not scheduling any road games whatsoever. Arizona is a quality opponent (if young), and Alabama is fundamentally solid (if somewhat retooling), but other than those two "highlights," most of this schedule comprises low-major guarantee games and few real challenges. Oh, and Arizona State. You get the point.

UTAH

Toughest: at BYU (Dec. 8 )
Next-toughest: at SMU (Nov. 28), Boise State (Dec. 5)
The rest: Williamette (Nov. 9), Sacramento State (Nov. 16), Idaho State (Nov. 21), Central Michigan (Nov. 23), Wright State (Nov. 24), at Texas State (Nov. 30), SMU (Dec. 18), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 21), College of Idaho (Dec. 28)

The Utes went 6-25 last season. They were historically bad in the nonconference and nearly as bad during conference play. (Though somehow not as bad as USC. That still boggles the mind. How do you perform worse than Utah in last year's Pac-12?! How is that possible?) The point being, no one would expect Utah to be loading up on a Texas-esque nonconference slate. Unless you're actively trying to set new school win total lows, there doesn't seem to be much point. And having said all that ... with the exception of the long-standing rivalry game at BYU, this schedule is atrocious.

Video: Nonconference scheduling important

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
11:05
AM ET
video
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg discuss how important a nonconference schedule is to the selection committee and looks at a few recent examples.
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC. Today we focus on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Missouri Valley and Big 12. Now, in conclusion, let's take a look at 10 prominent mid-majors from outside those 12 conferences ...

AKRON

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18), at Creighton (Dec. 9)
Next-toughest: Middle Tennessee (Dec. 2), at Detroit (Dec. 15), Princeton (Dec. 30)
The rest: at Coastal Carolina (Nov. 9), John Carroll (Nov. 12), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 18), Cleveland State (Dec. 23), Texas Southern (Dec. 27), Coppin State (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The Zips could theoretically face Oklahoma State, Tennessee and NC State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. But Zeke Marshall & Co. have a guaranteed matchup at Creighton in early December. That road trip to Detroit a week later will pit the favorite in the MAC against the favorite in the Horizon League. MTSU and Princeton are also strong mid-majors. It’s a strong start for an Akron team that upset Mississippi State in its season opener a year ago.

DAVIDSON

Toughest: at New Mexico (Nov. 12), vs. Duke (Jan. 2 in Charlotte)
Next-toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25), at Drexel (Dec. 22)
The rest: Emory (Nov. 9), at Milwaukee (Nov. 17), at Chattanooga (Dec. 1), Charlotte (Dec. 5), Wofford (Dec. 8), UNC Wilmington (Dec. 15), at Richmond (Dec. 29), UNC Greensboro (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The core of a team that topped Kansas on a neutral site in 2011 returns this season. Can De'Mon Brooks, Jake Cohen and the rest of the Wildcats pull off another Top 25 upset against Duke in early January? It’s possible. The Old Spice Classic field is lukewarm, which gives Davidson a legitimate chance to win its first two games and meet Gonzaga in the final. Solid schedule for a team that’s built to make noise in March.

DETROIT

Toughest: at Syracuse (Dec. 17)
Next-toughest: at St. John's (Nov. 13), at Miami (Nov. 24), at Pittsburgh (Dec. 1), Akron (Dec. 15), at Temple (Dec. 28)
The rest: Northern Michigan (Nov. 9), Drake (Nov. 17), at Bowling Green (Nov. 27), Toledo (Dec. 5), Rochester (Dec. 8), Alabama State (Dec. 10), at Alcorn State (Dec. 19), Canisius (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Detroit’s mid-December meeting with Syracuse is the toughest game on its nonconference slate. But the Horizon League favorite earns a 9 based on their “next-toughest” matchups. The Titans will play three teams (Pitt, Temple and Miami, all on the road) that could finish top-five in their respective leagues and earn NCAA tournament bids. Legitimate shots at top-50 RPI wins for Ray McCallum Sr.’s squad.

HARVARD

Toughest: at Saint Joseph’s (Nov. 20), at Memphis (Jan. 19)
Next-toughest: at UMass (Nov. 13), at Connecticut (Dec. 7), at Cal (Dec. 29), at Saint Mary’s (Dec. 31)
The rest: MIT (Nov. 9), Manhattan (Nov. 16), Vermont (Nov. 27), Fordham (Dec. 1), at Boston College (Dec. 4), Boston U (Dec. 11), Holy Cross (Dec. 22), Rice (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Last season, Harvard finally broke its NCAA tournament drought (the Crimson hadn’t made an appearance since 1946). Thoughts of a return, however, have been subdued by the losses of top scorer Kyle Casey (11.4 ppg) and standout guard Brandyn Curry (4.9 apg), who were both implicated in a cheating scandal during the offseason. Tommy Amaker’s squad travels to Cal, Memphis, UConn, St. Joe's and Saint Mary’s -- barometers for this team’s chances of returning to the Big Dance. If Harvard's confidence can survive that stretch, the Crimson will enter Ivy League play with an argument for an at-large berth. But those personnel hits dramatically reduce expectations for the program.

LEHIGH

Toughest: at Baylor (Nov. 9), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23), at VCU (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: at North Texas (Dec. 20)
The rest: at Sacred Heart (Nov. 25), at Quinnipiac (Nov. 27), Fairleigh Dickinson (Dec. 1), Fordham (Dec. 4), at St. Francis-Pa (Dec. 8), Bryant (Dec. 29), Muhlenberg (Jan. 8)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- C.J. McCollum passed on the NBA to return to Lehigh for his senior season. After leading the 15-seed Mountain Hawks to an upset against Duke in March, Lehigh is ready to turn more heads with a respectable nonconference menu that will feature multiple NCAA tournament-caliber squads. The Mountain Hawks kick off the year with a tough road trip to Baylor. They will play at Pitt with a trip to MSG on the line if they knock off Robert Morris in the NIT opener. And then two big tests at North Texas and VCU around the holidays. Last year’s upset against the Blue Devils elevated Lehigh’s stock. The program will earn even more credibility if it’s successful in the opening months of 2012-13.

LONG BEACH STATE

Toughest: North Carolina (Nov. 16), at Arizona (Nov. 19), at Syracuse (Dec. 6), at Ohio State (Dec. 8), at UCLA (Dec. 18)
Next-toughest: at USC (Nov. 13), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: North Alabama (Nov. 10), at Fresno State (Nov. 25), at Loyola Marymount (Nov. 29), Fresno State (Dec. 3), BYU Hawaii (Dec. 15), Pacific (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- They've done it again. In recent years, Dan Monson’s squad has topped the nonconference strength of schedule ratings. Long Beach State should maintain that status with a slate featuring five teams that could be ranked in the top 15 of the preseason polls (UNC, Arizona, Syracuse, Ohio State, UCLA). But the foursome that carried the program in recent years -- Casper Ware, Larry Anderson, T.J. Robinson and Eugene Phelps -- is gone. So Monson will rely on multiple transfers and his 2012 recruiting class to battle through one of the toughest opening stretches in the nation.

MURRAY STATE

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18)
Next-toughest: at Dayton (Dec. 22), Valparaiso (Dec. 29), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: Brescia (Nov. 9), Old Dominion (Nov. 24), at Lipscomb (Nov. 26), Bethel (Dec. 4), at Evansville (Dec. 8), Western Kentucky (Dec. 16), at Arkansas State (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Racers should enter the season as a Top 25 team after winning their first 23 games last season and achieving a national ranking throughout the season. After opening with Auburn and then getting St. John's or Charleston, Isaiah Canaan could lead Murray State to a Charleston Classic title game matchup against Baylor or Colorado. Those are the only two nonconference foes that pose an obvious threat for the Racers. Always-tough ODU and Horizon co-favorite Valpo travel to Murray, and the Racers are sure to be given a tough BracketBusters opponent. Still, given the accomplishments last season and the return of Canaan, the Racers can’t get too much credit for this schedule. Then again, high-major programs probably dodged this mid-major powerhouse.

NORTH TEXAS

Toughest: at Creighton (Nov. 9), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23), at Saint Louis (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Lehigh (Dec. 20)
The rest: Cameron (Nov. 16), Texas-Arlington (Nov. 28), Louisiana-Lafayette (Dec. 1), Jackson State (Dec. 8), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 16)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Tony Mitchell could lead the Mean Green to a regional round upset of Kansas State in the NIT Season Tip-Off. And if that happens, a matchup with Virginia at MSG could happen, with Michigan or Pitt waiting in the wings. Even if the program stumbles, however, road trips to Creighton and Saint Louis , a pair of Top 25 squads, will boost its nonconference schedule in Tony Benford’s first season as head coach. C.J. McCollum and Lehigh come to Denton five days before Christmas for a meaningful mid-major matchup. No complaints for this slate.

OHIO

Toughest: at Memphis (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: at UMass (Dec. 19), at Oklahoma (Dec. 29), Marshall (Jan. 5)
The rest: Portland (Nov. 10), UNC-Wilmington (Nov. 16), Wofford (Nov. 18), Hampton (Nov. 20), Richmond (Nov. 24), St. Bonaventure (Nov. 28), at Robert Morris (Dec. 1), Oakland (Dec. 8), Winthrop (Dec. 15), Maryland Eastern Shore (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- D.J. Cooper is back to help Ohio build off last season’s Sweet 16 run. Memphis is the only team on the Bobcats' nonconference schedule that could stifle the team’s effort to extend that momentum. Marshall will be tough, and UMass and Oklahoma are sleepers in their respective conferences, but the rest of the schedule is simply average, especially for a squad that nearly toppled North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. But remember, that run didn’t make scheduling any easier.

UTAH STATE

Toughest: at BYU (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Saint Mary’s (Nov. 15)
The rest: Idaho State (Nov. 10), Texas A&M Corpus Christi (Nov. 17), Weber State (Nov. 24), at Santa Clara (Nov. 28), Western Oregon (Dec. 8), at Utah Valley (Dec. 15), Nicholls State (Dec. 20), UC Davis (Dec. 21), Southern Illinois (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Before Utah State takes its talents to the Mountain West, it will finish its tenure in the WAC vying with New Mexico State for the conference championship. If the Aggies can win at BYU, and win home games versus SIU and Saint Mary's, they’ll certainly be prepared for another run to the WAC title. But one or two additional matchups against high-major opponents wouldn’t have hurt.

Nonconference schedule analysis: Big 12

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
10:15
AM ET
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC. Today we focus on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Missouri Valley, Big 12 and the best of the rest.

BAYLOR

Toughest: at Kentucky (Dec. 1), at Gonzaga (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: Lehigh (Nov. 9), Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18), Northwestern (Dec. 4), BYU (Dec. 21)
The rest: Jackson State (Nov. 11), Charleston (Nov. 24), Lamar (Dec. 12), USC Upstate (Dec. 17), Hardin-Simmons (Jan. 19)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Gone are the days of Baylor's being criticized for a weak out-of-conference schedule. For the second straight season the Bears will play one of the most challenging nonleague slates in the Big 12. Kentucky and Gonzaga boast two of the most raucous road environments in the country. Northwestern and BYU will try to avenge last season’s losses to the Bears. The Charleston Classic could be one of the more exciting tournaments of the season with teams such as Colorado, Murray State, St. John’s, Charleston and Dayton.

IOWA STATE

Toughest: Global Sports Classic (Nov. 23-24 in Las Vegas)
Next-toughest: BYU (Dec. 1), at Iowa (Dec. 4), vs. Drake (Dec. 15 in Des Moines)
The rest: Southern (Nov. 9), Alabama A&M (Nov. 12), Campbell (Nov. 18), North Carolina A&T (Nov. 20), Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 4), Nebraska-Omaha (Dec. 9), at UMKC (Dec. 19), Yale (Jan. 1)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Thanks to coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State is no longer considered one of the dregs of the Big 12 conference. But next season, there will be no excuse for a nonconference schedule this weak. The Cyclones will play Cincinnati and either UNLV or Oregon in Las Vegas. Those will be fine tests, but Iowa State needs more of them. It’s a problem when Drake is considered one of the top nonleague opponents for a school from a BCS conference.

KANSAS

Toughest: vs. Michigan State (Nov. 13 in Atlanta), at Ohio State (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Kansas City), Colorado (Dec. 8), Belmont (Dec. 15), Temple (Jan. 6)
The rest: SE Missouri State (Nov. 9), Chattanooga (Nov. 15), San Jose State (Nov. 26), vs. Oregon State (Nov. 30 in Kansas City), Richmond (Dec. 18), American (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- This season’s nonconference schedule is actually somewhat weak -- but only by Kansas standards. At almost any other school this would be considered a brutal slate. Michigan State and Ohio State could both enter the season ranked in the top 10. Colorado is one of the country’s fastest-rising programs, and Temple coach Fran Dunphy believes this team could be one of his best. There’s a strong chance KU will be playing a dangerous Saint Louis squad in the title game of the CBE Classic after squaring off with Washington State in the opener.

KANSAS STATE

Toughest: vs. Gonzaga (Dec. 15 in Seattle), vs. Florida (Dec. 22 in Kansas City)
Next-toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-13 in Manhattan and Nov. 21, 23 in NYC), at George Washington (Dec. 8th)
The rest: North Dakota (Nov. 9), North Florida (Nov. 18), USC Upstate (Dec. 2), Texas Southern (Dec. 18), UMKC (Dec. 29), South Dakota (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Wildcats fans will have to wait until Big 12 play to watch a good game at Bramlage Coliseum. Unless you count North Texas (a likely opponent in the NIT Season Tip-Off), Kansas State doesn’t face a quality opponent at home. Gonzaga and Florida will be tough tests for a squad that returns just about everyone. Pittsburgh and Michigan are potential opponents in New York.

OKLAHOMA

Toughest: at Arkansas (Dec. 4), Ohio (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25 in Orlando), at Oral Roberts (Nov. 28), vs. Texas A&M (Dec. 15 in Oklahoma City)
The rest: Louisiana-Monroe (Nov. 11), at UT-Arlington (Nov. 16), Northwestern State (Nov. 30), Stephen F. Austin (Dec. 18), Texas A&M Corpus Christi (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- It’s understandable that Lon Kruger would want to schedule soft as he attempts to rebuild the Sooners’ program. Beating Arkansas in Fayetteville would be a signature win. And although it wouldn’t get much publicity, a victory against D.J. Cooper and Ohio would be impressive, too. Oklahoma opens the Old Spice Classic against UTEP and will likely face Gonzaga in the second round. West Virginia, Davidson and Vanderbilt are also in the field.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Toughest: South Florida (Dec. 5), Gonzaga (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18), at Virginia Tech (Dec. 1)
The rest: UC Davis (Nov. 9), Portland State (Nov. 25), Missouri State (Dec. 8), Central Arkansas (Dec. 16), UT-Arlington (Dec. 19), Tennessee Tech (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The NCAA tournament selection committee won’t look favorably upon the Cowboys’ nonconference schedule. And it shouldn’t. The Cowboys will play just one road game (against rebuilding Virginia Tech) and only one top-flight opponent at home (Gonzaga). A potential semifinal matchup against Tennessee in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off could be exciting, and NC State might await in the final. Still, for a team with two McDonald’s All-Americans and future first-round draft picks on the roster, Oklahoma State should’ve put more effort into building a better slate.

TEXAS

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), vs. Georgetown (Dec. 4 at the Jimmy V Classic in NYC), vs. UCLA (Dec. 8 in Houston), North Carolina (Dec. 19), at Michigan State (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Fresno State (Nov. 9)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 12), Sam Houston State (Nov. 27), UT-Arlington (Dec. 1), Texas State (Dec. 15), Rice (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Rick Barnes has never been accused of scheduling soft, and this season is no different. In fact, the Longhorns might have the most challenging out-of-league slate in the country. UCLA, North Carolina and Michigan State could all start the season in the top 10. After opening the Maui Invitational against Chaminade, the Longhorns will face either USC or Illinois in the second round. Butler, Marquette and North Carolina are also potential opponents in Maui.

TCU

Toughest: South Padre Island Invitational (Nov. 23-24)
Next-toughest: Houston (Dec. 4), at Tulsa (Dec. 9)
The rest: Cal Poly (Nov. 9), Centenary (Nov. 12), SMU (Nov. 15), Prairie View A&M (Nov. 18), Navy (Nov. 20), Southern Utah (Nov. 29), Southern (Dec. 18), at Rice (Dec. 22), Mississippi Valley State (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 1 -- The Big 12’s worst schedule belongs to the league’s worst team (although Texas Tech might have something to say about that). It’s pretty sad when the two toughest opponents on the docket are Houston and Northwestern, the Horned Frogs’ first-round opponent in the South Padre Island Invitational. Surely first-year coach Trent Johnson will improve the schedule next season.

TEXAS TECH

Toughest: Arizona (Dec. 1), Alabama (Dec. 19)
Next-toughest: Arizona State (Dec. 22)
The rest: Prairie View A&M (Nov. 9), Nebraska-Omaha (Nov. 14), Grambling State (Nov. 20), Jackson State (Nov. 26), Northern Kentucky (Dec. 4), McNeese State (Dec. 16), North Carolina A&T (Dec. 28), Florida A&M (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- Unbelievable. The Red Raiders don’t play a single road game in the nonconference, not leaving Lubbock until a Jan. 5 Big 12 opener at TCU. Former coach Billy Gillispie, who resigned because of health reasons in September, used the same strategy during the early stages of his career at Texas A&M and it worked to his benefit. At least Texas Tech has a pair of premier home contests against Arizona and Alabama. Arizona State should also be much improved.

WEST VIRGINIA

Toughest: at Gonzaga (Nov. 12), vs. Michigan (Dec. 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Next-toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25 in Orlando), vs. Marshall (Dec. 5 in Charleston, W.Va.), at Purdue (Jan. 19)
The rest: VMI (Nov. 28), Virginia Tech (Dec. 8), at Duquesne (Dec. 11), Oakland (Dec. 19), Radford (Dec. 22), Eastern Kentucky (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten will open their Mountaineer careers in one of the toughest road environments in the country (Gonzaga). West Virginia is one of four Big 12 schools playing the Zags. Some analysts predict Michigan will contend for a Final Four berth and Purdue is always competitive. If Bob Huggins’ squad gets by Marist in the first round of the Old Spice Classic, it will play either Vanderbilt or Davidson.

Nonconference schedule analysis: MVC

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
9:45
AM ET
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC. Today we focus on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Big 12, Missouri Valley and the best of the rest.

BRADLEY

Toughest: at South Florida (Nov. 20), Michigan (Dec. 1), Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23)
Next-toughest: George Washington (Dec. 4)
The rest: Eastern Illinois (Nov. 9), Texas-Pan American (Nov. 12), at IUPUI (Nov. 17), Tennessee-Martin (Nov. 24), at Central Michigan (Nov. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Considering it went 7-25 last season, Bradley certainly could’ve scheduled easier. South Florida will contend for a second-straight NCAA tournament berth and Michigan is a preseason top-10 team. The Braves will face Virginia Tech and either Colorado State or Portland in Vegas. George Washington won only 10 games a year ago but returns four starters.

CREIGHTON

Toughest: Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 23-24), at Cal (Dec. 15), BracketBusters (TBA)
Next-toughest: North Texas (Nov. 9), Saint Joseph’s (Dec. 1), Akron (Dec. 9)
The rest: Presbyterian (Nov. 18), Longwood (Nov. 20), Boise State (Nov. 28), at Nebraska (Dec. 6), Tulsa (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Although it’s not as soft as last year’s, the Bluejays’ nonconference schedule is a bit underwhelming for a top-15-caliber team. They’ll be challenged by Wisconsin and either Arkansas or Arizona State in Las Vegas, and a trip to Cal won’t be easy. North Texas, Saint Joseph’s and Akron all will pose threats in Omaha and will help the RPI. But Creighton’s best nonconference game may be its BracketBusters showdown with a to-be-determined opponent in late February.

DRAKE

Toughest: DIRECTV Classic (Nov. 22-25), at Nevada (Nov. 30), Saint Mary’s (Dec. 5), vs. Iowa State (Dec. 15 in Des Moines)
Next-toughest: at Detroit (Nov. 17), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: William Jewell (Nov. 10), IPFW (Dec. 8), North Carolina Central (Dec. 19), Eastern Illinois (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Kudos to coach Mark Phelps for building one of the conference’s most challenging nonconference schedules. The Bulldogs travel to Horizon League favorite Detroit and will then face Cal and then either Georgia Tech or Rice in Anaheim. Nevada and Saint Mary’s are stiff tests from out West. The schedule could play huge dividends for Drake in MVC play.

EVANSVILLE

Toughest: at Notre Dame (Dec. 10), at Colorado State (Dec. 1), Murray State (Dec. 8), at Butler (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Nov. 15-17), at Tennessee Tech (Nov. 20)
The rest: Alabama A&M (Nov. 26), Miami-Ohio (Dec. 5), Alabama State (Dec. 15), Oakland City (Dec. 18)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- After opening on the road at Notre Dame -- an upper-echelon Big East team -- the Purple Aces play three straight home games in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. But that doesn’t mean the wins will come easy. Buffalo, Yale and Western Illinois all return three starters from winning teams. Colorado State, Butler and Murray State will all contend for NCAA tournament bids. This schedule gives an improving Evansville program a chance to take that “next step.”

ILLINOIS STATE

Toughest: at Drexel (Nov. 15), at Louisville (Dec. 1), at Dayton (Dec. 19)
Next-toughest: UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 12), South Padre Island Invitational (Nov. 23-24), Wyoming (Dec. 4)
The rest: Delaware State (Nov. 18), Fairleigh Dickinson (Nov. 20), Western Michigan (Dec. 8), Morgan State (Dec. 16), Austin Peay (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- For a fringe top-25 team hoping to earn its first NCAA berth since 1998, this is a relatively weak nonconference schedule. Louisville is an NCAA title contender, Drexel returns four starters from a 29-7 team and Dayton is a tough place to play. Otherwise, there are no marquee matchups on the slate. The South Padre Island Field is weak with UAB, TCU and Northwestern.

INDIANA STATE

Toughest: at UCLA (Nov. 9), New Mexico (Dec. 1), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25 in Honolulu)
Next-toughest: at Ball State (Nov. 2), BracketBusters (TBA)
The rest: Winthrop (Nov. 13), Truman State (Nov. 17), High Point (Nov. 25), at Morehead State (Dec. 8), IUPUI (Dec. 15)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- This slate provides plenty of challenges for a program that lost four starters from an 18-15 team. Opening on the road against UCLA looks to be an insurmountable feat, but the experience will pay off in the long run. The Sycamores will also faced a much-improved Ole Miss squad in the Diamond Head Classic, which also features San Diego State, Arizona and Miami.

MISSOURI STATE

Toughest: San Diego State (Nov. 17), at Oklahoma State (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: Hoops for Hope Challenge (Nov. 24-25 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), Oral Roberts (Dec. 1), Valparaiso (Dec. 15), at New Mexico State (Dec. 22)
The rest: Philander Smith (Nov. 9), Jacksonville (Nov. 19), Alcorn State (Nov. 21), at Tulsa (Dec. 5), at Alabama A&M (Dec. 18)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The Bears will have plenty of chances to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee with this slate. The problem is that Missouri State will be loaded with new faces, making victories against postseason contenders such as San Diego State and Oklahoma State seem unlikely. A championship in the Hoops for Hope Challenge (where the Bears open against rebuilding South Carolina) would provide a nice confidence boost.

NORTHERN IOWA

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), at UNLV (Dec. 19), Saint Mary’s (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at George Mason (Dec. 8), vs. Iowa (Dec. 15 in Des Moines)
The rest: Wartburg (Nov. 10), Toledo (Nov. 14), North Dakota (Nov. 17), Milwaukee (Dec. 1), Northern Colorado (Dec. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- The Panthers open play against Final Four favorite Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis, one of the most loaded tournaments in recent memory. Duke, Memphis, Missouri and Stanford are also in the field. UNLV will almost certainly be ranked in the preseason top 25, and Saint Mary’s -- last year’s WCC champion -- features one of the nation’s top point guards in Matthew Dellavedova. Iowa and George Mason will both contend for NCAA bids. What a schedule.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Toughest: at Saint Louis (Nov. 24), at Western Kentucky (Dec. 5), World Vision Classic (Dec. 20-22 in Logan, Utah)
Next-toughest: Fresno State (Nov. 28), at Green Bay (Dec. 14), BracketBusters
The rest: at New Orleans (Nov. 12), Benedictine-Springfield (Nov. 17), at SIU (Nov. 20)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Other than Saint Louis, Barry Hinson won’t play many top-25 caliber teams in his first season at Southern Illinois. But the Salukis won’t face many patsies, either. One of the most difficult tests probably will come three days before Christmas, when Hinson’s squad squares off against host Utah State in the World Vision Classic.

WICHITA STATE

Toughest: at VCU (Nov. 13), at Tennessee (Dec. 13)
Next-toughest: Cancun Challenge (Nov. 20-21), vs. Southern Miss (at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita), BracketBusters
The rest: NC Central (Nov. 10), Western Carolina (Nov. 15), Howard (Nov. 17), Tulsa (Nov. 28), at Air Force (Dec. 2), Northern Colorado (Dec. 8), Charleston Southern (Dec. 20)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Victories at VCU or Tennessee could go a long way toward enhancing the Shockers’ NCAA tournament résumé, but there isn’t too much to get excited about on the rest of the slate. It’s a shame Wichita State couldn’t schedule at least one marquee opponent to play at home. To be fair, teams from major conferences probably aren’t too eager to face Gregg Marshall’s squad on the road. Koch Arena is an incredibly difficult place to play, especially when the Shockers are on a roll, which they have been in recent years.
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began in the South with the ACC, SEC and Conference USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the Atlantic 10, Big East and Colonial Athletic Association. Wednesday was all about the West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and West Coast Conference. Today we focus on the Midwest with the Big Ten, Big 12, Missouri Valley and the best of the rest.

ILLINOIS

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), at Gonzaga (Dec. 8) vs. Missouri (Dec. 22 in St. Louis)
Next-toughest: Georgia Tech (Nov. 28)
The rest: Colgate (Nov. 9), St. Francis-NY (Nov. 12), at Hawaii (Nov. 16), Gardner-Webb (Nov. 25), Western Carolina (Dec. 4), Norfolk State (Dec. 11), Eastern Kentucky (Dec. 16), Auburn (Dec. 29 in Chicago)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The first season of new coach John Groce's tenure kicks off with a pretty standard Illinois schedule, but with a twist -- it isn't often the Illini have chosen to play buzzsaw road games quite like their date at Gonzaga on Dec. 8. And the Maui Invitational is a nice field, too, one that begins with USC and features Texas, North Carolina, Butler and Marquette as possible opponents.

INDIANA

Toughest: Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), North Carolina (Nov. 27)
Next-toughest: Butler (Dec. 15 in Indianapolis)
The rest: North Dakota State (Nov. 12), Sam Houston State (Nov. 15), Ball State (Nov. 25), Coppin State (Dec. 1), Central Connecticut State (Dec. 8), Mount St. Mary's (Dec. 19), Florida Atlantic (Dec. 21), Jacksonville (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- If Indiana prevails over first-round opponent Georgia at the Legends Classic, it will face either UCLA or Georgetown -- both of which would be quality neutral-site opponents. But because the Crossroads Classic is in friendly territory, and the ACC-Big Ten Challenge brings North Carolina to Bloomington, the Hoosiers' nonconference schedule sets up the likely preseason No. 1 with a very plausible path to an undefeated pre-New Year's record.

IOWA

Toughest: Iowa State (Dec. 7), Northern Iowa (Dec. 15 in Des Moines)
Next-toughest: Cancun Challenge (Nov. 20-21 in Cancun, Mexico), at Virginia Tech (Nov. 27)
The rest: Texas-Pan American (Nov. 9), Central Michigan (Nov. 12), Howard (Nov. 15), Gardner-Webb (Nov. 17), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Dec. 1), South Dakota (Dec. 4), South Carolina State (Dec. 19), Coppin State (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The emergence of Iowa State and a neutral-site game with Northern Iowa provide nice dates, but the Cancun Challenge's best teams are DePaul and a rebuilding Wichita State, and Virginia Tech was hollowed out in the wake of coach Seth Greenberg's offseason firing. There's simply not a lot here.

MICHIGAN

Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-20 in Ann Arbor, Nov. 21-23 in New York), NC State (Nov. 27)
Next-toughest: Arkansas (Dec. 8), West Virginia (Dec. 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
The rest: Slippery Rock (Nov. 9), at Bradley (Dec. 1), Western Michigan (Dec. 4), Binghamton (Dec. 11), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 20), Central Michigan (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The NIT Season Tip-Off comprises early-round games against mid-majors at the Crisler Center before presumably taking its show -- which will offer some combination of games against Virginia, Kansas State and/or Pittsburgh -- to Madison Square Garden. There are quality opponents available there, and both West Virginia and Arkansas will present challenges, but other than NC State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, there are no elite teams on this projected title contender's docket. Good schedule, not great.

MICHIGAN STATE

Toughest: vs. Connecticut (Nov. 9 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany), vs. Kansas (Nov. 13 in Atlanta)
Next-toughest: at Miami (Nov. 28), Texas (Dec. 22)
The rest: Texas Southern (Nov. 18), Boise State (Nov. 20), Oakland (Nov. 23), Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 25), Nicholls State (Dec. 1), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Dec. 5), Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 8), Tuskegee (Dec. 15), at Bowling Green (Dec. 18)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Connecticut might not be Connecticut this season, but playing on an air base in Germany is never going to be easy -- especially when you follow it up four days later with a game against Kansas in Atlanta. Talk about travel. The ACC-Big Ten game at Miami is no slouch either, and Texas will be improved when it comes to East Lansing.

MINNESOTA

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24 in Bahamas), at Florida State (Nov. 27)
Next-toughest: at USC (Dec. 8)
The rest: American (Nov. 9), Toledo (Nov. 12), Tennessee State (Nov. 15), Richmond (Nov. 18 in St. Paul, Minn.), North Florida (Dec. 1), South Dakota State (Dec. 4), North Dakota State (Dec. 11), Lafayette (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- From Nov. 22 to Nov. 27, there are few teams in the country with a schedule as tough as Minnesota's. The Battle 4 Atlantis is this season's premier tournament. Minnesota will play Duke, then Memphis or Virginia Commonwealth, and some combination of Louisville, Missouri, Northern Iowa and Stanford just a few days before stopping off at Florida State for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Harsh stuff -- and a trip to USC in December is no cakewalk, either.

NEBRASKA

Toughest: Creighton (Dec. 6), at Oregon (Dec. 15)
Next-toughest: Valparaiso (Nov. 15), at Wake Forest (Nov. 27), USC (Dec. 3)
The rest: Southern (Nov. 11), Nebraska-Omaha (Nov. 18), Tulane (Nov. 21), Kent State (Nov. 24), Jacksonville State (Dec. 18), Sun Bowl Invitational (Dec. 22-23), Nicholls State (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The only marquee opponent on this schedule is Creighton, and Nebraska is lucky enough to get Doug McDermott and Co. at home (even if a number of Jays fans are likely to invade Lincoln). A trip to Oregon won't be easy, but when your next-toughest games are home dates with Valpo and USC, your schedule isn't going to rate that highly. And in a rebuilding year, that's OK.

NORTHWESTERN

Toughest: at Baylor (Dec. 4)
Next-toughest: Maryland (Nov. 27), Butler (Dec. 8), Stanford (Dec. 21)
The rest: Texas Southern (Nov. 13), Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 15), Fairleigh Dickinson (Nov. 18), Delaware State (Nov. 20), South Padre Island Invitational (Nov. 23-24), Illinois-Chicago (Dec. 1), Texas State (Dec. 17), Brown (Dec. 23)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Northwestern's only road test before conference play comes at Baylor, and it will be a significant test. But the other highlights are limited to good-but-not-great teams, all of which come to Evanston. This isn't as bad as some of Northwestern's recent schedules, but it isn't among the toughest in the Big Ten.

OHIO STATE

Toughest: Marquette (Nov. 9 in Charleston, S.C.), at Duke (Nov. 28), Kansas (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Hall of Fame Tip-Off (Nov. 17-18 in Uncasville, Conn.)
The rest: Alabany (Nov. 11), UMKC (Nov. 13), Northern Kentucky (Dec. 1), Long Beach State (Dec. 8), Savannah State (Dec. 12), UNC Asheville (Dec. 15), Winthrop (Dec. 18), Chicago State (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- The Marquette game will be on board an aircraft carrier, and you never know what'll happen on one of those things. Combine that with a trip to Duke in the Challenge (the Blue Devils will surely be looking for revenge for last season's smackdown in Columbus) and a home date with Kansas, and the end result is a pretty strong schedule, all things considered.

PENN STATE

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18)
Next-toughest: vs. La Salle (Dec. 5 at the Palestra)
The rest: St. Francis-Penn. (Nov. 9), Bucknell (Nov. 23), Boston College (Nov. 28), Penn (Dec. 1), Army (Dec. 8), Delaware (Dec. 15), New Hampshire (Dec. 23), Duquesne (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- I thought about going lower, but the Nittany Lions get a little toughness scale boost for a couple of reasons. For one, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off bracket has Tim Frazier and Co. taking on NC State in the first round. For another, this team is still very much in the throes of rebuilding, at a school where the athletics programs have faced (and are facing) some of the most dire times in NCAA history. A so-so schedule is forgiveable, I'd say.

PURDUE

Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 15-16 in New York), vs. Notre Dame (Dec. 15 in Indianapolis)
Next-toughest: at Clemson (Nov. 28), Xavier (Dec. 1), West Virginia (Jan. 19)
The rest: Bucknell (Nov. 9), Hofstra (Nov. 11), UNC-Wilmington (Nov. 21), Lamar (Dec. 4), at Eastern Michigan (Dec. 8), Ball State (Dec. 18), William & Mary (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The 2K Sports Classic features a game vs. Villanova and either Alabama or Oregon State. West Virginia is a solid opponent. And the neutral-court Crossroads Classic matchup with Notre Dame is going to be a tough one. But with Xavier being down for this return home-and-home trip, and Clemson rebuilding under Brad Brownell, the schedule doesn't have much of an edge to it. It's merely OK.

WISCONSIN

Toughest: at Florida (Nov. 14), Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 23-24), at Marquette (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: Virginia (Nov. 28), Cal (Dec. 2)
The rest: Southeastern Louisiana (Nov. 11), Cornell (Nov. 18), Presbyterian (Nov. 20), Nebraska-Omaha (Dec. 4), Green Bay (Dec. 12), Milwaukee (Dec. 22), Samford (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Now this is a tough schedule. It features road trips to Florida and Marquette (plenty of Badgers fans will be in the building Dec. 8, but still), as well as the Las Vegas Invitational, which offers an opening-round game against Creighton and a possible matchup against Arkansas. Virginia and California are solid opponents, while Milwaukee and Green Bay are nothing to overlook. But the real strength of the slate comes in those road tests, which many of the Big Ten's top schedules can't boast.

Nonconference schedule analysis: WCC

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
12:00
PM ET
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Today we head out West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC.

BYU

Toughest: Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Nov. 16-17 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), at Iowa State (Dec. 1), at Baylor (Dec. 21)
Next-toughest: Utah State (Dec. 5), vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 29 in Salt Lake City)
The rest: Tennessee State (Nov. 9), Georgia State (Nov. 13), UT-San Antonio (Nov. 21), Cal-State Northridge (Nov. 24), vs. Montana (Nov. 28 in Salt Lake City), Utah (Dec. 8), at Weber State (Dec. 15), Eastern New Mexico (Dec. 18), Northern Arizona (Dec. 27)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- If BYU gets through this nonconference slate relatively unscathed, the Cougars could be the clear West Coast Conference favorites entering league play. The gauntlet begins with a matchup against Florida State in Brooklyn and then either Top 25 Notre Dame or A-10 favorite St. Joe's the next day. Going to Ames to face a restocked Iowa State squad won’t be a leisure trip, either. And the Cougars will play Baylor on the road four days before Christmas. Nothing easy for coach Dave Rose’s squad.

GONZAGA

Toughest: West Virginia (Nov. 12), vs. Kansas State (Dec. 15 in Seattle), Baylor (Dec. 28), at Butler (Jan. 19)
Next-toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25), Illinois (Dec. 8), at Oklahoma State (Dec. 31)
The rest: Southern Utah (Nov. 9), South Dakota (Nov. 18), Lewis-Clark State (Nov. 29), Pacific (Dec. 1), at Washington State (Dec. 5), Campbell (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Gonzaga will prep for WCC play the hard way, too. The Bulldogs will face Kansas State, Baylor, Illinois and Oklahoma State in December alone. Prior to that stretch, they get West Virginia as part of the Tip-Off Marathon and then an average field in the Old Spice Classic (opening with Clemson). But overall, Gonzaga will face five or six teams with the athleticism and talent level to add an "L" to its record, including a trip to Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse for "College GameDay."

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT

Toughest: at Saint Louis (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 22-24), Long Beach Staet (Nov. 29), Ole Miss (Dec. 19)
The rest: Pacifica (Nov. 9), at SMU (Nov. 11), at CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 17), Portland State (Dec. 1), at Northern Arizona (Dec. 5), Morgan State (Dec. 27), CSU Bakersfield (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The WCC will probably be a three-team race between Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s. This schedule suggests that the Lions recognize they’ll need some momentum to take into the rigorous conference slate. The trip to Anchorage opens with a solid mid-major opponent (Oral Roberts), but there's not much going on in that field. Other than a road game at Saint Louis, LMU won’t face any Top 25 squads during the nonconference season, and as a result, they could enter WCC play with a respectable record, few wounds and, perhaps, a little mojo.

PEPPERDINE

Toughest: at Cal (Nov. 13)
Next-toughest: Washington State (Nov. 16)
The rest: at Cal State Northridge (Nov. 9), at Houston Baptist (Nov. 20), UC Irvine (Nov. 24), at Montana State (Nov. 29), at Utah Valley (Dec. 1), UC Riverside (Dec. 5), at Hawaii (Dec. 8), Central Michigan (Dec. 16), vs. Alabama State (Dec. 19 in New Orleans), at Tulane (Dec. 20), Fresno Pacific (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Even for a squad that won only 10 games last season, this is an average schedule. The Waves face Cal on the road in mid-November and then it’s mostly quiet until conference play. Their second-toughest opponent (Washington State) travels to Malibu but might end up being the worst team in the Pac-12. Similar programs often try to schedule win-win games against a Top 25 level squad to boost strength of schedule and secure a shot at a quality win. Not that Pepperdine is dreaming of a postseason berth, but this pedestrian slate doesn’t really give them that chance.

PORTLAND

Toughest: UNLV (Dec. 4), at Kentucky (Dec. 8), at New Mexico (Nov. 25)
Next-toughest: at Ohio (Nov. 10), at Washington State (Dec. 1), Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23)
The rest: Idaho State (Nov. 15), at Montana State (Nov. 18), Portland State (Nov. 21), Lewis & Clark (Nov. 27), Portland Bible College (Dec. 14), CSU Bakersfield (Dec. 17), North Florida (Dec. 19), Texas Pan-American (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Now, this is more like it. Portland, a team that finished 3-13 in the WCC last season, will get paid to play the reigning national champion (Kentucky, in case you hadn’t heard), will lure a Top 25 squad (UNLV) to the Chiles Center, and will compete against plenty of other big-time opponents (Colorado State in the Las Vegas Classic, Ohio, Washington State and New Mexico on the road). That Dec. 14 matchup against Portland Bible College certainly doesn’t define the Pilots’ nonconference matchups. Memo to other schools in a similar position: Nothing wrong with a Hail Mary or two in nonconference scheduling.

SAINT MARY’S

Toughest: DIRECTV Classic (Nov. 22-25 in Anaheim, Calif.), at Northern Iowa (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at Utah State (Nov. 15), Harvard (Dec. 31)
The rest: Sonoma State (Nov. 10), Eastern Washington (Nov. 18), Cal Poly (Dec. 1), at Drake (Dec. 5), Jackson State (Dec. 11), Pacific (Dec. 19), Rhode Island (Dec. 27), Yale (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- SMC's nonconference path certainly contrasts the one taken by BYU and Gonzaga. Those two schools have slotted multiple contenders. The toughest matchup on Saint Mary’s plate is its home game versus now-depleted Harvard. The tourney in Anaheim is lukewarm this season, although the opener with Drexel is very intriguing. But it’s not like Jackson State and Sonoma State will do much for the Gaels’ résumé.

SAN DIEGO

Toughest: at San Diego State (Dec. 15)
Next-toughest: at Montana (Nov. 24), vs. Oregon State (Dec. 22 in Las Vegas)
The rest: San Diego Christian (Nov. 9), Northern Kentucky (Nov. 14), Cal State Northridge (Nov. 15), Tulsa (Nov. 16), Siena (Nov. 18), at UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 21), at Stephen F. Austin (Dec. 1), at Southern Utah (Dec. 4), Tulane (Dec. 8), Arizona Christian (Dec. 11), vs. James Madison (Dec. 23 in Las Vegas), Morgan State (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- San Diego hopes to turn the corner after another lackluster season (13-18) in 2011-12. This is a solid tuneup for a team in that position. San Diego State is a Top 25 team. Nothing guaranteed against Oregon State in Las Vegas or Montana on the road. The rest of the slate is average. But right now, coach Bill Grier’s team needs wins. A few victories against the handful of BCS schools on his team’s nonconference slate would be a bonus.

SAN FRANCISCO

Toughest: vs. Stanford (Nov. 9 in Oakland), at Nevada (Dec. 15), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next-toughest: St. John’s (Dec. 4)
The rest: UNC Pembroke (Nov. 5), Cal State East Bay (Nov. 13), American (Nov. 19), Columbia (Nov. 24), Montana (Nov. 30), Pacific (Dec. 8), Holy Cross (Dec. 18), Dominican U (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- San Francisco is rebuilding after multiple players decided to transfer this offseason. That fact only enhances the difficulty within the team’s nonconference schedule. The Dons open up the Diamond Head Classic with a matchup against San Diego State. They’ll face Stanford, Nevada and St. John’s, too. All of those games could be lopsided losses for USF.

SANTA CLARA

Toughest: at Saint Louis (Nov. 14), at Duke (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: Utah State (Nov. 28), at Pacific (Dec. 15)
The rest: Simpson (Nov. 10), USC Upstate (Nov. 20), Utah Valley State (Nov. 21), Eastern Washington (Nov. 23), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 1), Pacific Union (Dec. 8), at San Jose State (Dec. 11), Cal Poly (Dec. 17), Alcorn State (Dec. 21), SMU/Wagner (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Last season, Santa Clara finished WCC play with an 0-16 record. So this is the right schedule for the Broncos. Heavy hitters Duke and Saint Louis will be good barometers as Santa Clara preps for matchups against the WCC’s best. The rest of the nonconference schedule features a multitude of winnable games. And if you finish 0-16 in any league, tasting victory -- regardless of the competition -- is essential. And this schedule gives Santa Clara a chance to do that.

Nonconference schedule analysis: Pac-12

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
10:45
AM ET
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Today we head out West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC.

ARIZONA

Toughest: Florida (Dec. 15), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 19), at Clemson (Dec. 8), Oral Roberts (Dec. 18)
The rest: Charleston Southern (Nov. 11), UTEP (Nov. 15), Northern Arizona (Nov. 28), at Texas Tech (Dec. 1), Southern Miss (Dec. 4)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Wildcats’ tilt with Florida in Tucson could be one of the marquee nonconference games of the season. And the Diamond Head Classic boasts a solid field. After opening with ETSU out in Honolulu, look for Arizona to play NCAA tournament contender Miami in the semifinals and either Ole Miss or San Diego State in the title game if it makes it that far. Otherwise, the schedule is somewhat soft for a top-20-caliber squad. LBSU and Southern Miss were NCAA tournament teams last season, but both lost a lot.

ARIZONA STATE

Toughest: Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 23-24)
Next-toughest: DePaul (Dec. 12), at Texas Tech (Dec. 22)
The rest: Central Arkansas (Nov. 10), Florida A&M (Nov. 18), Cornell (Nov. 20), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Nov. 28), Sacramento State (Dec. 1), Hartford (Dec. 5), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 8), Dartmouth (Dec. 15), Coppin State (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- This almost looks like a schedule designed to help save the job of head coach Herb Sendek, who enters the 2012-13 season on the hot seat. Arizona State will play Arkansas and either Wisconsin or Creighton in Las Vegas. Otherwise, there isn’t a high-level foe on the entire nonconference slate. DePaul and Texas Tech are both expected to finish near the bottom of their respective leagues. Maybe a gaudy win total will give ASU confidence entering league play?

CALIFORNIA

Toughest: at Wisconsin (Dec. 2), UNLV (Dec. 9), Creighton (Dec. 15)
Next-toughest: at Denver (Nov. 16), DIRECTV Classic (Nov. 22-25 in Anaheim, Calif.), Harvard (Dec. 29)
The rest: CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 11), Pepperdine (Nov. 13), Drake (Nov. 22), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 18), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Golden Bears' schedule is anything but soft with games against Wisconsin, UNLV and Creighton -- all of whom should enter the season in the Top 25. Cal will also be tested at home by Harvard and on the road against a dangerous Denver team. The DIRECTV Classic field is a bit underwhelming, although a title game matchup between the Bears and Saint Mary’s could be entertaining.

COLORADO

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18), Colorado State (Dec. 5), at Kansas (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: at Wyoming (Dec. 1)
The rest: Wofford (Nov. 9), Air Force (Nov. 25), Texas Southern (Nov. 27), at Fresno State (Dec. 12), Northern Arizona (Dec. 21), Hartford (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Buffaloes may have a chance to avenge last season’s NCAA tournament loss to Baylor if both teams win their opening games in the Charleston Classic (CU opens with Dayton), a tourney that also includes Murray State and St. John's. And credit should go to any team willing to play a nonconference game against Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. But other than those games and a tilt with rival CSU, a fringe Top 25 team, the Buffs’ noncon slate doesn’t look all that daunting.

OREGON

Toughest: Global Sports Classic (Nov. 23-24), Nevada (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: Vanderbilt (Nov. 16), at UTEP (Dec. 19)
The rest: Northern Arizona (Nov. 10), Portland State (Nov. 12), Jacksonville State (Nov. 19), Texas-San Antonio (Nov. 29), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 1), Idaho State (Dec. 8), Nebraska (Dec. 15), Houston Baptist (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- It’s understandable that third-year coach Dana Altman would schedule somewhat soft as he tries to develop confidence in his players and generate fan support for his program. Still, it’s not as if this slate is completely void of marquee games. Oregon will travel to UNLV and get either Iowa State or Cincinnati the next night in the Global Sports Challenge. And Nevada will be in the mix for the Mountain West title.

OREGON STATE

Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 15-16 in New York), vs. Kansas (Nov. 30 in Kansas City)
Next-toughest: New Mexico State (Nov. 11)
The rest: Niagara (Nov. 9), Montana State (Nov. 25), Grambling State (Dec. 8), at Portland State (Dec. 12), Chicago State (Dec. 16), Howard (Dec. 19), vs. San Diego (Dec. 22 in Las Vegas), Towson (Dec. 29), Texas-Pan American (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Other than a showdown with Kansas in Kansas City, the Beavers' schedule won’t do much for the excite-o-meter. They’ll face Alabama and either Purdue or Villanova in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. Purdue and Nova are both down. New Mexico State will contend for the WAC title and could give the Beavers some trouble in Corvalis. Oregon State can’t afford any upsets in any of its other nonconference games, though, if it wants to be taken seriously.

STANFORD

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), at NC State (Dec. 18)
Next-toughest: Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 12), Belmont (Nov. 18), at Northwestern (Dec. 21)
The rest: vs. San Francisco (Nov. 9 in Oakland, Calif.), Alcorn State (Nov. 15), Seattle (Nov. 28), Denver (Dec. 2), UC Davis (Dec. 15), Lafayette (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Any team in the Battle 4 Atlantis gets extra points in this rating. The field is loaded and might go 8-for-8 in terms of NCAA tourney teams. Stanford opens with Missouri there and will then face either Louisville or Northern Iowa. Duke and Memphis are on the other side of the bracket. North Carolina State will open the season ranked in the top 10 and Northwestern will be an NCAA tournament bubble team (again).

UCLA

Toughest: Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20), vs. San Diego State (Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Calif.), vs. Texas (Dec. 8 in Houston), Missouri (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Dec. 18)
The rest: Indiana State (Nov. 9), UC Irvine (Nov. 13), James Madison (Nov. 15), Cal Poly (Nov. 25), Cal State Northridge (Nov. 28), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 15), Fresno State (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Not many teams in the country boast a nonconference schedule as challenging as UCLA’s. If the Bruins get by Georgetown in the semifinals of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, they’ll likely face national title contender Indiana the following evening. Missouri and San Diego State are both Top 25 caliber teams and Texas could be, too, by the end of the season. Shabazz Muhammad & Co. will have plenty of chances to play on the big stage.

USC

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), San Diego State (Nov. 25), at New Mexico (Dec. 5), Minnesota (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 13), at Georgia (Dec. 22), Dayton (Dec. 30)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 9), at Nebraska (Dec. 3), UC Riverside (Dec. 15), UC Irvine (Dec. 20)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill has a history of scheduling tough in the nonconference, and this season is no different. USC opens the Maui Invitational against Illinois and will likely face Texas in the next round. North Carolina, Butler or Marquette could await in the third game. San Diego State is a top-15-caliber team and New Mexico features one of the toughest road environments in the country. This could be one of Tubby Smith’s best Minnesota squads.

UTAH

Toughest: at BYU (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: at SMU (Nov. 28), Boise State (Dec. 5)
The rest: Williamette (Nov. 9), Sacramento State (Nov. 16), Idaho State (Nov. 21), Central Michigan (Nov. 23), Wright State (Nov. 24), at Texas State (Nov. 30), SMU (Dec. 18), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 21), College of Idaho (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 1 -- Teams coming off of a 6-25 season shouldn’t be expected to schedule a tough nonconference slate, so we’ll cut Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak a break this season -- and probably next season, too. The Utah Thanksgiving Tournament features Central Michigan, Wright State and Idaho State, all of whom had losing records last season. And yes, Utah is playing SMU two times, once at home and once on the road.

WASHINGTON

Toughest: Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic (Nov. 17-18 in Uncasville, Conn.), Colorado State (Nov. 24), Saint Louis (Nov. 28), Nevada (Dec. 8), at Connecticut (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: Loyola-Maryland (Nov. 11), Cal State Fullerton (Dec. 2)
The rest: Albany (Nov. 13), at Seattle (Dec. 13), Jackson State (Dec. 15), Cal Poly (Dec. 20), Northern Illinois (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- A Huskies team that appears to be in a transition year won’t catch any breaks with its schedule. Lorenzo Romar’s squad will play Seton Hall and either Ohio State or Rhode Island at the Mohegan Sun, and it’ll also have a chance to avenge last season’s blowout loss against Saint Louis. Colorado State and Nevada are also good enough to win in Seattle.

WASHINGTON STATE

Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Kansas City), Gonzaga (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Idaho (Nov. 28)
The rest: Eastern Washington (Nov. 10), Utah Valley (Nov. 14), at Pepperdine (Nov. 16), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 24), Portland (Dec. 1), Fresno State (Dec. 9), Jackson State (Dec. 13), Buffalo (Dec. 21), Idaho State (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The Cougars will open the CBE Classic against Kansas in Kansas City and then face either Saint Louis or Texas A&M the following night. Could be a rough trip. Other than that, though, Washington State’s only marquee nonconference game is the annual tilt with Gonzaga. With Ken Bone on the hot seat and Reggie Moore dismissed from the team during the offseason, this may be the perfect season to take things easy in the nonconference.

Nonconference schedule analysis: MWC

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
9:25
AM ET
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Today we head out West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC.

AIR FORCE

Toughest: at Colorado (Nov. 25), vs. Florida (Dec. 29 in Sunrise, Fla.)
Next-toughest: Wichita State (Dec. 2), at Richmond (Jan. 2)
The rest: vs. Army (Nov. 10 in Charleston, S.C.), vs. Citadel or VMI (Nov. 11 in Charleston, S.C.), Western State (Nov. 15), Regis (Nov. 18), Montana State (Nov. 21), Jackson State (Nov. 28), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 8), at UC Riverside (Dec. 22), New Orleans (Jan. 23)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Falcons could be one of the sleeper teams in the Mountain West with an experienced squad that will be a tough out. Air Force is putting itself out there with tough games away from home against Florida, Colorado and Richmond. The home slate is somewhat manageable and could produce a decent record.

BOISE STATE

Toughest: at Michigan State (Nov. 20), at Creighton (Nov. 28)
Next-toughest: at Utah (Dec. 5), LSU (Dec. 14)
The rest: Texas Southern (Nov. 11), Oakland (Nov. 13), Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 18), UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 24), at Seattle (Dec. 2), vs. New Orleans (Dec. 23 in Las Vegas), Corban (Dec. 30), at Texas-Arlington (Jan. 2), Walla Walla (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Boise State is trying to climb up the Mountain West ladder before departing for the Big West. The Broncos are going to two of the tougher stops in the country: Creighton and Michigan State. Those two games alone elevate this schedule. The key for BSU is to play the rest of it well. But there are plenty of potential hiccups on the way to the start of the MWC. Winning at Utah or at both of the WAC opponents, let alone taking out LSU, will be tough chores.

COLORADO STATE

Toughest: at Washington (Nov. 24), at Colorado (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Montana (Nov. 9), at Denver (Nov. 21), Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23), St. Bonaventure (Jan. 5)
The rest: Chadron State (Nov. 15), Northern Colorado (Nov. 26), Evansville (Dec. 1), at UIC (Dec. 8), North Florida (Dec. 17), CSU-Bakersfield (Dec. 19), Adams State (Dec. 29), UTEP (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- The Rams return the core of their team and add a key transfer, Colton Iverson from Minnesota. New coach Larry Eustachy is taking over a group ready to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. But the Rams don't really have a schedule that reflects that. U-Dub is a quality road game, and the rivalry matchup with CU will be as intense as any between the schools. But the rest is subpar for a team that could push for a top 25-30 position -- and unfortunately, the trip to Vegas doesn't provide a boost since Portland, Virginia Tech and Bradley are expected to struggle.

FRESNO STATE

Toughest: at Texas (Nov. 9), Long Beach State (Nov. 25), at Long Beach State (Dec. 3), Colorado (Dec. 12), at UCLA (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Pacific (Nov. 16), at Washington State (Dec. 9)
The rest: at UC Riverside (Nov. 14), at Cal Poly (Nov. 19), at Southern Illinois (Nov. 28), San Diego Christian (Dec. 6), UC Irvine (Dec. 15), Sonoma State (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- With nine newcomers, the Bulldogs have undergone a complete roster overhaul, so this slate of games will be difficult to navigate. Texas, LBSU, CU and UCLA are all projected to be in the tournament or on the good side of the bubble come March. A road game in Pullman is never a walk, no matter who is coming to play the Cougars. Coach Rodney Terry will learn quite a bit about his crew with this schedule. The Bulldogs desperately wanted into the MWC. Their first season in the league will be daunting, considering the NCAA-bid depth and the possibility that they might not enter league play with momentum.

NEVADA

Toughest: at Marshall (Nov. 24), at Washington (Dec. 8), at Oregon (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: at Pacific (Dec. 4)
The rest: at UC Irvine (Nov. 10), Cal State-Fullerton (Nov. 16), Green Bay (Nov. 17), Southern Utah (Nov. 18), UC Davis (Nov. 28), Drake (Nov. 30), Cal Poly (Dec. 11), San Francisco (Dec. 15), Cal State-San Marcos (Dec. 21), Yale (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Wolf Pack fancy themselves an NCAA team. They have a legit shot of finishing in the top four in the Mountain West. That’s why the schedule could have been tougher. Going to Washington and Oregon is never easy, but both teams are retooling. The Pack need those two teams to be better than projected. Having Pacific challenge for the Big West title would help, too. Marshall is a great add considering the Herd are a threat to contend in C-USA.

NEW MEXICO

Toughest: Paradise Jam (Nov. 16-19 in Virgin Islands), at New Mexico State (Dec. 19), at Cincinnati (Dec. 27), at Saint Louis (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: Davidson (Nov. 12), at Indiana State (Dec. 1), USC (Dec. 5), Valparaiso (Dec. 8), New Mexico State (Dec. 15), South Dakota State (Dec. 22)
The rest: Idaho (Nov. 23), Portland (Nov. 25), Mercer (Nov. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- This is one of New Mexico's best schedules ever. The Lobos usually don’t test themselves to this level because of the need to play so many home games at the Pit. The road swing to Cincinnati and Saint Louis will be as tough a trip as the Lobos have had under coach Steve Alford in the nonconference. The NMSU series is always brutal. The home games against Davidson, USC, Valpo, Mercer and South Dakota State are all smartly scheduled against teams that should be vying for bids. Indiana State will be a gritty affair. The Paradise Jam is open for the Lobos to win as UNM is clearly the best team in the field. Facing off with George Mason in the second game and UConn in the final would help the computer numbers.

SAN DIEGO STATE

Toughest: vs. Syracuse (Nov. 9 on USS Midway), at USC (Nov. 25), vs. UCLA (Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Calif.), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next-toughest: at Missouri State (Nov. 17), San Diego (Dec. 15)
The rest: San Diego Christian (Nov. 11), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 21), Texas Southern (Dec. 3), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 6), Point Loma Nazarene (Dec. 18), CSU Bakersfield (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Aztecs could see this scale rise if they meet Ole Miss and then Arizona in the Diamond Head Classic (they open with San Francisco). If that happens, SDSU will pick up two more postseason teams on the schedule. The Syracuse game is clearly the best on the schedule. The two contests against the Pac-12 L.A. schools also should be high-quality games if those two are as good as projected. This is an NCAA team with an NCAA schedule.

UNLV

Toughest: Global Sports Classic (Nov. 23-24 in Las Vegas), at Cal (Dec. 9), at North Carolina (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: at UTEP (Dec. 17), Northern Iowa (Dec. 19)
The rest: Northern Arizona (Nov. 12), Jacksonville State (Nov. 17), UC Irvine (Nov. 28), Hawaii (Dec. 1), at Portland (Dec. 4), La Verne (Dec. 13), Canisius (Dec. 22), Chicago State (Jan. 3), CSU Bakersfield (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Rebels play three true nonconference road games, with one a return game at North Carolina after beating the Tar Heels in Vegas last season. It’s still hard to read how good Cal will be, but playing the Golden Bears on the road is always a grind. Going to UTEP will turn into a battle since the Rebels are going to be one of the best games on UTEP's schedule. UNLV gets Oregon at home in the Global Sports Classic and then either Cincinnati or Iowa State the next day. The Rebs are the conference favorite, and this schedule should prepare them well for the MWC title chase.

WYOMING

Toughest: Colorado (Dec. 1), at Illinois State (Dec. 4)
Next-toughest: Denver (Dec. 18), at UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 28)
The rest: Western State (Nov. 10), North Carolina Central (Nov. 14), South Dakota (Nov. 15), Southern (Nov. 16), at Northern Colorado (Nov. 21), CSU-Bakersfield (Nov. 24), Oklahoma Panhandle State (Dec. 8), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 21), at SMU (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- The Cowboys overachieved in Larry Shyatt’s first season back in Laramie, and now the Cowboys get Leonard Washington on the roster after he was suspended. That means this team is more than capable of a difficult schedule. The Colorado rivalry game is a nice challenge, and the MWC-MVC Challenge trip to league contender Illinois State is a stiff test. Playing an in-season home-and-home with the Gauchos will prove to be a grind. Other than that, though, not much to see here.

Nonconference schedule analysis: CAA

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
4:50
PM ET
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 ...

DELAWARE

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.

DREXEL

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.

GEORGE MASON

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.

GEORGIA STATE

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.

HOFSTRA

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.

JAMES MADISON

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.

NORTHEASTERN

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?

OLD DOMINION

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.

TOWSON
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.

UNC-WILMINGTON

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.
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 now it's off to the Big East ...

CINCINNATI

Toughest: Global Sports Invitational (Nov. 23-24 in Las Vegas)
Next-toughest: Alabama (Dec. 1), vs. Marshall (Dec. 15 in Charleston, W.Va.), vs. Xavier (Dec. 19 at US Bank Arena), New Mexico (Dec. 27)
The rest: UT-Martin (Nov. 11), Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 13), North Carolina A&T (Nov. 18), Campbell (Nov. 20), Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec. 6), Maryland-Eastern Shore (Dec. 8), Wright State (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Bearcats earn a slight bump thanks to a trip to Vegas that includes a game against Iowa State and then either UNLV or Oregon. But otherwise there isn’t a lot to get excited about here. Even the Crosstown Shootout has lost a little luster, moved off campus after the brawl and muted by a seriously depleted Xavier roster.

CONNECTICUT

Toughest: vs. Michigan State (Nov. 9 in Germany), vs. NC State (Dec. 4 in NYC), Washington (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: Paradise Jam (Nov. 16-19), Harvard (Dec. 7)
The rest: Vermont (Nov. 13), Stony Brook (Nov. 25), New Hampshire (Nov. 29), Maryland-Eastern Shore (Dec. 17), Fordham (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale: 8 -- Welcome to the hot seat, Kevin Ollie. Jim Calhoun has done you little in the way of a favor, leaving a Huskies team in the midst of reconstructing itself a tough schedule. The Armed Forces Classic with the Spartans on the base in Germany will be a spectacle in the best sense of the word, but followed just four days later with a not-so-easy game against perennial America East contender Vermont. And that’s just the first week. There's also a preseason top-10 team in NC State and a decent field in the Virgin Islands that includes New Mexico and several dangerous mid-majors.

DEPAUL

Toughest: Cancun Challenge (Nov. 20-21)
Next-toughest: at Arizona State (Dec. 12)
The rest: UC Riverside (Nov. 9), Gardner-Webb (Nov. 15), Austin Peay (Nov. 17), Fairfield (Nov. 27), at Auburn (Nov. 30), at Chicago State (Dec. 5), Milwaukee (Dec. 9), Northern Illinois (Dec. 16), UMBC (Dec. 22), Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 2 -- There’s a rationale here that’s understandable. DePaul has to walk before it can run and frontloading an impossible schedule will do no good for a team still trying to crawl its way up the Big East standings. But maybe a little something to move the needle wouldn’t be a bad idea. The Cancun event is about it and that offers up retooling Wichita State and either Iowa or Western Kentucky.

GEORGETOWN

Toughest: vs. Florida (Nov. 9 in Jacksonville), Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Next-toughest: Tennessee (Nov. 30), vs. Texas (Dec. 4 in New York)
The rest: Duquesne (Nov. 11), Liberty (Nov. 14), Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 24), Towson (Dec. 8), Longwood (Dec. 10), Western Carolina (Dec. 15), American (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale: 8 -- This schedule is potentially even better. If the Hoyas beat UCLA in Brooklyn, they'll likely take on preseason No. 1 Indiana the next day. That's after the opener against Florida and before tough games against Tennessee and Texas. Georgetown, looking for a second straight better-than-expected season, will be well-tested by the beginning of December. If they aren’t beaten up or beaten down, the Hoyas will come out the stronger for it in time for Big East play.

LOUISVILLE

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), at Memphis (Dec. 15), Kentucky (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: Illinois State (Dec. 1), vs. Western Kentucky (Dec. 22 in Nashville)
The rest: Manhattan (Nov. 11), Samford (Nov. 15), Miami-Ohio (Nov. 18), at Charleston (Dec. 4), UMKC (Dec. 8), Florida International (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale: 8 -- The beauty in this schedule is what you don’t see -- namely the Battle 4 Atlantis schedule after the first-round date with Northern Iowa. Missouri, Stanford, Memphis, VCU, Duke and Minnesota round out the field of heavy hitters, all of whom will give the top-5 Cards plenty to handle. And the date with Kentucky is always a nice friendly little waltz, too.

MARQUETTE

Toughest: vs. Ohio State (Nov. 9 in Charleston, S.C.), Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-20), at Florida (Nov. 29), Wisconsin (Dec. 8)
Next-toughest: LSU (Dec. 22)
The rest: Colgate (Nov. 11), Southeastern Louisiana (Nov. 13), UMBC (Nov. 26), Savannah State (Dec. 15), at Green Bay (Dec. 19), North Carolina Central (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 8 -- Another schedule with a hidden gem -- that would be a potential tango with North Carolina in Maui. But only if the Golden Eagles get past Butler, no easy task. Even without that, though, Buzz Williams has set his team up nicely, with not just some big names but a good mix of contrasting styles -- from uptempo Florida to no-tempo Wisconsin. You can even forgive Marquette for its dose of supposed ‘easy’ games. There's enough heft here, including that opener against the Buckeyes, to excuse any number of softies.

NOTRE DAME

Toughest: CVC Classic (Nov. 16-17 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), Kentucky (Nov. 29)
Next-toughest: vs. Purdue (Dec. 15 in Indianapolis)
The rest: Evansville (Nov. 10), Monmouth (Nov. 12), George Washington (Nov. 21), St. Francis-Pa. (Nov. 24), Chicago State (Nov. 26), Brown (Dec. 8), IPFW (Dec. 17), Kennesaw State (Dec. 19), Niagara (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale: 5 -- It’s not awful -- and it could get better, with Florida State perhaps waiting in the wings in Brooklyn (ND opens with A-10 favorite St. Joe's there) -- but this isn’t exactly the same as the Irish’s football schedule. Yes, Kentucky coming to town for the SEC/Big East Challenge is a great feather in the cap, but there are too many teams here that aren’t guaranteed NCAA tournament selections to get hyped up about.

PITTSBURGH

Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23)
Next-toughest: Detroit (Dec. 1)
The rest: Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 9), Fordham (Nov. 12), Oakland (Nov. 17), Howard (Nov. 27), vs. Duquesne (Dec. 5 at Consol Energy Center), North Florida (Dec. 8), Bethune Cookman (Dec. 15), Delaware State (Dec. 19), Kennesaw State (Dec. 23)
Toughness scale: 3 -- Yikes. This is a whole lotta meh for the Panthers. The NIT will help. Assuming they beat Fordham and/or Robert Morris or Lehigh (the latter of which won't be easy), a trip to MSG will likely produce a matchup with Michigan and either Virginia or Kansas State. The rest is pretty grim, but then again so was Pitt last season. It might be not be a bad way to go about the season.

PROVIDENCE

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18)
Next-toughest: Mississippi State (Dec. 1), at Boston College (Dec. 22)
The rest: NJIT (Nov. 10), Bryant (Nov. 12), Fairfield (Nov. 23), Holy Cross (Nov. 27), Rhode Island (Dec. 6), Colgate (Dec. 18), at Brown (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale: 2 -- You almost can’t fault the Friars here. It’s not their fault New England basketball is a mess. If it weren’t, games against Rhode Island and BC would have some heft. But truth be told, Ed Cooley ought to be sighing in relief here. Without heralded freshman Ricardo Ledo, Providence needs a little more time to build, and this schedule ought to allow for that. There might be some meat in San Juan with an opener against UMass and Tennessee and NC State in the field. But there's not much else to see here.

RUTGERS

Toughest: at Ole Miss (Dec. 1)
Next-toughest: at Princeton (Nov. 16), vs. Iona (Dec. 8 in NYC)
The rest: St. Peter’s (Nov. 9), Sacred Heart (Nov. 12), Boston U (Nov. 20), UNC Greensboro (Nov. 25), George Washington (Dec. 11), UAB (Dec. 16), Rider (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale: 1 -- When the toughest games you have are against the Ivy League and a middle-of-the-pack SEC contender (which was scheduled for them), there just isn’t much to crow about. This is a schedule built to get Rutgers wins but not much else.

ST. JOHN’S

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18)
Next-toughest: Detroit (Nov. 13), South Carolina (Nov. 29)
The rest: Holy Cross (Nov. 21), Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 24), NJIT (Dec. 1), at San Francisco (Dec. 4), Fordham (Dec. 8), vs. St. Francis-NY (Dec. 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), UNC Asheville (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale: 4 -- The Red Storm could get a bump in Charleston, where they open with the home-team Cougars and could draw Murray State in the second round and maybe Baylor or Colorado down the road. So that’s not awful. But otherwise Steve Lavin has a manageable -- if not entirely easy -- reentry into his coaching career, as does his young roster.

SETON HALL

Toughest: Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic (Nov. 17-18 in Uncasville, Conn.)
Next-toughest: at LSU (Nov. 29), at Wake Forest (Dec. 8), vs. LIU-Brooklyn (Dec. 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
The rest: UMKC (Nov. 9), Norfolk State (Nov. 12), Maine (Nov. 21), St. Peter’s (Nov. 25), NJIT (Dec. 4), North Carolina A&T (Dec. 15), Longwood (Dec. 19), Stony Brook (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale: 3 -- This could get better if the Pirates play Ohio State at Mohegan Sun (that would require a win over Washington) and would have been better if Wake Forest was what Wake Forest used to be. But going by the "play the hand you’re dealt" adage, Seton Hall is holding a pair of 3s at best.

SOUTH FLORIDA

Toughest: at Oklahoma State (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: UCF (Nov. 10), George Mason (Dec. 29), at UCF (Jan. 2)
The rest: Maryland-Eastern Shore (Nov. 16), Loyola-Chicago (Nov. 17), Western Michigan (Nov. 18), Bradley (Nov. 20), at Stetson (Nov. 26), Youngstown State (Dec. 18), Bowling Green (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale: 3 -- The Bulls had to fight and pray to make it into the NCAA tournament a season ago, a serious bubble team until the Big East tournament. This schedule won’t do much to make March easier should USF be successful again. There’s just enough here to turn the committee’s head, so it will be up to the Big East slate to make South Florida viable.

SYRACUSE

Toughest: vs. San Diego State (Nov. 9 at Battle of the Midway), vs. Temple (Dec. 22 in NYC)
Next-toughest: Princeton (Nov. 21), at Arkansas (Nov. 30), Long Beach State (Dec. 6), Detroit (Dec. 17)
The rest: Wagner (Nov. 18), Colgate (Nov. 25), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 3), Monmouth (Dec. 8), Canisius (Dec. 15), Alcorn State (Dec. 29), Central Connecticut State (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale: 6 -- I’m done with arguing the merits of Jim Boeheim’s schedule because he always wins. He wins games, lots of them, and he wins the argument, quieting the scheduling critics (present company included) with deep March runs. This isn’t awful, but it’s not saliva-inducing wonderful either. So what? It will work. Just watch.

VILLANOVA

Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 15-16), Temple (Dec. 5)
Next-toughest: Marshall (Nov. 11), at Vanderbilt (Dec. 1), Saint Joseph’s (Dec. 11)
The rest: Columbia (Nov. 20), at La Salle (Nov. 25), at Penn (Dec. 8), Delaware (Dec. 16), at Monmouth (Dec. 22), NJIT (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale: 4 -- The 2K Sports Classic, with Purdue as the opener and either Alabama and Oregon State in the second game, raises the bar slightly and the chronically hard-to-win Big 5 games help, too, especially now that some of those teams have life again. But this is by no means the most menacing schedule Jay Wright has ever concocted for his team. Which might be wise. The Wildcats, remember, were not exactly the most menacing team a season ago.

Nonconference schedule analysis: A-10

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
1:50
PM ET
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. Let's start our second day off with the Atlantic 10 ...

BUTLER

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), at Northwestern (Dec. 8), vs. Indiana (Dec. 15 in Indianapolis), Gonzaga (Jan. 19)
Next-toughest: at Xavier (Nov. 13), at Vanderbilt (Dec. 22)
The rest: Elon (Nov. 10), Hanover (Nov. 27), Ball State (Dec. 1), IUPUI (Dec. 5), Evansville (Dec. 22), Penn (Jan. 2), New Orleans (Jan. 5)
Toughness-scale (1-10): 9 -- The Bulldogs have long been one of the best-scheduled teams in the nonconference slate because they had to do so as part of the Horizon League. Butler gets league favorites in the Big Ten (IU) and WCC (Gonzaga), while the Maui schedule will likely include North Carolina if the Bulldogs beat Marquette in the opener. Butler will be the most prepared team heading into the A-10 based on this schedule.

CHARLOTTE

Toughest: at Davidson (Dec. 5), at Miami (Dec. 14), Florida State (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 22-24)
The rest: Charleston Southern (Nov. 9), Georgia Southern (Nov. 13), Lamar (Nov. 17), East Carolina (Dec. 1), Central Michigan (Dec. 8), at Kennesaw State (Dec. 16), Radford (Dec. 19), UNC Asheville (Jan. 2)
Toughness-scale (1-10): 5 -- The 49ers leave the A-10 for C-USA after this season and aren’t expected to challenge for a bid or a top-half finish, although they should be improved. Miami and Florida State should finish in the top five in the ACC and Davidson will be the favorite in the Southern and a fringe top-25 team. The trip to Anchorage, where Charlotte will open with Texas State, includes some decent mid-majors like Oral Roberts, Northeastern and LMU.

DAYTON

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18), at Alabama (Dec. 5), Murray State (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Illinois State (Dec. 19), at USC (Dec. 30)
The rest: Arkansas State (Nov. 10), Manhattan (Nov. 24), Weber State (Nov. 28), Northern Illinois (Dec. 1), Miami (Ohio) (Dec. 8), Florida Atlantic (Dec. 15), UAB (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Flyers put together a solid schedule of games that could prove to be quite challenging if some of these teams (Colorado, USC, Bama, Murray and Illinois State) meet or exceed preseason predictions. This schedule's toughness scale could also climb up a notch or two if the Charleston Classic provides two other difficult games. UD opens with the Buffaloes and will most likely get Baylor with a win.

DUQUESNE

Toughest: at Georgetown (Nov. 11), vs. Pittsburgh (Dec. 5 at CONSOL Energy Center), vs. West Virginia (Dec. 11 at CONSOL Energy Center)
Next-toughest: at Robert Morris (Dec. 15), at Penn State (Dec. 29)
The rest: at Albany (Nov. 9), James Madison (Nov. 19), North Dakota State (Nov. 20), Youngstown State (Nov. 21), at Appalachian State (Nov. 28), Maine (Dec. 1), New Orleans (Dec. 8), Western Michigan (Dec. 19), at Louisiana-Lafayette (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Dukes are predicted to finish last and loaded up early with three games against potential NCAA tournament teams. Why not? It'll be good experience for a young team. Fact is, Duquesne could easily lose a host of the games in the "rest" category, too. Jim Ferry is in his first year of rebuilding and this schedule offers a nice mix.

FORDHAM

Toughest: Preseason NIT (Nov. 12-20), at St. John’s (Dec. 8), at Connecticut (Dec. 21), at Ole Miss (Jan. 4)
Next-toughest: at Harvard (Dec. 1), at Lehigh (Dec. 4), vs. Princeton (Dec. 15 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), at Georgia Tech (Dec. 29)
The rest: at Texas State (Nov. 9), Manhattan (Nov. 29), Siena (Dec. 23), Monmouth (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Fordham has low expectations but scheduled up with plenty of possible NCAA teams like Pitt (NIT opener), Lehigh, Ole Miss and maybe Princeton or Harvard. Going on the road to St. John’s, UConn and Georgia Tech also will be difficult for this squad to manage. This is a formidable slate for the Rams.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Toughest: at Notre Dame (Nov. 21), Kansas State (Dec. 8 )
Next-toughest: at Rutgers (Dec. 11), at Georgia (Jan. 4)
The rest: Youngstown State (Nov. 10), at Boston U (Nov. 17), Hofstra (Nov. 24), Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 26), at James Madison (Nov. 28), vs. Manhattan (Dec. 2 at the Verizon Center), at Bradley (Dec. 4), VMI (Dec. 22), Sacred Heart (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Colonials are still in the rebuilding phase of Mike Lonergan’s takeover. No one would expect GW to beat Notre Dame on the road, but somehow pulling out a win at home over Kansas State would certainly go a long way toward changing the perception of this program. The schedule is challenging for this crew. But it isn’t loaded with NCAA teams. That’s OK.

LA SALLE

Toughest: Villanova (Nov. 25), at Bucknell (Dec. 15), at Miami (Jan. 2)
Next-toughest: Delaware (Nov. 10), vs. Penn State (Dec. 5 at the Palestra), at Northeastern (Dec. 8), Iona (Dec. 20), Penn (Jan. 5)
The rest: Central Connecticut State (Nov. 18), at Hartford (Nov. 20), at Rider (Nov. 29), Sacred Heart (Dec. 22), at Siena (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Explorers are a trendy sleeper pick by A-10 coaches, but this schedule could have been more challenging. It doesn't necessarily have the big-time opportunities that you'd like to see from a potential bubble team. Of course, it doesn't help that Villanova has dipped a bit. That said, Bucknell and Miami have NCAA-bid potential and Northeastern, Iona and Penn are all league contenders. There is some RPI potential here.

MASSACHUSETTS

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18), Ohio (Dec. 19), Miami (Dec. 1)
Next-toughest: Harvard (Nov. 13), at Northeastern (Dec. 4)
The rest: at Siena (Nov. 28), Elon (Dec. 15), East Carolina (Dec. 22), at Northern Illinois (Dec. 29), at Miami (Ohio) (Jan. 2), Eastern Michigan (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- This number can grow quite a bit if UMass gets a shot at NC State in Puerto Rico. That will happen with an opening win over Providence. It would also help if Harvard doesn’t take a dive after losing Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey. Ohio and Miami present solid opportunities in Amherst. The Minutemen fancy themselves an A-10 title contender. If that’s the case, they need to steamroll through this nonconference slate.

RHODE ISLAND

Toughest: Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic (Nov. 17-18 in Uncasville, Conn.), at Saint Mary’s (Dec. 27)
Next-toughest: at Virginia Tech (Nov. 12), Loyola-Md. (Nov. 23), George Mason (Nov. 28), at Providence (Dec. 6)
The rest: Norfolk State (Nov. 9), at Auburn (Nov. 25), Vermont (Dec. 1), SMU (Dec. 15), Georgia State (Dec. 22), Brown (Jan. 4)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Danny Hurley has plenty of challenging games for a rebuilding team. The first opponent at Mohegan Sun is Final Four contender Ohio State and then URI will get either Seton Hall or Washington. SMC will challenge for another NCAA tourney bid and the Rams also have potential champs from the MAAC (Loyola) and CAA (Mason) on the schedule. The expectations outside of Kingston are low, but this schedule will determine just how ready the Rams are for the A-10.

RICHMOND

Toughest: vs. Minnesota (Nov. 18 in St. Paul, Minn.), at Ohio (Nov. 24), at Kansas (Dec. 18)
Next-toughest: Wake Forest (Dec. 1), at Old Dominion (Dec. 4), vs. George Mason (Dec. 22 at Richmond Coliseum), Davidson (Dec. 29)
The rest: Liberty (Nov. 9), UNC Wilmington (Nov. 13), Hampton (Nov. 15), Wofford (Nov. 20), William & Mary (Nov. 28), at James Madison (Dec. 8), Stetson (Dec. 15), Air Force (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The Spiders have dipped a bit since the Sweet 16 run, but the schedule hasn’t. Richmond still puts together a strong slate of games. Kansas is a top-five team. Minnesota is an upstart in the Big Ten. Ohio returns nearly everyone from its Sweet 16 team. George Mason and Old Dominion are CAA contenders. Davidson is stacked. This is a sneaky-good schedule.

ST. BONAVENTURE

Toughest: at Ohio (Nov. 28), at NC State (Dec. 22), at Colorado State (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: Cleveland State (Dec. 15), Iona (Dec. 31)
The rest: Bethune-Cookman (Nov. 9), at Cornell (Nov. 14), at Canisius (Nov. 17), vs. Niagara (Nov. 24 in Rochester, N.Y.), Buffalo (Dec. 1), Siena (Dec. 4), at Arkansas State (Dec. 8), Citadel (Dec. 19).
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Bonnies hit the road to play a potential ACC champ and likely NCAA teams from the Mountain West and MAC. The home-road balance could provide plenty of power-rating points with teams that will be in the upper half if not in contention for their respective league titles. The Bonnies usually have to take some chances on the nonconference schedule and have put together a formidable slate.

SAINT JOSEPH'S

Toughest: Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (Nov. 16-17 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), at Creighton (Dec. 1), at Drexel (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: Harvard (Nov. 20), at Villanova (Dec. 11), Iona (Dec. 28)
The rest: Yale (Nov. 12), American (Nov. 28), at Coppin State (Dec. 4), Fairfield (Dec. 22), at Morgan State (Jan. 5), Penn (Jan. 19)
Toughness-scale (1-10): 6 -- The Hawks are the preseason pick to win the A-10 and they play a top-25 team right off the bat in Notre Dame (Coaches vs. Cancer) and will have either BYU or Florida State after that. The Creighton game may end up being the toughest on the schedule. The Big 5 rivalry games include one against CAA favorite Drexel. Still the schedule could have used one more rugged game. Nova just isn't that good and Harvard will likely take a step back.

SAINT LOUIS

Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Kansas City), at Washington (Nov. 28), New Mexico (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: Valparaiso (Dec. 2), North Texas (Nov. 5)
The rest: USC Upstate (Nov. 9), Santa Clara (Nov. 14), Southern Illinois (Nov. 24), UT Martin (Dec. 15), Eastern Illinois (Nov. 19), Loyola Marymount (Dec. 22), SIUE (Dec. 28), Savannah State (Jan. 4)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- This could rise up to a 7 if the Billikens beat Texas A&M and end up facing Kansas instead of Washington State in the second game of the CBE Classic. The road game at Washington will be tough for this team, especially in trying to control the tempo. The Billikens have some sneaky good games -- all at home -- with UNM and potential league champs of the Sun Belt (UNT) and Horizon (Valpo). Good for the computer ratings.

TEMPLE

Toughest: vs. Duke (Dec. 8 in East Rutherford, N.J.), vs. Syracuse (Dec. 22 in NYC), at Kansas (Jan. 6)
Next toughest: at Kent State (Nov. 13), at Villanova (Dec. 5), Detroit (Dec. 28)
The rest: Rice (Nov. 17), Delaware (Nov. 25), at Buffalo (Nov. 28), Wagner (Dec. 1), Towson (Dec. 12), Alcorn State (Dec. 17), Canisius (Dec. 19), Bowling Green (Dec. 31), Penn (Jan. 23)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Duke, Syracuse and Kansas. Who else plays those three teams? Temple has traditionally played an impressive nonconference schedule. That's one of the main reasons the Owls will be so missed by the Atlantic 10. I’m not sure the A-10 nonconference strength of schedule will ever be as strong as it will be this season with Butler, Temple, VCU and Xavier all in the same league for one season.

VCU

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), Alabama (Dec. 15), Lehigh (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: Wichita State (Nov. 13), Belmont (Dec. 1), at Old Dominion (Dec. 7)
The rest: Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 9), at Winthrop (Nov. 17), Stetson (Nov. 28), Western Kentucky (Dec. 18), Longwood (Dec. 21), Fairleigh Dickinson (Dec. 29), at East Tennessee State (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- This is a schedule with hidden gems that you can’t see -- yet. After opening with Memphis, VCU will get either Duke or Minnesota in the second game in the Bahamas. The third game is likely to be against an NCAA-bound team, too. Lehigh and Alabama are both at home, but are teams that should be in the chase for bids in February. The next-toughest slate is filled with gritty teams that will be tough outs. And Western Kentucky is hardly a slouch.

XAVIER

Toughest: Butler (Nov. 13), at Purdue (Dec. 1), vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 19 at US Bank Arena), at Tennessee (Dec. 29), Memphis (Feb. 26)
Next-toughest: Anaheim Classic (Nov. 22-25), Vanderbilt (Dec. 6), at Wake Forest (Jan. 2)
The rest: Fairleigh Dickinson (Nov. 9), Robert Morris (Nov. 17), Kent State (Dec. 9), Wofford (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- As always, the Musketeers have plenty to boast when it comes to their schedule. And no, that's not a mistake. The early Tip-Off Marathon game with Butler is a nonconference game since it was scheduled before the Bulldogs moved up their entry date. Cincinnati, Tennessee and Memphis seem like NCAA tourney locks and Purdue will be in contention. The Anaheim Classic isn't loaded, but Saint Mary's might await in the second round. Problem is, Xavier may not be ready for this schedule as it goes through a rare retooling.

Editor's note: Click here to listen to several Atlantic 10 coaches on Andy Katz's podcast from last week's A-10 media day.

Nonconference schedule analysis: SEC

October, 8, 2012
10/08/12
11:40
AM ET
For the next four days, ESPN.com will be breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. We began with ACC and Conference USA and continue now with the SEC.

ALABAMA

Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 15-16 in NYC), at Cincinnati (Dec. 1), at VCU (Dec. 15)
Next-toughest: South Dakota State (Nov. 9), Dayton (Dec. 5), Mercer (Dec. 22)
The rest: West Alabama (Nov. 11), Charleston Southern (Nov. 23), Lamar (Nov. 27), at Texas Tech (Dec. 19), Mercer (Dec. 22), Tulane (Dec. 30), Oakland (Jan. 5)
The toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- VCU could crack the preseason Top 25 and Cincinnati should definitely be there with the return of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright. The Tide will face off with Oregon State at the 2K Sports Classic and then either Villanova or Purdue. And there are a few tricky mid-major challengers on the docket.

ARKANSAS

Toughest: Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 23-24), Syracuse (Nov. 30), at Michigan (Dec. 8 )
Next-toughest: Oklahoma (Dec. 4)
The rest: Sam Houston State (Nov. 9), Longwood (Nov. 18), Florida A&M (Nov. 20), Alcorn State (Dec. 15), Robert Morris (Dec. 20), Alabama A&M (Dec. 22 in Little Rock), Northwestern State (Dec. 29), Delaware State (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Razorbacks’ toughest games are legit. Syracuse and Michigan will challenge for the Big East and Big Ten titles, respectively. And Arkansas isn't leaving Las Vegas without a war, whether it plays Wisconsin or Creighton (Arizona State is the first-round opponent). Oklahoma should be improved, but the rest of the schedule is much weaker.

AUBURN

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18), Florida State (Jan. 2)
Next-toughest: vs. Illinois (Dec. 29 in Chicago)
The rest: IPFW (Nov. 9), at Boston College (Nov. 21), Rhode Island (Nov. 25), DePaul (Nov. 30), Grambling State (Dec. 11), Furman (Dec. 15), Tennessee Tech (Dec. 18), Winthrop (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Considering Auburn’s 5-11 SEC record (15-16 overall) last season, the Tigers have a decent nonconference schedule with the proper balance for a program that struggled a season ago. Florida State and Murray State (first-round opponent in Charleston) are valid matchups and a shot at quality wins. Illinois won’t be an easy game in Chicago. And there’s a multitude of possible matchups in the Charleston Classic, including Baylor, Colorado and St. John's.

FLORIDA

Toughest: Wisconsin (Nov. 14), at Florida State (Dec. 5), at Arizona (Dec. 15), Kansas State (Dec. 22 in KC)
Next-toughest: vs. Georgetown (Nov. 9 in Jacksonville), UCF (Nov. 23), Marquette (Nov. 29)
The rest: Alabama State (Nov. 11), vs. Middle Tennessee (Nov. 18 in Tampa), Savannah State (Nov. 20), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 19), vs. Air Force (Dec. 29 in Sunrise, Fla.), at Yale (Jan. 6)
Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- More than half of Billy Donovan’s nonconference schedule includes games that the Gators could lose. They’ll face Wisconsin, Georgetown and Central Florida in November. Then, there’s a three-week stretch that includes Marquette, Florida State (road), Arizona (road) and Kansas State (in Kansas City), which would be dangerous for any team in the country. They’ll either hit their stride during that run or they’ll crash.

GEORGIA

Toughest: Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20)
Next-toughest: at South Florida (Nov. 30), at Georgia Tech (Dec. 4), Iona (Dec. 15)
The rest: Jacksonville (Nov. 9), Youngstown State (Nov. 12), Southern Miss (Nov. 15), East Tennessee State (Nov. 23), Mercer (Dec. 18), USC (Dec. 22), Florida A&M (Dec. 29), George Washington (Jan. 4)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Bulldogs face the national title favorite on a lot of boards when they match up against Indiana in Brooklyn. Georgetown or UCLA will await Georgia the next day. Stan Heath’s South Florida team reached the NCAA tournament last season with the rugged defensive style that will corral most teams, including Georgia.

KENTUCKY

Toughest: Duke (Nov. 13 in Atlanta), Baylor (Dec. 1), at Notre Dame (Nov. 29), at Louisville (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: vs. Maryland (Nov. 9 in Brooklyn), Marshall (Dec. 22)
The rest: Lafayette (Nov. 16), Morehead State (Nov. 21), LIU-Brooklyn (Nov. 23), Samford (Dec. 4), Portland (Dec. 8), Lipscomb (Dec. 15), Eastern Michigan (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- John Calipari recruits big and he plays big, too. His latest one-and-done crew won’t catch any breaks with a neutral-site matchup against Duke in the Champions Classic and a home game against Baylor. In-state rival Louisville could be the favorite to win the national title, plus the Wildcats travel to Notre Dame as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge. Baptism by fire for the youngsters.

LSU

Toughest: at Marquette (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: Seton Hall (Nov. 29)
The rest: UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 9), McNeese State (Nov. 13), Northwestern St. (Nov. 20), Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 24), Chattanooga (Dec. 11), at Boise State (Dec. 14), at UC Irvine (Dec. 18), Houston Baptist (Dec. 28), Bethune-Cookman (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- This is a rebuilding program’s nonconference schedule. The last thing new coach Johnny Jones needs is for his team to walk into the SEC schedule with a bunch of losses. And this schedule gives the Tigers a chance to succeed prior to their meetings with Kentucky, Florida and the other power brokers in the league. But there’s limited substance here.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21)
Next-toughest: at Providence (Dec. 1)
The rest: at Troy (Nov. 9), Florida Atlantic (Nov. 13), Alcorn State (Nov. 27), Texas-San Antonio (Dec. 4), at Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 15), vs. Central Arkansas (Dec. 22 in Jackson, Miss.), Alabama A&M (Dec. 30), New Orleans (Jan. 3)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Rick Ray’s first season doesn’t come with too many early challenges -- and that's probably a good thing. The Bulldogs could get crushed in Maui, opening with North Carolina and facing either Butler or Marquette the next day. There aren't really any heavy hitters after that, though, so the opportunity will be there for some confidence-building wins.

MISSOURI

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), at UCLA (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: vs. Illinois (Dec. 22 in St. Louis), Bucknell (Jan. 5)
The rest: SIUE (Nov. 10), Nicholls State (Nov. 16), Appalachian State (Dec. 1), Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 4), Tennessee State (Dec. 8), South Carolina State (Dec. 17)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Frank Haith’s schedule is anchored by two guarantees: a sexy road matchup against UCLA and three great matchups in the Bahamas. At the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis, the Tigers begin with rising Stanford, then play either Louisville or Northern Iowa and potentially Memphis, VCU, Duke or Minnesota in the third game. That's enough for a significant boost in the schedule rating.

OLE MISS

Toughest: Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25 in Honolulu)
Next-toughest: at Middle Tennessee (Dec. 8), at Loyola Marymount (Dec. 19)
The rest: Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 9), Coastal Carolina (Nov. 13), Arkansas-Little Rock (Nov. 16), McNeese State (Nov. 20), Lipscomb (Nov. 23), Rutgers (Dec. 1), ETSU (Dec. 14), Fordham (Jan. 4)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Not exactly flawless scheduling for Andy Kennedy’s squad, which won’t get a shot at a real quality nonconference win unless it advances in the Diamond Head Classic in December. But other than that potential matchup against San Diego State and a possible tilt against Arizona or Miami in the third game, the Rebels don’t have a schedule that does much for their at-large résumé.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Toughest: at St. John’s (Nov. 29)
Next-toughest: Hoops for Hope Classic (Nov. 24-25 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), Clemson (Dec. 2)
The rest: Milwaukee (Nov. 11), Morgan State (Nov. 16), Rider (Nov. 19), Elon (Nov. 21), vs. Missouri State in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Nov. 24), vs. SMU/UALR in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Nov. 25), Jacksonville (Dec. 7), Appalachian State (Dec. 19), vs. Manhattan (Dec. 22 in Brooklyn), Presbyterian (Dec. 29), South Carolina State (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- The Gamecocks didn’t exactly put a gantlet together in Frank Martin’s first season. A road game against a talented St. John’s team in the SEC/Big East Challenge will be tough and a matchup with Missouri State in Mexico is decent, but the rest of the slate is really mediocre. And for a team that won 10 games last season, that’s OK. Now, Martin’s love for rapper Pitbull? That’s not OK.

TENNESSEE

Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18), at Georgetown (Nov. 30), Memphis (Jan. 4)
Next-toughest: at Virginia (Dec. 5), Wichita State (Dec. 13), Xavier (Dec. 29)
The rest: Kennesaw State (Nov. 9), Oakland (Nov. 26), Presbyterian (Dec. 18), Western Carolina (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Memphis versus Tennessee will be interesting as usual, but it will be a more even matchup this time. A road game against Georgetown in the SEC/Big East Challenge won’t be easy, either. And the Vols will travel to Virginia in early December. Plus, there’s a strong chance that they’ll face Oklahoma State in Puerto Rico and possibly top-10 NC State in the third game there.

TEXAS A&M

Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Kansas City)
Next-toughest: vs. Oklahoma (Dec. 15 in Oklahoma City), at Houston (Dec. 1)
The rest: Louisiana Tech (Nov. 9), Troy (Nov. 12), Prairie View A&M (Nov. 15), Northwestern State (Nov. 26), Stephen F. Austin (Dec. 5), Texas A&M Corpus-Christi (Dec. 18), Southern (Dec. 22), Army (Dec. 29), Houston Baptist (Jan. 4)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- The Aggies could have a tough SEC debut after losing so much talent from last season (see Khris Middleton and Dash Harris). This slate features enough of a cakewalk to build their confidence prior to conference play, although the CBE opener against Saint Louis is top-notch and either Kansas or Washington State awaits.

VANDERBILT

Toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25), Butler (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: at Oregon (Nov. 16), Villanova (Dec. 1), at Xavier (Dec. 6)
The rest: Nicholls State (Nov. 10), Alabama A&M (Dec. 15), Cornell (Dec. 17), Middle Tennessee (Dec. 21), William & Mary (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- It’s a transition season for Kevin Stallings’ program, which lost five seniors and a junior. But with matchups against Butler and an underrated Davidson squad in Orlando, plus a possible game against West Virginia and definite games against Oregon and Villanova, this is not necessarily the ideal nonconference schedule for such a young team.
For the next four days, ESPN.com will be breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. We began with the ACC and will continue later today with the SEC. For now, Conference USA ...

EAST CAROLINA

Toughest: at North Carolina (Dec. 15), at Massachusetts (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at Charlotte (Dec. 1), at Georgia State (Nov. 26)
The rest: Washington & Lee (Nov. 10), Methodist (Nov. 13), UNC Greensboro (Nov. 16), Appalachian State (Nov. 20), St. Andrews (Dec. 4), Gardner-Webb (Dec. 18), Norfolk State (Dec. 29), Campbell (Jan. 2), North Carolina Wesleyan (Jan. 1)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- East Carolina is hardly a hoops hotbed; rather, it's a program very much rebuilding under third-year coach Jeff Lebo. So I'll give Lebo credit for taking a very much rebuilding program on the road, where it is sure to take lumps against UNC and a good UMass team, and could struggle at Charlotte and Georgia State. The home schedule is downright awful and includes several non-Division I opponents, but you have to pile up wins somewhere.

HOUSTON

Toughest: Texas A&M (Dec. 1)
Next-toughest: at TCU (Dec. 4)
The rest: Florida A&M (Nov. 9), at San Jose State (Nov. 13), Grambling State (Nov. 17), Louisiana College (Nov. 19), at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Nov. 25), at Prairie View A&M (Nov. 28), Texas Southern (Dec. 8), Louisiana-Lafayette (Dec. 15), Chicago State (Dec. 22), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 29), Texas Pan-American (Dec. 3)
Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- Thanks to some high-end recruiting (Danuel House and Danrad "Chicken" Knowles, although the latter is a partial qualifier and won't play until next season), Houston is on the right path and could make a little noise this season. But thanks to a schedule that is almost entirely composed of Division I bottom-feeders (save for Texas A&M and a game at TCU), the nonconference win total won't tell us much.

MARSHALL

Toughest: at Villanova (Nov. 11), vs. West Virginia (Dec. 5 in Charleston, W.Va.), vs. Cincinnati (Dec. 15 in Charleston, W.Va.), at Kentucky (Dec. 22), at Ohio (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: vs. South Dakota State (Nov. 17 in Hempstead, N.Y.), Nevada (Nov. 24)
The rest: Longwood (Nov. 9), vs. District of Columbia (Nov. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y.), at Hofstra (Nov. 18), Morehead State (Nov. 28), UNC-Wilmington (Dec. 1), Coppin State (Dec. 8), Savannah State (Dec. 19), Delaware State (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Marshall fancies itself an NCAA tournament team this season, and for good reason. The Thundering Herd return most of a team that advanced to the C-USA tourney final and narrowly missed out on the NCAA tournament bubble. This schedule reflects it. It is filled with real challenges, both at home, on the road, and in nearby Charleston against Cincinnati and rival West Virginia.

MEMPHIS

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), Louisville (Dec. 15), at Tennessee (Jan. 4)
Next-toughest: Harvard (Nov. 19), Ohio (Dec. 5), Loyola-Md. (Dec. 30), at Xavier (Feb. 26)
The rest: North Florida (Nov. 12), Samford (Nov. 17), Tennessee-Martin (Nov. 29), Austin Peay (Dec. 8), Lipscomb (Dec. 20), Oral Roberts (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Josh Pastner is consistently clear about his desire to play one of the nation's toughest schedules and this hardly constitutes a departure. The Battle 4 Atlantis features a loaded field that could produce eight NCAA tourney teams (including opening opponent VCU), the home date with long-lost rival Louisville is a big-time matchup with a top-5 opponent, the trip to Tennessee won't exactly be a picnic, and there are potential mid-major conference winners sprinkled throughout. This schedule will test Memphis' talented group early and often.

RICE

Toughest: at Temple (Nov. 22), at Texas (Dec. 29), at Harvard (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: Anaheim Classic (Nov. 23-25)
The rest: St. Thomas (Nov. 10), St. Edward's (Nov. 14), Houston Baptist (Dec. 1), LIU-Brooklyn (Dec. 12), Hartford (Dec. 15), Chicago State (Dec. 19), TCU (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Owls remain a rebuilding entity (especially without Arsalan Kazemi), but their schedule doesn't reflect it -- this is a pretty brutal slate, all things considered. Those road dates are really tough, and the Anaheim Classic has Xavier, Saint Mary's, Cal and Drexel in its field.

SMU

Toughest: N/A
Next-toughest: at Utah (Dec. 18), Cable Car Classic (Dec. 21-22), Wyoming (Jan. 2)
The rest: Loyola Marymount (Nov. 11), at TCU (Nov. 15), at Texas State (Nov. 17), Alcorn State (Nov. 19), Rider (Nov. 21), Hoops For Hope Classic (Nov. 24-25), at Hofstra (Dec. 1), at Rhode Island (Dec. 15), Furman (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- Southern Methodist had a huge offseason, hiring the legendary Larry Brown and a coterie of well-respected assistants. In a year, it will join the Big East. Big things are happening. If you didn't know any better, though, this schedule could convince you otherwise. It is awful.

SOUTHERN MISS

Toughest: at Georgia (Nov. 15), at Arizona (Dec. 4)
Next-toughest: at New Mexico State (Dec. 1), at Georgia State (Dec. 18), Wichita State (Dec. 22)
The rest: Western Kentucky (Nov. 10), Legends Classic (Nov. 19-21), Denver (Nov. 27), at Louisiana Tech (Dec. 8), Grambling State (Dec. 15), at Morehead State (Dec. 28), William Carey (Dec. 31), Dillard (Jan. 3)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Southern Miss' schedule isn't the toughest you'll ever see, but it does have plenty to recommend it. There are the actual challenges involved, of course. But more than that, it's a schedule tailor-made for RPI exploitation. From the no-risk road games at high majors to the collection of top mid-major teams to the Division II games (which don't count against the RPI) versus William Carey and Dillard, you can just about guarantee the Golden Eagles (as in 2011-12) will again maintain a solid RPI figure.

TULANE

Toughest: at Alabama (Dec. 30)
Next-toughest: at Georgia Tech (Nov. 9), at Nebraska (Nov. 21)
The rest: Bethune Cookman (Nov. 13), Nebraska-Omaha (Nov. 16), Chicago State (Nov. 18), Southern (Nov. 24), Loyola-La. (Nov. 27), Navy (Dec. 1), Nicholls State (Dec. 4), at San Diego (Dec. 8 ), Texas-Pan American (Dec. 19), Pepperdine (Dec. 20), Hofstra (Dec. 22), Wofford (Jan. 5)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Third-year coach Ed Conroy is working hard to turn Tulane around. For now, though, this is still a young team, one that will take its lumps on the road at the high-major foes you see listed above. This is a solid slate, relative to where the Green Wave are right now.

TULSA

Toughest: at Creighton (Dec. 19), Florida State (Dec. 29 in Sunrise, Fla.)
Next-toughest: at Wichita State (Nov. 28), at Oral Roberts (Dec. 22)
The rest: LSU-Shreveport (Nov. 11), NUCDF Basketball Tournament (Nov. 15-17), Jackson State (Nov. 21), Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 24), Missouri State (Dec. 5), TCU (Dec. 8), Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec. 15), Buffalo (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Golden Hurricane are under new management in former Kansas assistant Danny Manning's first season, but the schedule doesn't betray a desire to flatter with a padded win total. Playing Creighton on the road and Florida State on a neutral site is a challenging twosome, and winning at Wichita State and Oral Roberts is never easy.

UAB

Toughest: at Creighton (Nov. 14), at North Carolina (Dec. 1)
Next-toughest: at Middle Tennessee (Dec. 5), at Rutgers (Dec. 16), at Dayton (Jan. 5)
The rest: Young Harris College (Nov. 10), Navy (Nov. 18), Prairie View A&M (Nov. 20), South Padre Island Tournament (Nov. 23-24), at Troy (Nov. 27), South Alabama (Dec. 8), Louisiana-Monroe (Dec. 20), Northeastern (Dec. 29), Georgia Southern (Jan. 2)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Like the aforementioned Golden Hurricane, UAB has a new, first-time head coach in charge. Also like Tulsa, UAB's schedule is hardly easy, in part because (also like Tulsa), UAB will travel to Creighton early in the season -- not to mention to UNC and harder-than-they-look road trips to Middle Tennessee, Rutgers and Dayton.

UCF

Toughest: at South Florida (Nov. 10), at Florida (Nov. 23), Miami (Dec. 18), South Florida (Jan. 2)
Next-toughest: Middle Tennessee (Nov. 20), UCF Holiday Tournament (Dec. 28-29), at Old Dominion (Dec. 14)
The rest: Alabama State (Nov. 13), Savannah State (Nov. 18), Florida Tech (Dec. 1), Bethune Cookman (Dec. 12), Stetson (Dec. 21), Florida A&M (Jan. 5), Georgia Southwestern (Feb. 26)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Florida, Miami and two games against the lockdown defense of South Florida constitute a hearty slate of high-major foes here, but some toughness points are deducted because the Knights will leave the state of Florida just once (to play at Old Dominion) in the entire first two months of the season.

UTEP

Toughest: at Arizona (Nov. 15), Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25), UNLV (Dec. 17), Oregon (Dec. 19)
Next-toughest: Oral Roberts (Nov. 9), New Mexico State (Nov. 28), at New Mexico State (Feb. 23)
The rest: Idaho (Dec. 8), Don Haskins Invitational (Dec. 22-23), Cameron (Dec. 28), Houston Baptist (Jan. 14)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Tim Floyd's team is still unusually young -- he incorporated 10 newcomers last season, as the Miners finished 15-17 -- so it's fair to expect this team to take its lumps in what is a truly challenging schedule. The Old Spice Classic guarantees a game against Oklahoma and two more matchups in a field that includes Clemson, Gonzaga, Davidson, Vanderbilt and West Virginia.

SPONSORED HEADLINES