College Basketball Nation: Southern Miss Eagles

Nonconference schedule analysis: C-USA

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
2:10
PM ET
EAST CAROLINA

Toughest: at Old Dominion (Nov. 29)
Next-toughest: vs. Appalachian State in Charlotte (Nov. 22), Charlotte (Dec. 3), UMass (Dec. 6)
The rest: Milligan (Nov. 11), at Campbell (Nov. 14), Coker (Nov. 17), Chowan (Nov. 26), at UNC Greensboro (Dec. 16), Coastal Carolina (Dec. 19), Gardner-Webb (Dec. 22), North Carolina Central (Dec. 29), UVA-Wise (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 1 -- Can it be anything else? There are three schools on here that I'm guessing most college basketball fans have never even heard of. The Pirates won 18 games and made the postseason in 2011 -- one would think the schedule could be beefed up just a bit. Playing two A-10 teams isn’t bad and it helps that both are at home. But there are really no serious challenges after Dec. 6. This has the look of a CIT-worthy schedule.

HOUSTON

Toughest: vs. Arkansas in Little Rock (Nov. 18), LSU (Nov. 29)
Next-toughest: vs. Oklahoma in Oklahoma City (Dec. 17), Oakland (Nov. 22)
The rest: Grambling (Nov. 12), Utah Valley (Nov. 14), TCU (Nov. 26), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Dec. 3), at Texas State (Dec. 6), UTSA (Dec. 10), Rogers State (Dec. 21), North Carolina A&T (Dec. 28), Texas State (Dec. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The Cougars did a good job of trolling for higher-level teams that are rebuilding or in transition. Playing Arkansas is a quality game and it’s technically on a neutral court. Houston won 12 games last season and James Dickey will need to show improvement before a loaded recruiting class comes in next season. This schedule should help rack up the W's at the very least.

MARSHALL

Toughest: at Cincinnati (Nov. 25), at Syracuse (Dec. 6) vs. West Virginia in Charleston, W.Va. (Jan. 18)
Next-toughest: Ohio (Nov. 30), Iona (Dec. 11), Belmont (Dec. 19), Akron (Jan. 1)
The rest: Alabama State (Nov. 11), Jacksonville State (Nov. 13), Northwestern State (Nov. 19), at UNC Wilmington (Nov. 22), High Point (Dec. 17), West Virginia Tech (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Coach Tom Herrion, who said he has a team that could challenge for the C-USA title, did a tremendous job of putting together a schedule that could garner an at-large berth if the Herd do their part. Playing three Big East teams -- all away from home -- will not only give Marshall a chance at quality wins, but also boost the nonconference RPI. There are also a lot of sneaky-good mid-major opponents in here that will help the schedule strength, such as Iona, Ohio, Akron and Belmont, which MU plays twice.

MEMPHIS

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 21-23), at Louisville (Dec. 17), at Georgetown (Dec. 22), Xavier (Feb. 4)
Next-toughest: Belmont (Nov. 15), Austin Peay (Dec. 3), at Miami-Fla. (Dec. 6), Tennessee (Jan. 4)
The rest: Jackson State (Nov. 28), Murray State (Dec. 11), Lipscomb (Dec. 19), Robert Morris (Dec. 29), Charlotte (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- The Tigers can edge this to a 10 if they end up playing Duke in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational and then possibly Kansas or UCLA on Day 3. The road games at Louisville, Georgetown and Miami are all big-time tests, and playing Xavier and Belmont at home will be two of the toughest games at FedExForum all season. This is the kind of schedule Memphis has to play.

RICE

Toughest: South Padre Invitational (Nov. 25-26), Temple (Dec. 19), at Texas A&M (Dec. 22), at Texas (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: at TCU (Jan. 4)
The rest: New Orleans (Nov. 12), Southern (Nov. 17), Maryland-Eastern Shore (Nov. 20), Florida A&M (Nov. 22), at Houston Baptist (Nov. 30), St. Thomas (Dec. 3), Louisiana College (Dec. 14), Lamar (Dec. 17), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Rice won just five games in Conference USA last season and 14 overall, so this is a heck of a challenging schedule for these guys. The Owls play road games against Big 12 contenders Texas A&M and Texas, have to face Northern Iowa and sneaky sleeper Iowa State on a neural court and get a rare home game against a possible top-25 opponent in Temple -- a battle of the Owls!

SMU

Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 14-25), vs. Oklahoma State in Dallas (Dec. 28), at Ole Miss (Jan. 3)
Next-toughest: TCU (Feb. 8)
The rest: McMurry (Nov. 11), Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 19), Georgia Southern (Nov. 27), at Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec. 4), at Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 19), Dallas Christian (Dec. 22), Louisiana Tech (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- The Mustangs could see this scale jump up a few more notches if they beat Colorado State in the NIT opener and then take out host Stanford to get to New York for the NIT semis. Do that and suddenly SMU will be a player into the winter and the games against Oklahoma State and Ole Miss become relevant. But that's asking a lot of a team that's expected to finish in the bottom half of C-USA.

SOUTHERN MISS

Toughest: at Colorado State (Nov. 19), Ole Miss (Dec. 17), at Arizona State (Dec. 19), South Florida (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at Denver (Nov. 17), Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 24-26), New Mexico State (Dec. 4), at South Alabama (Dec. 7).
The rest: Spring Hill (Nov. 12), at South Alabama (Dec. 7), Louisiana Tech (Dec. 10), Belhaven (Dec. 27), Alcorn State (Dec. 29), at McNeese State (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Coach Larry Eustachy said this could be his best team in Hattiesburg. If that’s the case, then a schedule upgrade would've been useful. The four toughest games come against teams that probably aren’t getting close to the NCAAs. The Great Alaska Shootout is weak, and the potential second-round opponent (New Mexico State) is a team USM already has scheduled anyway. The best they can do in the final is San Francisco or Murray State. Let's be frank: the Golden Eagles will have a hard time getting an at-large bid from this schedule.

TULANE

Toughest: at Syracuse (Dec. 22), Georgia Tech (Dec. 3)
Next-toughest: at Wofford (Dec. 6)
The rest: Alabama A&M (Nov. 11), Nicholls State (Nov. 15), Maryland-Eastern Shore (Nov. 18), at Navy (Nov. 22), Alcorn State (Nov. 25), New Orleans (Nov. 26), San Diego (Nov. 27), Southern (Nov. 30), Macmurray (Dec. 10), Jacksonville State (Dec. 11), at Texas-Pan American (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The road game at Syracuse raises the level for this nonconference slate and going to Wofford won’t be an easy chore at all. Being able to host an ACC school (Georgia Tech) in tiny Fogelman Arena is a coup, but this isn’t exactly a top-level schedule. This is built for a team that won three conference games last season.

TULSA

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 17-20), at Missouri State (Nov. 26), at Oklahoma State (Nov. 30), Wichita State (Dec. 7), Creighton (Dec. 19),
Next-toughest: Arizona State (Dec. 3), at TCU (Dec. 31)
The rest: Arkansas-Little Rock (Nov. 11), Southeastern Louisiana (Nov. 13), at Jackson State (Nov. 22), UT Arlington (Dec. 17), Mercer (Dec. 28)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik did a solid job of putting together a postseason schedule for a team that finished tied for second last season with UTEP. The Golden Hurricane host the two best teams in the Missouri Valley (Creighton and Wichita State) and travel to play the defending league champ (Missouri State). Oklahoma State is clearly a rigid road challenge and getting a Pac-12 program (ASU) to come to Tulsa is a nice addition. As for the Charleston Classic, it could pit Tulsa against Northwestern or LSU in the second round if it gets past Western Kentucky.

UAB

Toughest: Creighton (Nov. 16), at Wichita State (Nov. 25), at VCU (Dec. 20), at Florida (Jan. 3)
Next-toughest: Murray State (Nov. 20), at Kent State (Dec. 3), at George Washington (Dec. 28)
The rest: Troy (Nov. 22), UT Martin (Nov. 27), at South Alabama (Nov. 30), Middle Tennessee (Dec. 7), Jacksonville (Dec. 22), Alabama A&M (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Blazers have a top-10 game at Florida and then play the co-favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference, with one of the games on the road in Wichita. Playing four more road games, including at VCU, helps the power-rating.

UCF

Toughest: at Florida State (Nov. 14), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 24-26), Old Dominion (Dec. 17)
Next-toughest: UCF Holiday Classic (Dec. 29-30)
The rest: St. Thomas (Nov. 12), High Point (Nov. 18), Hartford (Dec. 3), Bethune Cookman (Dec. 10), North Carolina A&T (Dec. 13), at Louisiana-Lafayette (Dec. 21), Palm Beach Atlantic (Jan. 30)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Central Florida could end up seeing this number rise if it beats Charleston and ends up playing Connecticut in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tourney in the Bahamas. Either Rhode Island or James Madison could be dangerous at the UCF Holiday Classic and ODU is always tough. The Knights couldn’t capitalize on beating Florida last season, so taking out FSU early would be looked upon skeptically -- but they'll take it nonetheless.

UTEP

Toughest: at Oregon (Nov. 29), at UNLV (Dec. 14), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next-toughest: at New Mexico State (Nov. 19), New Mexico State (Dec. 11), Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational
The rest: UTSA (Nov. 11), UC Riverside (Nov. 13), Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 26), Southern (Dec. 17), McNeese State (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Tim Floyd may benefit greatly from this schedule if some of these teams excel as predicted. Oregon could be a top-four team in the Pac-12, UNLV is a co-MWC title contender and Clemson should be a top-half ACC team. The Miners open with the Tigers out in Honolulu and play either Kansas State or Southern Illinois in the second game. A rising program in Colorado State is a good opponent to bring to the Sun Bowl Invitational. Then again, UTEP lost quite a bit, so this schedule might end up just being meaningless on Selection Sunday.

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