College Basketball Nation: VCU Owls

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.

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