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2015-16 College Basketball Non-Conference Schedules: The Pac-12

Due to the Pac-12's relatively isolated position, of the 16 true road games its members will play during this season’s non-conference portion of the schedule, 12 will come against teams from outside of the Power 6 conferences. But that fact doesn’t mean the league’s schedules are especially difficult or even from top to bottom. Plus, there's the Gonzaga factor to consider.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Teams appear in schedule rank order within the conference. The number in parentheses is the team's four-year pythagorean win percentage ranking out of 351 Division I teams. (Explanation is in the intro to this series.)

Future opponents in bracketed tournaments included in the average opponent four-year ranking are projected by me and bolded. Games scheduled against non-Division I opponents outside of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational (Chaminade) and Great Alaska Shootout (Alaska Anchorage) are assigned a value of 400 when averaged, except for the hosts, who are assigned a 351 value. More info here.

* = game scheduled as part of an exempt tournament

Road games scheduled by Pac-12 squads: 16

Road games against non-Power 6 opponents: 12 (UCLA at Gonzaga, Arizona at Gonzaga, Arizona State at UNLV, Stanford at Saint Mary's, California at Wyoming, Utah at Wichita State, Oregon at Boise State, Oregon at UNLV (MGM Grand Garden), Oregon State at UC Santa Barbara, Oregon State at Rice, Colorado at Colorado State, Washington State at Idaho)

UCLA Bruins (25)

Maui Jim Maui Invitational: UNLV (68), Kansas (5)/Chaminade, Indiana (30)/Vanderbilt (66)/Wake Forest (126)/St. John's (58)
@Gonzaga (6), Kentucky (8), North Carolina (13) (Brooklyn), Long Beach State (120), UL Lafayette (144), Cal Poly (149)*, Pepperdine (162), Monmouth (258), Cal State Northridge (260), McNeese State (302)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 120.08
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 10th
Pac-12 rank: 1st

The Selection Committee surprised just about everyone not named Patrick Stevens by putting the Bruins in last year's field of 68. UCLA repaid the Committee's faith by winning two games (albeit with the help of the most controversial goaltend of recent times) and making it to the second weekend. This is precisely the type of schedule that will get Steve Alford's team a long, hard look in the Committee room—no matter the results—if the Bruins end up on the bubble again. If matchups in Maui break right, there would be just three bad games on this slate, thanks to the fortuitous scheduling of three possible Big West contenders, Sun Belt favorite UL Lafayette, and WCC sleeper Pepperdine.

Arizona Wildcats (1)

Directv Wooden Legacy: Santa Clara (159), Providence (39)/Evansville (135), Michigan State (10)/Boise State (55)/UC Irvine (109)/Boston College (122)
@Gonzaga (6), Boise State (55)*, UNLV (68), Missouri (96), Long Beach State (120), Fresno State (138), Northwestern State (181), Pacific (190), Bradley (239), Northern Arizona (262)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 120.23
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 11th
Pac-12 rank: 2nd

Provided Arizona gets past Santa Clara on Thanksgiving in Fullerton, the Directv Wooden Legacy should provide most of the punch to an Arizona schedule that doesn't look nearly as daunting as UCLA's, even though they're slotted next to each other in my rankings. Both the Wildcats and Bruins head to Spokane to take on Gonzaga, while Sean Miller's team welcomes Boise State to McKale as its fourth game for the Wooden event.

Rebound years from UNLV, Long Beach State (two more teams the Cats have as common opponents with the Bruins), Missouri, and Fresno State would certainly give this slate a bit more punch.

Arizona State Sun Devils (72)

FanDuel Legends Classic: North Carolina State (36), LSU (59)/Marquette (61)
@Kentucky (8), @Creighton (31), Stephen F. Austin (49), @UNLV (68), Texas A&M (85), Belmont (95)*, UC Santa Barbara (121), Cal State Bakersfield (253), Sacramento State (256), Houston Baptist (332), Kennesaw State (347)*

Average opponent four-year ranking: 134
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 24th
Pac-12 rank: 3rd

Bobby Hurley's first Sun Devil schedule might just result in his team taking some lumps—especially in Brooklyn and Lexington, though visits from Stephen F. Austin and a Texas A&M team that should outperform its 4-year pwp ranking of 85th might turn into unhappy evenings in Tempe.

Big picture: this slate will most definitely prepare Arizona State for a brutal Pac-12 slate, and quite possibly, another NIT trip.

Stanford Cardinal (35)

NIT Season Tip-Off: Villanova (12), Arkansas (48)/Georgia Tech (106)
Texas (29), @Saint Mary's (47), SMU (65), Green Bay (79)*, DePaul (164), Charleston Southern (204)*, Dartmouth (226), Sacramento State (256), Carroll (Montana)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 144.36
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 35th
Pac-12 rank: 4th

Speaking of the NIT, the defending champion Cardinal got the most difficult draw possible in their return to New York (Brooklyn this time, not Madison Square Garden) for the Tip-Off version of the event—2015 NCAA No. 1 seed Villanova. That's trouble for a Stanford outfit that's not as talented as last season's version, which ultimately was a disappointment after 2014's Sweet 16 run.

Even with a game against an NAIA team, Stanford's home schedule features some quality—Texas, SMU, and Green Bay all visit. However, Johnny Dawkins' team might have to sweep that home slate to have a legitimate chance of earning an at-large this season, a result that's likely necessary to keep Dawkins employed.

California Golden Bears (75)

Las Vegas Invitational: San Diego State (18), West Virginia (51)/Richmond (70)
@Virginia (4), Saint Mary's (47), Davidson (62), @Wyoming (99), UC Santa Barbara (121), Sam Houston State (152)*, East Carolina (201)*, Seattle (254), Rice (273), Incarnate Word (293), Coppin State (321)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 145.85
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 39th
Pac-12 rank: 5th

The Golden Bears' schedule features a Las Vegas Invitational field that includes two other marquee teams—San Diego State and West Virginia—who don't look to be on the upswing Cal is, along with a Richmond squad that could be the biggest surprise of the group. A road trip to Virginia is the true highlight of the slate, though, while the other true road game on the slate, against Wyoming at the Arena-Auditorium, would have been a bit more fun if Larry Nance, Jr. had one more year of eligibility.

The rest of November and December feature plenty of winnable games at Haas Pavilion, with the exception of visits from always dangerous Saint Mary's and Atlantic 10 contender Davidson.

USC Trojans (145)

Advocare Invitational: Wichita State (9), Xavier (33)/Alabama (64), Notre Dame (27)/Iowa (23)/Dayton (42)/Monmouth (258)
New Mexico (57), UC Santa Barbara (121), Yale (123), San Diego (129), Cal Poly (149), Lafayette (194), Idaho (224), Monmouth (258)*, Cal State Northridge (260), SIU Edwardsville (296)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 148.15
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 43rd
Pac-12 rank: 6th

If Andy Enfield wants to make headway toward an NCAA bid in his third season in Los Angeles, he needs his Trojans to pull off some surprises at the Advocare Invitational. While there are some possible NCAA opponents—like UC Santa Barbara, Yale, Cal Poly—on USC's home-heavy slate, hoping for a win over New Mexico (with a subsequent Lobo rebound from a down 2014-15 season) won't be enough to get an at-large without many excellent Pac-12 wins or some victories in Florida in November.

Utah Utes (54)

Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Texas Tech (147), Miami (38)/Mississippi State (193), Butler (46)/Temple (77)/Minnesota (44)/Missouri State (200)
Duke (3) (New York), @Wichita State (9), San Diego State (18), BYU (37), IPFW (188), Idaho (224), Delaware State (292), Savannah State (298), Idaho State (309), Southern Utah (327)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 148.92
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 45th
Pac-12 rank: 7th

Larry Krystkowiak's scheduling has gradually improved over his five attempts at Utah. While there's still a decent helping of MEAC and Big Sky cannon fodder, road trips to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Madison Square Garden to take on Duke, and Wichita State aren't for the faint of heart. Neither are home games against fellow Western power San Diego State and archrival BYU.

Even though it rates in the bottom half of the league per my ratings, this is still the type of slate that can get the Utes to a protected seed come March. That's due to the quality at the top.

Washington Huskies (94)

Battle 4 Atlantis: Gonzaga (6), Texas (29)/Texas A&M (85), Michigan (26)/Connecticut (32)/Syracuse (21)/Charlotte (146)
Texas (29) (Shanghai), UC Santa Barbara (121), TCU (139), Montana (150), Oakland (174), Mount St. Mary's (211)*, Seattle (254), Cal State Fullerton (263), Penn (268)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 153.83
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 52nd
Pac-12 rank: 8th

The most intriguing thing about the Huskies' Seattle-heavy schedule is the fact they could play Texas twice in a two-week span in two completely different countries that aren't the United States. If Lorenzo Romar's team wants to make the NCAAs, it will need to take advantage of its limited opportunities away from the Emerald City, especially the Battle 4 Atlantis. Winning on day two in the Bahamas will likely be vital, particularly if UW loses to Gonzaga when those two squads renew their rivalry—a consolation bracket loss on day two would lead to a game against Charlotte that will provide little RPI/SOS help.

Oregon Ducks (28)

Baylor (16)*, @Boise State (55), Alabama (64) (Birmingham), @UNLV (68) (MGM Grand Garden), Valparaiso (90), UC Irvine (109), Long Beach State (120), Fresno State (138), Arkansas State (213)*, Savannah State (298)*, Navy (310) (Pearl Harbor), Jackson State (324)*, Western Oregon

Average opponent four-year ranking: 169.62
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 72nd
Pac-12 rank: 9th

The Ducks' schedule is a bit more ambitious than it appears on the surface. Trips to Boise State, UNLV, and Birmingham to face Alabama deserve some credit. Baylor visits Matthew Knight Arena as part of a round-robin exempt event, while Valparaiso, the Horizon favorite who might just have an at-large chance, heads to Eugene before taking on Oregon State as part of the Beavers' exempt tourney. Big West favorite UC Irvine and possible Mountain West sleeper Fresno State come calling as well.

It's just a pity that the three other teams involved in the Baylor-Oregon soiree aren't that great, that Dana Altman scheduled a Division II home game, and that Navy won't be a more daunting opponent for the Pearl Harbor event.

Oregon State Beavers (103)

Kansas (5) (Kansas City), Iona (81)*, Tulsa (84) (Portland), Valparaiso (90)*, @UC Santa Barbara (121), Quinnipiac (166), Nevada (189), Loyola Marymount (222), Cal State Fullerton (263) (Portland), @Rice (273), Northwest Christian*

Average opponent four-year ranking: 172.18
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 79th
Pac-12 rank: 10th

Some are predicting that the Beavers will make a jump up the standings after a surprising 17-14, 8-10 finish to Wayne Tinkle's first season in Corvallis. But Oregon State might need some help to make this an at-large worthy non-conference schedule. While Kansas is likely a nice quality loss, the Beavers might need some help from their next four decent opponents—Iona, Tulsa, Valparaiso, and UCSB—during the year to boost their RPI and SOS. The other six teams on the slate, including yet another opponent from outside of Division I (sadly, a reality out West), likely won't provide much support to a team with promise.

Colorado Buffaloes (67)

Las Vegas Classic: Penn State (101), SMU (65)/Kent State (127)
Iowa State (15) (Sioux Falls), BYU (37), @Colorado State (71), @Auburn (140), Portland (158), Air Force (187), Northern Colorado (259), Hampton (266)*, Omaha (269), Nicholls State (320)*, Fort Lewis

Average opponent four-year ranking: 176
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 83rd
Pac-12 rank: 11th

This slate should set Colorado back on a winning path after the Buffs' first losing season under Tad Boyle. In terms of NCAA hopes, the Opening Night showdown with Iowa State would be a great way to start building a good profile, especially since other opportunities might be few and far between. A visit from BYU, trip to a likely down Colorado State squad, and possible Las Vegas Classic championship game against ineligible SMU are probably Colorado's best chances at earning a marquee win before Pac-12 play begins.

If Colorado ends up on the bubble, this slate might do more harm than good if those chances are indeed missed.

Washington State Cougars (155)

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic: Oklahoma (20), Northern Iowa (41)/Hawai `i (143), BYU (37)/New Mexico (57)/Harvard (56)/Auburn (140)
Gonzaga (6), UTEP (98), Texas Southern (208), @Idaho (224), Northern Arizona (262), Texas State (271), Portland State (281), Idaho State (309), Cal State Los Angeles

Average opponent four-year ranking: 196.83
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 99th
Pac-12 rank: 12th

Ernie Kent is most definitely still rebuilding in Pullman, and this Palouse-heavy slate reflects that. The Cougars were placed in arguably the tougher half of the Diamond Head Classic draw, thanks to the presence of the hosts and, oh, two 2015 NCAA teams with serious hopes of a return. Sure, Gonzaga visits, but that's the lone highlight of a yawn-worthy home slate.

The less said about this schedule the better.

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