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2015-16 College Basketball Non-Conference Schedules: The ACC

The Atlantic Coast Conference’s league slate is now far more unbalanced thanks to expansion. The days of two guaranteed games against Duke and North Carolina and Virginia and Syracuse and Louisville and Pitt and Notre Dame and, well, Maryland are now in the past. Which of the 15 members did the best to make up for potential home-and-homes with the Virginia Techs, Georgia Techs, and Boston Colleges of the league by scheduling smart in November and December? Read on to find out.

Bob Donnan-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 ACC squads (not including the ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
: 17

Road games against non-Power 6 opponents: 7 (Virginia at George Washington, Wake Forest at Bucknell, North Carolina at Northern Iowa, Miami at La Salle, Georgia Tech at Tulane; North Carolina State at USF, Virginia Tech at Radford)

Virginia Cavaliers (4)

Gildan Charleston Classic: Bradley (239), Seton Hall (91)/Long Beach State (120), Oklahoma State (24)/Ole Miss (52)/George Mason (156)/Towson (212)
@Ohio State (11), Villanova (12), West Virginia (51) (New York), California (75), @George Washington (76), William & Mary (171), Oakland (174), Lehigh (175), Morgan State (289)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 115.67
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 7th
ACC rank: 1st

Considering that California, West Virginia, and George Washington will probably outperform their rankings here (and if Ohio State underperforms theirs, it shouldn't be by a horrible margin), the Cavaliers have a non-conference slate that should boost their No. 1 seed chances come March. A relatively weak Charleston Classic lineup hurts a bit, and it will be vital for the Cavaliers to not only go 3-0 in South Carolina, but to face the Seton Hall and Oklahoma State as projected along the way, as those squads look to have the strongest prospects of their possible Friday and Sunday opponents.

Duke Blue Devils (3)

2K Classic Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project: VCU (17), Wisconsin (2)/Georgetown (19)
Kentucky (8) (Chicago), Indiana (30), Utah (45) (New York), Buffalo (88), Utah State (116), Long Beach State (120), Yale (123), Bryant (230)*, Georgia Southern (232), Elon (235), Siena (251)*

Average opponent four-year ranking: 115.85
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 9th
ACC rank: 2nd

As usual, Mike Krzyzewski limits the Blue Devils' road trips, with a pair of visits to New York and the Champions Classic in Chicago the only times Duke won't play at Cameron Indoor before ACC play begins. While the 2K Classic field would have been even more impressive last season, games against Indiana and Utah should make up for any decline suffered by VCU and, in my projection, Wisconsin. The middle-tier teams on Duke's schedule all could contend in their respective leagues too.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (126)

Maui Jim Maui Invitational: Indiana (30), Vanderbilt (66)/St. John's (58), Kansas (5)/UCLA (25)/UNLV (68)/Chaminade
Xavier (33), Arkansas (48), @LSU (59), Richmond (70), @Bucknell (130), @Rutgers (163), Coastal Carolina (195), UNC Greensboro (304), UMBC (341)*

Average opponent four-year ranking: 124.92
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 18th
ACC rank: 3rd

Danny Manning enters his second year in charge in Winston-Salem with a rather daunting schedule to work through. Naturally, three games in Lahaina offer the Demon Deacons a chance to show the nation that Manning's rebuilding project is on track, but a fifth- or sixth-place finish is more likely. Wake teams of the past would have been a popular upset pick when hitting the road to face quality a mid-major (like Bucknell) or even when hosting them (Coastal Carolina). If this year's Deacs can avoid what used to be known as a Red Line Upset, they're making real progress, even if an NCAA bid might be another season away.

North Carolina Tar Heels (13)

CBE Hall of Fame Classic: Northwestern (117), Kansas State (43)/Missouri (96)
UCLA (25) (Brooklyn), @Texas (29), Maryland (40), @Northern Iowa (41), Davidson (62), Temple (77) (Annapolis), Wofford (153)*, Tulane (233), Fairfield (244)*, Appalachian State (303), UNC Greensboro (304)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 128.54

Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 21st
ACC rank: 4th

To be honest, with the CBE Hall of Fame Classic not packing much of a scheduling punch, the Tar Heels might have to pick up some wins in their other November and December contests to boost their March seeding. The good news for UNC is that their five best non-Kansas City opponents all have a chance to play above their four-year rankings—particularly a Maryland team that has to come to Chapel Hill for a likely early Top 5 showdown. The Tar Heels also get credit for going to Northern Iowa, even if that game, again, would have been far more entertaining if scheduled for November of 2014.

Miami Hurricanes (38)

Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Mississippi State (193), Utah (54)/Texas Tech (147), Butler (46)/Temple (77)/Minnesota (44)/Missouri State (200)
Florida (14), @La Salle (82), @Nebraska (104), Princeton (108), UL Lafayette (144), Charlotte (146), Northeastern (154), College of Charleston (216), UTRGV (334)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 135.5
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 25th
ACC rank: 5th

Last season, the Hurricanes lost to both Eastern Kentucky and Green Bay at home, a pair of setbacks that helped push them to the NIT. Sun Belt favorite UL Lafayette and defending CAA Tournament champion Northeastern might be in position to pull off a similar feat in 2015. A pre-Thanksgiving trip to Puerto Rico will be a bit more challenging than 2014's Charleston Classic, as a path featuring Mississippi State, Utah, Butler, Temple, and Minnesota is a different challenge completely than the Drexel-Akron-Charlotte trio Jim Larranaga's squad navigated en route to a crown in the Palmetto State.

The Puerto Rico Tip-Off is especially vital, since Miami's three best known opponents—Florida, La Salle, and Nebraska—all boast significant question marks heading into the new season.

Clemson Tigers (78)

Men Who Speak Up Main Event: UMass (87), Creighton (31)/Rutgers (163)
@Minnesota (44), @Georgia (63), Alabama (64), North Carolina Central (112), South Carolina (113), Wofford (153), USC Upstate (173), Texas Southern (208)*, UTSA (252)*, Presbyterian (339)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 136.58
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 27th
ACC rank: 6th

Clemson's schedule is the first instance where the rating might just be a bit too high. Creighton, the highest-rated opponent in the Tigers' exempt event, has a score that's inflated by three seasons of Doug McDermott-fueled excellence. Minnesota looks likely to occupy a place in the Big Ten's bottom third, while Alabama is breaking in a new coach. N.C. Central, Wofford, USC Upstate, and Texas Southern could all possibly be worse this time around. On the flip side, Georgia should contend for a second consecutive NCAA bid, while South Carolina might be in position to crash the dance.

Of course, the home game against the Gamecocks will feel more like a neutral-site one this season. That's because Clemson will play its home games at Greenville's Bon Secours Arena, while Littlejohn Coliseum is renovated.

Syracuse Orange (21)

Battle 4 Atlantis: Charlotte (146), Michigan (26)/Connecticut (32), Gonzaga (6)/Texas (29)/Texas A&M (85)/Washington (94)
Wisconsin (2), @Georgetown (19), @St. John's (58), St. Bonaventure (93), Lehigh (175), Texas Southern (208), Colgate (218), Elon (235)*, Cornell (280), Montana State (319)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 139.08
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 32nd
ACC rank: 7th

Granted, I'm a bit biased, but Syracuse takes a lot of unfair criticism for refusing to play games outside of the state of New York. I say it's unfair because the Orange still call Duke, Louisville, and Pittsburgh conference mates, and those three teams cannot exactly be called adventurous travelers either. It might be time to admit such scheduling practices are just a benefit of being a member of a power conference.

Rant over.

The missed opportunity in this season's Syracuse schedule isn't Jim Boeheim's fault, it's the fault of the organizers of the Battle 4 Atlantis, who deprived us of a guaranteed Syracuse-Connecticut quarterfinal, when they arranged Gonzaga-Washington and Texas-Texas A&M showdowns on the other half of the draw. Regardless, provided the Orange get past Charlotte, they'll get two helpful games in the Bahamas, provided they don't drop down to the consolation bracket, where a matchup with Washington could be questionable. Hosting Wisconsin might not provide quite the punch it would have last season, but a win—one that would still be a case-maker—is more likely in 2015. The same goes for a road trip to Georgetown. But it looks to be an unfortunate year to play St. John's again.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (106)

NIT Season Tip-Off: Arkansas (48), Villanova (12)/Stanford (35)
VCU (17), Tennessee (50), @Georgia (63), Green Bay (79)*, Wofford (153), Duquesne (185), Colgate (218), @Tulane (233), ETSU (248)*, Cornell (280), Southeastern Louisiana (312)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 147.77
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 42nd
ACC rank: 8th

Brian Gregory is likely coaching for his job this season, and this schedule might offer him a bit of false hope. Two of the Yellow Jackets' possible opponents in the NIT Season Tip-Off, Arkansas and Stanford, are likely to strugglethis season, so a split in Brooklyn in possible. Tennessee might be beatable in Atlanta, as might VCU and Green Bay teams that are also adjusting to new coaching staffs.

That being said, with so much uncertainty surrounding all of the programs I just mentioned, the Yellow Jackets could go 4-1 in those matchups and end up with a quartet of name wins that won't really mean much come March 13th.

North Carolina State Wolfpack (36)

FanDuel Legends Classic: Arizona State (72), LSU (59)/Marquette (61)
Michigan (26), @Missouri (96), Bucknell (130), Northeastern (154), William & Mary (171), High Point (196), @USF (203), Winthrop (227), South Alabama (270)*, UNC Greensboro (304), IUPUI (313)*

Average opponent four-year ranking: 170.85
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 75th
ACC rank: 9th

The first word that came to my mind when attempting to write something about the Wolfpack's schedule was "meh." The most exciting thing about it is the possibility of a rematch of their thrilling NCAA Tournament win over LSU from last March. However, that result might not go State's way with the addition of Mr. Everything Ben Simmons to the Bayou Bengals' lineup. Of course, the Wolfpack's Legends Classic semifinal against Arizona State sets up as a possible trap game.

Mark Gottfried better have the ACC/Big Ten Challenge home game against Michigan circled on the calendar because his team might need it, especially if they fail to meet LSU in Brooklyn. There is nothing else on the schedule that will compare.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (27)

Advocare Invitational: Monmouth (258), Iowa (23)/Dayton (42), Wichita State (9)/Xavier (33)/Alabama (64)/USC (145)
Indiana (30) (Indianapolis), @Illinois (53), Stony Brook (119), Loyola-Chicago (191), Milwaukee (206), Youngstown State (220), St. Francis (Pa.) (299), Liberty (315), UMass Lowell (340)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 171.92
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 78th
ACC rank: 10th

The Irish's schedule should be a bit higher than 10th in the ACC, thanks to the weakness of Clemson's and N.C. State's and the strength of Notre Dame's November tournament.

Of course, opening the Advocare Invitational with by far the weakest team in the field, Monmouth, isn't the greatest draw, but it opens the door for the Irish to guarantee themselves two high-potential games on Friday and Sunday, with an NCAA rematch against Wichita State for the championship a tantalizing possibility.

Re-upping for the Crossroads Classic was an inspired move, as all four participants look to consistently be NCAA threats now. This December's matchup against Indiana could have reverberations felt all the way to Selection Sunday. Remember, the Midwest Regional is in Chicago, and both the Irish and Hoosiers would love to get slotted there. Failing to win an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at Illinois and sweeping through the soft majority of their November-December slate might create some issues on the seeding front for Mike Brey's squad, however.

Florida State Seminoles (74)

Paradise Jam: Hofstra (210), South Carolina (113)/DePaul (164), Tulsa (84)/Indiana State (125)/Ohio (136)/Norfolk State (217)
VCU (17) (Atlanta), @Iowa (23), @Florida (14), Mississippi State (193), Charleston Southern (204), FAU (276) (Sunrise), Southeastern Louisiana (312), Jacksonville (318), Nicholls State (320)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 173.67
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 81st
ACC rank: 11th

With a Top 10 recruiting class, the Seminoles are poised to return to the NCAAs after three seasons away. But with six non-conference opponents decent bets to fall outside of the RPI 200, Leonard Hamilton's team will need to take care of business with a schedule that's odd in that the Seminoles' three toughest games will take place away from Tallahassee, and that doesn't include the Paradise Jam.

An improved SEC might work to Florida State's benefit, especially if Florida, Ben Howland's Mississippi State, and South Carolina all play a significant role in it, as some have forecast.

Boston College Eagles (122)

Directv Wooden Legacy: Michigan State (10), Boise State (55)/UC Irvine (109), Arizona (1)/Providence (39)/Evansville (135)/Santa Clara (159)
@Providence (39)*, Harvard (56), Penn State (101), Delaware (172), St. Francis-Brooklyn (186), Fordham (221) (Brooklyn), New Hampshire (277), Central Connecticut State (314), Maine (335), UMass Lowell (340)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 178.38
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 85th
ACC rank: 12th

Jim Christian scheduled for a rebuilding season. It's very possible the Eagles finish 7th or 8th at the Wooden Legacy, as each team in the field not named Santa Clara is likely superior to BC right now. A second consecutive win over Harvard is a possibility, but considering the Crimson aren't even the Ivy favorite at this point, the level of satisfaction about such a result in Chestnut Hill wouldn't be quite as high if it happens. The rest of the opposition is so low-quality that a November and December push would be fool's gold heading into the ACC slate.

Pittsburgh Panthers (34)

Gonzaga (6) (Okinawa), Purdue (60), Davidson (62) (New York)*, Kent State (127), Detroit (141), Morehead State (184)*, Eastern Washington (205)*, Duquesne (185) (Consol), Western Carolina (245)*, Cornell (280), UMES (305), Central Arkansas (342), St. Joseph's (Ind.)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 195.54
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 98th
ACC rank: 13th

Jamie Dixon obviously decided that a trip across the Pacific was more than enough travel for one non-conference season. After returning from Okinawa, the Panthers only leave Pittsburgh once before ACC play begins—for their Gotham Classic showcase game against Davidson in New York.

That contest against the Wildcats, the Armed Forces Classic tilt with Gonzaga, and an ACC/Big Ten Challenge home matchup with Purdue are the lone highlights on a Panther schedule that might give the Selection Committee reason to leave Pitt out should they struggle through ACC play. They simply cannot fail to pick up a win in their limited marquee opportunities in November and December.

Louisville Cardinals (7)

@Kentucky (8), @Michigan State (10), Saint Louis (111) (Brooklyn)*, Eastern Michigan (151), Western Kentucky (161), St. Francis-Brooklyn (186)*, North Florida (202)*, Hartford (274)*, Utah Valley (295), UMKC (301), Samford (306), Grand Canyon (307), Kennesaw State (347)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 204.54
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 105th
ACC rank: 14th

Did Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich apply for WAC membership when we weren't looking? The Cardinals managed to schedule three teams from that conference, none of whom are named New Mexico State. A game against perennial Atlantic Sun whipping bird Kennesaw State is also not exactly helpful.

Road trips to Kentucky (traditional) and Michigan State (ACC/Big Ten Challenge) are the lone highlights on what's a rather miserable schedule otherwise. Sure, Louisville takes on Saint Louis in the showcase game of the new Brooklyn Hoops Classic, but these aren't the Billikens the Cardinals defeated in the 2014 NCAA Round of 32. At least the North Florida, the other A-Sun team Louisville will face this year, should be a contender for that conference's crown. Not that the Ospreys will provide much of an RPI boost.

Virginia Tech Hokies (170)

Emerald Coast Classic: Iowa State (15), Illinois (53)/UAB (132)
West Virginia (51), Saint Joseph's (92) (Brooklyn), Northwestern (117)
@Radford (257), VMI (285), Jacksonville State (294)*, Lamar (300), Alabama State (308)*, UAPB (326), N.C. A&T (329), Grambling State (351)

Average opponent four-year ranking: 219.77
Schedule rank among at-large contenders: 110th
ACC rank: 15th

Much like BC, Buzz Williams' Hokies are not quite ready for primetime and scheduled like it. A whopping eight of Tech's non-conference opponents fall within the lower third of the four-year pwp ranking, which honestly is par for the course for a team that hasn't gone out of its way to schedule tough in recent seasons. Amazingly, the Hokies only true road game comes at lowly Radford of the Big South.

I wonder if the Greenberg brothers will be watching.

I'll have nightmares tonight because of this schedule.

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