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Analyzing The SEC's Non-Conference Schedules For 2016-17

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3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 3, 5, 3

Those are the bid totals the SEC has earned in the past eight seasons. In recent seasons, Birmingham has brought former NCAA Tournament guru Greg Shaheen and former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese aboard to consult on non-conference scheduling—in the hopes that five or more bids become the norm, not the three-bid hauls that have become all too common in the recent past.

The message seems to be getting through.

For a full explanation of this series' methodology and what these rankings mean (and why certain games appear twice with strikethroughs), check out the intro piece.

Mean Schedule Ranking

Team

Opponent Score

Distance From Average
(1.406)

At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
SEC Rank
(out of 14)
Florida 1.790 +0.384 6 1
Kentucky 1.776 +0.370 7 2
Auburn 1.633 +0.227 20 3
Vanderbllt 1.589 +0.183 28 4
Alabama 1.540 +0.134 36 5
Georgia 1.513 +0.107 44 6
Tennessee 1.507 +0.101 45 7
Arkansas 1.452 +0.046 54 8
LSU 1.444 +0.038 56 9
South Carolina 1.392 -0.014 71 10
Texas A&M 1.342 -0.064 77 11
Ole Miss 1.294 -0.112 88 12
Missouri 1.286 -0.120 94 13
Mississippi State 1.119 -0.287 126 14
SEC Average 1.477 0.071 1 of 9*

* AAC, A 10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, MW, Pac-12, SEC

Both Florida and Kentucky have average opponent scores that rank in the top 10 nationally and the top five for power conference schools, largely due to the number of games they play away from home and, particularly in the Gators' case, a reluctance to schedule cupcakes. But in general, the SEC's 14 members did a more consistent job of scheduling decent games than most of their power-conference brethren. All but one team ranks in the top 100, with nine of the 14 ranking in the top half of the at-large pool.

Best-Case (Maximum) Schedule Ranking

Team

Opponent Score

Distance From Average
(1.445)

At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
SEC Rank
(out of 14)
Florida 1.859 +0.415 6 1
Kentucky 1.776 +0.332 11 2
Auburn 1.659 +0.215 25 3
Vanderbilt 1.646 +0.201 28 4
Alabama 1.582 +0.137 39 5
Tennessee 1.577 +0.132 41 6
Georgia 1.571 +0.127 43 7
LSU 1.505 +0.061 54 8
Arkansas 1.452 +0.008 67 9
Texas A&M 1.406 -0.038 74 10
South Carolina 1.392 -0.053 79 11
Ole Miss 1.362 -0.083 81 12
Missouri 1.341 -0.103 84 13
Mississippi State 1.206 -0.239 110 14
SEC Average 1.524 0.079 1 of 9

* AAC, A 10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, MW, Pac-12, SEC

The rankings don't change all that much when my analysis factors in each team's best exempt tournament scenario. However, Kentucky, one of three SEC teams participating in a round-robin event (Arkansas and South Carolina are the others), drops out of the top 10, as it gets passed in the standings by teams that can add a tournament championship appearance to their slate.

Worst-Case (Minimum) Schedule Ranking

Team

Opponent Score

Distance From Average
(1.360)

At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
SEC Rank
(out of 14)
Kentucky 1.776 +0.417 5 1
Florida 1.687 +0.327 10 2
Auburn 1.607 +0.247 16 3
Vanderbilt 1.532 +0.172 28 4
Alabama 1.499 +0.138 35 5
Georgia 1.455 +0.010 41 6
Arkansas 1.452 +0.092 42 7
South Carolina 1.392 +0.032 58 8
LSU 1.360 -0.001 65 9
Tennessee 1.355 -0.005 67 10
Texas A&M 1.273 -0.087 87 11
Ole Miss 1.225 -0.136 95 12
Missouri 1.200 -0.161 103 13
Mississippi State 1.077 -0.283 125 14
SEC Average 1.421 0.061 1 of 9

* AAC, A 10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, MW, Pac-12, SEC

On the flip side, the Wildcats pass Florida in the event each team drops to its exempt tournament's lowest consolation game. If the Gators fall to Seton Hall in the AdvoCare Invitational quarterfinals on Thanksgiving night, a Friday matchup with Quinnipiac would likely result, and the Bobcats—225th in my opponent-quality ranking—would be UF's worst opponent by a considerable margin.

Curiously, in the worst-case scenario table (which remember is purely hypothetical, since not all teams are going to perform so poorly), 10 SEC members rank among the top half of the at-large pool, even with Missouri joining Mississippi State in the group of clubs outside of the top 100.

True Road And Non-D1 Games

True Road Games
Scheduled
True Road Games
Scheduled Against
Non-Power 6 Teams
Non-Division I Games
Scheduled
23-24
(5 SEC/Big 12)
8-9 2-3


Only Miss. State, Mizzou, and Texas A&M failed to schedule a true road game on their own (the Aggies travel to WVU for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge), with Georgia being particularly bold in scheduling three. However, the Bulldogs are one of two SEC squads that have a game lined up with an non-Division I foe. South Carolina is the other, although Tennessee could meet Chaminade in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational's latter stages.

Team Capsules

Alabama

Alabama Crimson Tide

Average Opponent Score 1.540 (avg.); 1.582 (max.); 1.499 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 36th (avg.); 39th (max.); 35th (min.)
SEC Ranking 5th (avg.); 5th (max.); 5th (min.)
Exempt Event* MGM Grand Main Event (two at home, two at Las Vegas)
True Home Games
(6)
Semi-Home Games
(2)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)

Dayton
Coastal Carolina*
Ball State*
USC Upstate
Charleston Southern
Stetson

Clemson
(Birmingham, Ala.)
Arkansas State
(Huntsville, Ala.)

Valparaiso*
BYU/Saint Louis*

Oregon
Texas


Last season, Avery Johnson's first Crimson Tide squad picked up a few quality wins in the fall, most notably over Wichita State and Notre Dame in the AdvoCare Invitational and Clemson in Greenville, to get within striking distance of what would have been a surprising NCAA bid. Then the bottom fell out in the season's final weeks. With some key performers from that group of overachievers now gone, Alabama could struggle against this schedule, which features daunting trips to Eugene and Austin, an MGM Grand Main Event that features two 2016 NIT final four teams, and games against NCAA contenders Clemson and Dayton that will be played in front of friendly crowds.

But a "struggle" is what we all anticipated last year at this time.

Over at Roll Bama Roll, CB969 is excited about the many trips the Tide has planned for the year.

Arkansas

Arkansas Razorbacks

Average Opponent Score 1.452
At-Large Pool Ranking 54th (avg.); 67th (max.); 42nd (min.)
SEC Ranking 8th (avg.); 9th (max.); 7th (min.)
Exempt Event* Golden Gopher Showcase (three at home, one at Minneapolis, Minn.)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(0)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(2)

Stephen F. Austin
North Dakota State
Houston
UT Arlington*
Fort Wayne
Southern Illinois*
North Florida
Mount St. Mary's*
Austin Peay

Sam Houston State
(North Little Rock, Ark.)

Texas
(Houston)

Oklahoma State
(SEC/Big 12)
Minnesota*


The Razorbacks look like one of the strongest contenders to finish second in the conference behind Kentucky, and this non-conference slate might help them in March more than you'd think. And that's despite the presence of two true road games that could end up being metrics-anchors. Yes, the game against Texas in Houston is the highlight, but up to six of the teams that visit Fayetteville look like contenders in their respective conferences, while UH is an at-large threat itself even with a fairly weak schedule.

Auburn

Auburn Tigers

Average Opponent Score 1.633 (avg.); 1.659 (max.); 1.607 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 20th (avg.); 25th (max.); 16th (min.)
SEC Ranking 3rd (avg.); 3rd (max.); 3rd (min.)
Exempt Event* Cancun Challenge (two at home, two at Cancun, Mexico)
True Home Games
(6)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(4)

Semi-Away Games
(0)

True Away Games
(3)

Georgia State*
Eastern Kentucky*
Mercer
Coastal Carolina
North Florida
USC Upstate

Texas Tech*
Purdue/Utah State*
Oklahoma
(Uncasville, Conn.)
Boston College
(MSG)

Connecticut
UAB
TCU
(SEC/Big12)


Even with scheduled home games against Sun Belt contender Georgia State; OVC hopeful EKU; and Mercer, Coastal Carolina, and UNF squads that should be in the hunt for their respective league crowns, the strength of Bruce Pearl's third Auburn slate lies in the away trips. Two double-dips are the most noteworthy—the Cancun Challenge where games against a pair of NCAA squads are possible and the December swing to Connecticut to take on OU and the Huskies. A true road game at in-state rival and C-USA contender UAB is nothing to sneeze at either. Now about those games with BC and TCU...

This slate might allow the Tigers to take a big step forward in Pearl's third season at the helm on the Plains. On the other hand, College And Magnolia's Walt Austin thinks it could be a real challenge even for a talented roster.

Florida

Florida Gators

Average Opponent Score 1.790 (avg.); 1.859 (max.); 1.687 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 6th (avg.); 6th (max.); 10th (min.)
SEC Ranking 1st (avg.); 1st (max.); 2nd (min.)
Exempt Event* AdvoCare Invitational (one at Tampa, Fla., three at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
True Home Games
(1)
Semi-Home Games
(7-8)
True Neutral-Site Games
(1-2)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(3)

Little Rock

Seton Hall*
Gonzaga/Quinnipiac*
Iowa State/Miami/
Stanford/
Indiana State*
St. Bonaventure
(Lakeland, Fla.)
Belmont*
(Tampa)
Mercer
(Jacksonville, Fla.)
FGCU
(Jacksonville, Fla.)
Charlotte
(Sunrise, Fla.)

Iowa State/Miami/
Stanford/
Indiana State*
Duke
(MSG)

Oklahoma
(SEC/Big 12)
Florida State
North Florida


Thanks to much-needed renovations to the O'Connell Center that have an anticipated completion date of mid-December, Florida has the country's most unique schedule—a barnstorming tour that features just one true home non-conference game. Before that late December date with defending Sun Belt champ Little Rock, the Gators will play two true road games, three contests at the AdvoCare Invitational (which features four 2016 NCAA squads), Duke in New York, and five "home" games in venues all over the Sunshine State. Plus, there's a late January date in Norman with Oklahoma for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Mike White's squad, which just missed an NCAA bid in his first season, should be in position to break through this time around on the strength of this schedule, which combines the smart scheduling principles Billy Donovan embraced late in his tenure in Gainesville with the RPI boost "neutral-site" and road games provide (though my metric is a bit more sensitive when reflecting game sites). The question is whether the Gators' offense will improve enough for them to grab some quality wins against this slate, and in SEC play.

Friend of the blog Andy Hutchins has a more comprehensive breakdown of the Gators' schedule at Alligator Army.

Georgia

Georgia Bulldogs

Average Opponent Score 1.513 (avg.); 1.571 (max.); 1.455 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 44th (avg.); 43rd (max.); 41st (min.)
SEC Ranking 6th (avg.); 7th (max.); 6th (min.)
Exempt Event* CBE Hall of Fame Classic (two at home, two at Kansas City, Mo.)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(1-2)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(3)

Texas
(SEC/Big 12)
Marquette
UL Lafayette
UNC Asheville*
Gardner-Webb
Charleston Southern
Furman*
Morehouse
(non-D1)

George Washington*
Kansas/UAB*

Kansas/UAB*

Clemson
Georgia Tech
Oakland


Last season, the Bulldogs finished 10-8 in the SEC, reached the conference tournament semifinals, and ended up in the NIT. That was due in no small part to a non-conference schedule that paired wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech with losses to Baylor, Chattanooga, Kansas State, and Seton Hall. Had Georgia flipped at least two of those defeats, they might have snuck into the field of 68. This time around, Mark Fox's team will get its chances again, thanks to a slate that looks heavier at the top thanks to a decent CBE field in Kansas City, home games against Texas and Marquette, and trips to Clemson and Horizon contender Oakland. However, the bottom four home games, including one against Division II Morehouse, who Ole Miss is playing in an exhibition, weigh the Dawgs' average down.

Kentucky

Kentucky Wildcats

Average Opponent Score 1.776
At-Large Pool Ranking 7th (avg.); 11th (max.); 5th (min.)
SEC Ranking 2nd (avg.); 2nd (max.); 1st (min.)
Exempt Event* Bluegrass Showcase (four at home)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(1)

Kansas
(SEC/Big 12)
Stephen F. Austin
UCLA
Valparaiso
Duquesne*
Canisius*
Cleveland State*
UT Martin*

Michigan State
(MSG)
North Carolina
(Las Vegas)
Arizona State
(Paradise Island, Bahamas)

Hofstra
(Brooklyn)

Louisville


As usual, John Calipari's schedule is heavy on neutral-site matchups and other games that are made for TV. Curiously, the four worst games on the slate are the Wildcats' four home contests that account for their participation in a five-team round-robin event that sees A 10 struggler Duquesne playing second fiddle. Still, a lineup that features four 2016 NCAA teams, a Louisville team that would have made it without self-imposed sanctions, two NIT squads, and a pair of Pac-12 contenders is going to rate highly on most scales.

Over at A Sea Of Blue, Jason Marcum has a relatively quick summary of UK's slate, and you can bet more is coming over the next few weeks.

LSU

LSU Tigers

Average Opponent Score 1.444 (avg.); 1.505 (max.); 1.360
At-Large Pool Ranking 56th (avg.); 54th (max.); 65th (min.)
SEC Ranking 9th (avg.); 8th (max.); 9th (min.)
Exempt Event Battle 4 Atlantis (three at Paradise Island, Bahamas)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)

Houston
Wofford
College of Charleston
N.C. Central
North Florida
Texas Southern
Southern Mississippi

Wichita State*
Louisville/
Old Dominion*
Michigan State/
Baylor/
VCU/
St. John's*

Texas Tech
(SEC/Big 12)
Wake Forest


Thanks to Ben Simmons' presence on the Tigers' 2015-16 roster, LSU received a lot more national attention than usual, with disastrous results. Now the Australian is in Philadelphia and Johnny Jones will have a roster with less talent and lower expectations that should, save for a trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis, find itself a bit more distant from the national spotlight. Other than that excursion to the Bahamas, the Bayou Bengals' 2016-17 schedule features plenty of winnable non-conference games, particularly the seven PMAC dates. While their metrics may suffer, the Tigers could head into SEC play with higher hopes of finishing the season respectably and, potentially, with a postseason berth.

Ole Miss

Ole Miss Rebels

Average Opponent Score 1.294 (avg.); 1.362 (max.); 1.225 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 88th (avg.); 81st (max.); 95th (min.)
SEC Ranking 12th (avg.); 12th (max.); 12th (min.)
Exempt Event* U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam (one at home, three at St. Thomas, V.I.)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)

Baylor
(SEC/Big 12)
Memphis
Middle Tennessee
Massachusetts
Murray State
Montana*
UT Martin
South Alabama
Bradley

Oral Roberts*
Saint Joseph's/
Loyola (Chicago)*
Creighton/
North Carolina State/
Montana/
Washington State*

Virginia Tech


For as well as SEC teams generally built their non-conference schedules, the conference's three 'M' squads didn't quite follow the script. Now, the Rebels did better than either their in-state rivals or Mizzou, but this schedule isn't quite as strong as those in the top half of the conference. The reasons are threefold: there's just one road trip (to play a Virginia Tech squad that really might run into non-conference schedule issues), an uninspiring list of home games outside of the top three on the list above, and a relatively weak Paradise Jam field.

Ole Miss looks like a fringe bid threat heading into the season and if the Rebels fail to pick up enough wins against this schedule, they'll find themselves in trouble come March.

Red Cup Rebellion's Jim Lohmar wrote up a quick look at the schedule, while reader Me and Paul did a more comprehensive KenPom-based analysis.

Miss St

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Average Opponent Score 1.119 (avg.); 1.206 (max.); 1.077 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 126th (avg.); 110th (max.); 125th (min.)
SEC Ranking 14th (avg.); 14th (max.); 14th (min.)
Exempt Event* Gildan Charleston Classic (three at Charleston, S.C.)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3-4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(0-1)

Oregon State
Georgia State
Morehead State
Lehigh
ETSU
Norfolk State
Northwestern State
UMKC

UCF*
Boise State/
College of Charleston*
Villanova/
Wake Forest/
UTEP/
Western Michigan*
Southern Mississippi
(Jackson, Miss.)

Boise State/College of Charleston*


Potentially, the Bulldogs could take a big step forward in Ben Howland's second season, but thanks to the SEC's worst non-conference schedule, this stage of the progression might end with an NIT trip rather than an NCAA bid. For starters, Miss. State won't play a true road game, unless they run into host College of Charleston on day two of the Charleston Classic. And as for that tournament as a whole, meeting up with the defending National Champs on day three is likely the only way for the Bulldogs to play a truly quality opponent in South Carolina. And things don't get better when examining at the home slate, as games against Oregon State and Georgia State look like the biggest tests by far.

In short, this uninspiring slate looks to be designed with getting Mississippi State's roster some confidence before SEC play.

Ethan Lee at For Whom The Cowbell Tolls thinks the Bulldogs' schedule has some interesting quirks.

Missouri

Missouri Tigers

Average Opponent Score 1.286 (avg.); 1.341 (max.); 1.200 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 94th (avg.); 84th (max.); 103rd (min.)
SEC Ranking 13th (avg.); 13th (max.); 13th (min.)
Exempt Event* Tire Pros Invitational (three at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(0)

Arizona
Western Kentucky
N.C. Central
Miami (Ohio)
Northwestern State
Eastern Illinois
Lipscomb
Alabama A&M

Xavier*
Clemson/Davidson*
Oklahoma/
Northern Iowa/
Arizona State/
Tulane*
Illinois
(St. Louis)


Kim Anderson is 19-44 after two seasons in Columbia, Mo., and Tiger fans are getting a bit restless. And the coach's might get a bit more uncomfortable, even with a schedule that features seven winnable home games and no true road trips. That's because this slate also includes a visit from Pac-12 power Arizona, a Braggin' Rights showdown against an Illinois squad that also has a coach needing a strong season, and potentially brutal trip to Florida for what was originally the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Unless Mizzou has some serious surprises up its collective sleeve early, it's looking like a long winter for Anderson's crew.

Back in May, Rock M Nation's Sam Snelling took a look at the 10 teams that were on the Tigers' slate at that time. It's well worth your time.

SC

South Carolina Gamecocks

Average Opponent Score 1.392
At-Large Pool Ranking 71st (avg.); 79th (max.); 58th (min.)
SEC Ranking 10th (avg.); 11th (max.); 8th (min.)
Exempt Event* Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational (three at home, one at Brooklyn)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(0)
Semi-Away Games
(2)
True Away Games
(2)

Michigan
Clemson
Louisiana Tech
Vermont
Monmouth*
Holy Cross
FIU
South Carolina State*
Lander (non-D1)

Syracuse*
(Brooklyn)
Seton Hall
(MSG)

Memphis
USF


A schedule with games against Michigan, Seton Hall, and fellow 2016 bubble teams Monmouth and Syracuse would have helped the Gamecocks in their quest to reach the NCAAs—one that ended in failure despite a perfect 13-0 non-conference mark. But wins over Clemson, Memphis, Hofstra, and even eventual First Four team Tulsa didn't persuade the Selection Committee. So, Frank Martin upped his schedule just in time for a probable rebuilding year. Even though Sindarius Thornwell returns for his senior season, three of South Carolina's other key cogs from a season ago are gone. Therefore, this improved slate (even if it's weighted down by the bottom four home games and a trip to woeful USF) might not do much for the Gamecocks' postseason hopes.

At Garnet And Black Attack, Sydney Hunte previews five Gamecock non-conference tilts to watch.

Tennessee

Tennessee Volunteers

Average Opponent Score 1.507 (avg.); 1.577 (max.); 1.355 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 45th (avg.); 41st (max.); 67th (min.)
SEC Ranking 7th (avg.); 6th (max.); 10th (min.)
Exempt Event* Maui Jim Maui Invitational (one at home, three at Lahaina, Hawai'i)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2-3)
Semi-Away Games
(0-1)
True Away Games
(1)

Kansas State
(SEC/Big 12)
Georgia Tech
Chattanooga*
ETSU
Tennessee Tech
Appalachian State
Lipscomb
Presbyterian

Gonzaga
(Nashville)

Wisconsin*
Oregon/Georgetown*
North Carolina/
Connecticut/
Oklahoma State/
Chaminade
(non-D1)
*

North Carolina/
Connecticut/
Oklahoma State/
Chaminade
(non-D1)
*

North Carolina


Rocky Top Talk's Will Shelton sent me his breakdown of the Volunteers' 2016-17 non-conference slate.

Tennessee is in Maui this year, so there was already some heavy lifting on this schedule. But Rick Barnes continues to schedule like he was at Texas even though the Vols have a ways to go to get to the level of play he enjoyed there. The Vols get Gonzaga in Nashville after playing them in Seattle last season. And Tennessee travels to Chapel Hill, the first non-tournament meeting for the Vols and Tar Heels since the 1940's. North Carolina will come to Knoxville next season.

There are also a pair of dangerous in-state games: Tennessee opens the season hosting Chattanooga and later travels to East Tennessee State, both of which were Top 100 RPI squads last year. There are plenty of opportunities for big wins, but the Vols will have a lot of youth that will get thrown into the fire early and often. Last year Barnes' first squad in Knoxville managed to avoid big upsets before conference play sparked by senior leadership from Kevin Punter and Armani Moore. It will be interesting to see if his second group can duplicate that feat while also looking for the big non-conference win that eluded the Vols last year.

In their 13 non-conference games last season, the Vols finished with a 7-6 mark. With this slate, matching that record would be quite an accomplishment for a team that's still very much on the rebound.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M Aggies

Average Opponent Score 1.342 (avg.); 1.406 (max.); 1.273 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 77th (avg.); 74th (max.); 87th (min.)
SEC Ranking 11th (avg.); 10th (max.); 11th (min.)
Exempt Event* Directv Wooden Legacy (two at Fullerton, Calif., one at Anaheim, Calif.)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(1-2)
Semi-Away Games
(1-2)
True Away Games
(1)

USC
Denver
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
American
Northwestern State
St. Francis (Pa.)
South Carolina State

Arizona
(Houston)

New Mexico/
Virginia Tech*
UCLA/Dayton/
Nebraska/Portland*

Cal State Northridge*
UCLA/Dayton/
Nebraska/Portland*

West Virginia
(SEC/Big 12)


Good Bull Hunting's gigthem08 passed along these words on the Aggies' upcoming non-SEC slate. He wrote the site's early breakdown as well.

The 2016-2017 SEC title defense begins with two very likely home wins against Northwestern State and American, before ramping up significantly with a visit from USC. The Aggies will then hit the DirecTV Wooden Legacy tournament over the Thanksgiving break, starting with a favorable draw against Cal State Northridge. Dayton, UCLA, and Virginia Tech are among the likely opponents in subsequent rounds.

December softens up considerably, with three very likely home victories (A&M-CC; Denver, SCSU) in a span of six days. That condensed schedule will give A&M a full week off before the biggest game of the non-conference slate: December 17th against Arizona (in Houston). Texas A&M gets one last tune-up home game against St. Francis before the start of SEC play, and they'll take a tricky, tricky trip to West Virginia as part of the Big XII/SEC challenge on January 28th.

All in all, it's a solid non-conference scheduling effort by Billy Kennedy and Texas A&M. There aren't many good home opponents, so the locals will do a little grumbling over November and December, but the overall quality of opposition will be worth it.

In 2016, the Aggies served as Kentucky's main foil in the battle for both SEC crowns, and they head into the new season looking for at least a repeat of that performance. But thanks to a home slate that features seven teams that don't look likely to challenge for the NCAAs (well, maybe USC), this A&M squad will have to prove itself on away from Reed Arena. Therefore, in November and December, the winnable Wooden Legacy and a game against Arizona in Houston, a short trip from College Station, will be the best opportunities for the Aggies to earn further national respect.

Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt Commodores

Average Opponent Score 1.589 (avg.); 1.646 (max.); 1.532 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 28th (avg.); 28th (max.); 28th (min.)
SEC Ranking 4th (avg.); 4th (max.); 4th (min.)
Exempt Event Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational (two at home, two at Las Vegas)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(2)

Iowa State
(SEC/Big 12)
Belmont
Chattanooga
High Point
Bucknell*
Norfolk State*
Tennessee State

Butler*
Arizona/Santa Clara*
Marquette
(Annapolis, Md.)

Minnesota
(Sioux Falls, S.D.)

Dayton
Middle Tennessee


Despite some unconvincing non-conference performances, Vanderbilt snuck into the 2016 NCAA field on the strength of wins over Florida, Kentucky, and Texas A&M. After the Commodores fell to Wichita State in the First Four, Kevin Stallings shocked the college hoops world by jumping to a Pitt job vacated by Jamie Dixon. But the Commodores did a pretty good job in replacing a coach who was close to wearing out his welcome, as Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew moved south to take Stallings' place.

Drew's first Vandy schedule is challenging, thanks in part to the strength of the in-state opposition the 'Dores will encounter and the field they'll face in Las Vegas (as long as they don't draw Santa Clara on night two). Just two games here—a Las Vegas Invitational home game with Norfolk State and a visit from John Brown-less High Point—look like absolute clunkers. That means Vanderbilt should find itself in better bid position by the time SEC play starts up in late December.

At Anchor Of Gold, Christian D'Andrea wrote a quick review of Vandy's non-conference lineup, featuring a look at the worst and best games.

This series concludes tomorrow with a look at the schedules of two dozen mid-majors with postseason potential.

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