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Analyzing the ACC's Non-Conference Schedules For 2016-17

This March, the Atlantic Coast Conference could send a record number of teams to the NCAAs.

But that total will only reach the double digits some publications have projected if enough ACC squads take care of business during November and December. Some squads have finally taken control of their destinies after years of taking the first few weeks of the season too easy, while others are still stick their heads in the sand after hearing the Selection Committee's advice.

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.

Update 10/05/2016: Due to the late addition of Albany to SMU's schedule, I've adjusted the numbers from those originally published on October 3rd.

Update 10/06/2016: I mistakenly counted Virginia's game with UNCG as a home game, when it's an away game. Therefore, I've had to adjust the Cavaliers' scores and overall rankings and means accordingly.

Update 10/07/16: I didn't include Villanova's January home game with Virginia in the original Big East post, so the rankings and averages have been updated yet again.

Update 10/10/16: While finishing the Mountain West post, I noticed that San Diego State added a home game against Savannah State since I first started it. Therefore, scores and rankings have been updated as a result.

Mean Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.406)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
ACC Rank
(out of 15)
North Carolina 1.725 +0.319 12 1
Wake Forest 1.707 +0.301 13 2
Louisville 1.616 +0.210 23 3
Virginia 1.597 +0.191 25 4
Clemson 1.530 +0.124 40 5
Pittsburgh 1.441 +0.035 57 6
Duke 1.423 +0.016 65 7
Georgia Tech 1.327 -0.079 81 8
Syracuse 1.287 -0.120 93 9
Florida State 1.280 -0.126 96 10
Notre Dame 1.236 -0.1706 102 11
Virginia Tech 1.235 -0.1710 103 12
Miami 1.162 -0.244 115 13
Boston College 1.137 -0.270 121 14
N.C. State 1.103 -0.303 129 15
ACC Average 1.387 -0.019 4 of 9*

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

Seven ACC squads have average opponent scores that rank higher than the at-large pool average and sit in the top half the table. Three names from that group jump out as surprises—Wake Forest, Clemson, and Pittsburgh. While the Demon Deacons probably aren't going to contend for an NCAA bid in 2017, the Tigers and Panthers should both be in better position come March than they were with last season's weaker non-conference slates (though in Pitt's case, that only mattered in seeding).

On the other hand, a pair of squads with the talent to move into the NCAAs after spending March of 2016 in the NIT, Florida State and Virginia Tech, could have done a better job in terms of beefing up their preparations for league play.

Best-Case (Maximum) Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.445)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
ACC Rank
(out of 15)
Wake Forest 1.799 +0.355 9 1
North Carolina 1.748 +0.304 14 2
Louisville 1.660 +0.215 24 3
Clemson 1.620 +0.176 32 4
Virginia 1.607 +0.162 35 5
Pittsburgh 1.453 +0.008 66 6
Duke 1.441 -0.004 70 7
Virginia Tech 1.337 -0.108 85 8
Georgia Tech 1.327 -0.117 88 9
Florida State 1.296 -0.149 94 10
Syracuse 1.287 -0.158 97 11
Notre Dame 1.258 -0.187 105 12
Miami 1.231 -0.214 107 13
N.C. State 1.180 -0.264 117 14
Boston College 1.153 -0.292 122 15
ACC Average 1.427 -0.018 4 of 9*

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

Curiously, Wake jumps UNC for the top spot when accounting for each team's best possible performance in their respective exempt event—that is, a championship game appearance. That's undoubtedly due to the win over the 2016 National Champs the Demon Deacons would have to claim to reach the final of the Gildan Charleston Classic. Virginia Tech's slate sneaks into the top half of the ACC, while remaining in the bottom half of the at-large pool with a Directv Wooden Legacy title tilt appearance.

Note that two ACC teams, Georgia Tech and Boston College, are participating in round-robin events, so their schedules are set. With the conference looking to move to a 20-game league slate when the ACC Network is ready to (maybe) join your channel lineup, all 15 members will have to play in an exempt event each and every season to get 11 non-conference dates on their respective schedules. All got a head start on that front this year.

Worst-Case (Minimum) Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.360)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
ACC Rank
(out of 15)
North Carolina 1.695 +0.335 8 1
Wake Forest 1.614 +0.255 15 2
Virginia 1.588 +0.228 21 3
Louisville 1.549 +0.189 26 4
Pittsburgh 1.429 +0.069 47 5
Clemson 1.4096 +0.050 51 6
Duke 1.404 +0.044 54 7
Georgia Tech 1.327 -0.037 71 8
Syracuse 1.287 -0.074 83 9
Florida State 1.264 -0.097 91 10
Notre Dame 1.213 -0.147 101 11
Virginia Tech 1.128 -0.232 117 12
Boston College 1.121 -0.239 120 13
Miami 1.044 -0.316 127 14
N.C. State 1.031 -0.329 130 15
ACC Average 1.340 -0.020 4 of 9*

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

Thanks to the weakness of the field in Orange County, Virginia Tech's slate drops to the ACC's bottom four in a Thanksgiving weekend disaster scenario that would see them in the Wooden Legacy's 7th/8th-place game. North Carolina, meanwhile, returns to the top spot, as the bottom half of the Maui Invitational field is light years ahead of what Wake Forest would potentially encounter in Charleston.

True Road And Non-D1 Games

True Road Games
Scheduled
True Road Games
Scheduled Against
Non-Power 6 Teams
Non-Division I Games
Scheduled
21-22
(7 ACC/B1G Challenge)
8-9 1


When you take the ACC/Big Ten Challenge out of the equation, the ACC's 15 members haven't even managed to schedule a true road game each, which is historically consistent. Note that the number of road games (and such games against non-power teams) would rise by one if Wake ends up meeting the College of Charleston on its home floor on the third day of the Charleston Classic.

The only non-Division I game scheduled is UNC's Maui Invitational quarterfinal against Chaminade, though the zero doesn't act as an anchor the Tar Heels' average opponent score in any of the three methods. I'll get more into why as I look at each of the 15 slates.

Team Capsules

BC

Boston College Eagles

Average Opponent Score 1.137 (avg.); 1.153 (max.); 1.121 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 121st (avg.); 122nd (max.); 120th (min.)
ACC Ranking 14th (avg.); 15th (max.); 13th (min.)
Exempt Event* Barclays Center Classic (two at home, two at Brooklyn)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(0)
Providence
Harvard
Stony Brook*
Towson*
Dartmouth
Sacred Heart
Hartford
UMES
Nicholls State

Kansas State*
Maryland/
Richmond*
Auburn
(MSG)
Fairfield
(Uncasville, Conn.)


After a 2015-16 campaign that saw the Eagles lose every single ACC contest—after sandwiching a six-game non-conference losing streak between a season-opening three-game winning run and late December one of four-games, it's no surprise that Jim Christian wasn't overly ambitious in building BC's 2016-17 early season slate. The Eagles won't play a true road game before ACC play, though they'll play a trio of games in New York and take part in the first-ever Birthday of Basketball Event, hosted by the Naismith Hall of Fame at the Mohegan Sun. Matchups against Providence, Auburn, and Kansas State, three power-conference squads that aren't likely to be world beaters, should serve as early litmus tests for the Eagles. If BC can be competitive against the trio, its chances of finishing better than 15th in the ACC would slightly improve.

For more info, head over to BC Interruption for a quick look at Boston College's complete basketball schedule for 2016-17.

Clemson

Clemson Tigers

Average Opponent Score 1.530 (avg.); 1.620 (max.); 1.410 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 40th (avg.); 33rd (max.); 51st (min.)
ACC Ranking 5th (avg.); 4th (max.); 6th (min.)
Exempt Event* Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off (three at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)
Georgia
Nebraska
(ACC/B1G)
UNCW
Mercer
High Point
South Carolina State
Coppin State

Davidson*
Xavier/Missouri*
Oklahoma/
Northern Iowa/
Arizona State/
Tulane*

Alabama
South Carolina


After playing in Greenville for a year while Littlejohn Coliseum underwent much needed renovations, Jaron Blossomgame and the Tigers return to campus with the NCAA Tournament as a legitimate goal and a non-conference schedule that just might help get them there. While the Tigers' two true road games might not be as helpful as they would have been last season, their top four home games have potential, particularly Georgia's visit, as the Bulldogs are likely to join Clemson on the bubble.

But the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-Off provides the best opportunity for Brad Brownell's squad. If the Tigers can knock off a quality Davidson squad in the quarterfinals, a semifinal against national contender Xavier would almost assuredly follow. On the flip side, a loss would send Clemson to the loser's bracket, where two of the likely opponents, Missouri and Tulane, are probable RPI anchors.

Duke

Duke Blue Devils

Average Opponent Score 1.423 (avg.); 1.441 (max.); 1.404 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 65th (avg.); 70th (max.); 54th (min.)
ACC Ranking 7th (avg.); 7th (max.); 7th (min.)
Exempt Event Hall of Fame Tip-Off (two at home, two at Uncasville, Conn.)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(5)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(0)
Michigan State
(ACC/B1G)
William & Mary
Grand Canyon*
Tennessee State
Marist*
Appalachian State
Maine

Penn State*
Cincinnati/
Rhode Island*
Kansas
(MSG)
Florida
(MSG)
Elon
(Greensboro, N.C.)
UNLV
(T-Mobile Arena,
Las Vegas)


The Blue Devils' schedule, a typical Mike Krzyzewski effort heavy on home and neutral-site games, is a tick weaker than originally planned. That's due to the replacement of perennial America East contender Albany with MAAC struggler Marist for one of Duke's two Hall of Fame Tip-Off home games. That's due the New York State government's boycott over North Carolina's HB2 law, something that affects SUNY institutions.

Other than the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tilt with Michigan State and a potentially tricky visit from William & Mary, Duke's home slate is the opposite of daunting. Thus, the Blue Devils' four top neutral-site games will do a lot of the heavy lifting from a metrics perspective. However, if this squad is as good as advertised, seeding won't be much of an issue for them.

FSU

Florida State Seminoles

Average Opponent Score 1.280 (avg.); 1.296 (max.); 1.264 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 96th (avg.); 94th (max.); 91st (min.)
ACC Ranking 10th (avg.); 10th (max.); 10th (min.)
Exempt Event* NIT Season Tip-Off (two at home, two at Brooklyn)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(0)
Florida
Iona
Minnesota
(ACC/B1G)
Detroit*
Winthrop*
Southern Mississippi
Charleston Southern
Samford
Nicholls State
Manhattan
(Sunrise, Fla.)
Temple*
West Virginia/Illinois*
George Washington
(Verizon Center)


Florida State last qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2012, and the Seminoles will need to make the most of their top five non-conference games to give themselves a bit of breathing room during ACC play. Defeating Temple in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinal is vital, as Big 12 contender West Virginia would likely meet the Noles in Friday's final. This home-heavy slate, particularly those bottom five games, and the assignment of a weak Minnesota squad in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge do Leonard Hamilton's squad no favors.

Head over to Tomahawk Nation to read the thoughts friend of the blog Michael Rogner has on FSU's November and December slate.

GT

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Average Opponent Score 1.327
At-Large Pool Ranking 81st (avg.); 88th (max.); 71st (min.)
ACC Ranking 8th (avg.); 9th (max.);  8th (min.)
Exempt Event* Georgia Tech MTE (four at home)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(0)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(3)
Georgia
Ohio*
Wofford
Sam Houston State*
Tulane
Southern*
Tennessee Tech*
Alcorn State
North Carolina A&T

VCU
Tennessee
Penn State
(ACC/B1G)


The Yellow Jackets have a new coach, former Memphis boss Josh Pastner—a puzzling hire that nearly prompted a ticker-tape parade down Beale Street. Last season, Tech had a shot at the NCAAs until almost the very end, until a late three-point loss at Louisville and 20-point beatdown at the hands of Virginia in the ACC Tournament sent Brian Gregory's squad to the NIT. This schedule is one that screams "lowered expectations," with nine home games, most of which are winnable, and three road trips that might not be.

Drew Gordon has a more comprehensive breakdown of the Ramblin' Wreck's early season lineup over at From The Rumble Seat.

Louisville

Louisville Cardinals

Average Opponent Score 1.616 (avg.); 1.660 (max.); 1.549 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 23rd (avg.); 25th (max.); 26th (min.)
ACC Ranking 3rd (avg.); 3rd (max.); 4th (min.)
Exempt Event* Battle 4 Atlantis (one at home, three at Paradise Island, Bahamas)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(1)
Kentucky
Purdue
(ACC/B1G)
Evansville
Long Beach State*
William & Mary
Eastern Kentucky
Southern Illinois
Texas Southern

Old Dominion*
Wichita State/LSU*
Michigan State/
Baylor/VCU/
St. John's*
Indiana
(Indianapolis)
Grand Canyon


This breakdown doesn't truly illustrate how brutal the Cardinals' schedule gets, particularly in late December. That's because, as Card Chronicle's Mike Rutherford points out, the home game with UK and visit to Indy to take on IU are part of a brutal four-game stretch that also includes Louisville's first two ACC games. Those happen to be against Virginia at the KFC Yum! Center and Notre Dame on the road.

Overall, this schedule will prepare the Cards for a return to the NCAAs after last year's self-imposed exile and should help their case for a high seed, provided they get the results. Purdue was an almost ideal draw for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, virtually every home opponent should, at worst, be a mid-tier team in its respective league, and the road game against Grand Canyon will be an intriguing challenge, even if the Antelopes aren't yet tourney-eligible.

Miami

Miami Hurricanes

Average Opponent Score 1.162 (avg.); 1.231 (max.); 1.044 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 115th (avg.); 107th (max.); 127th (min.)
ACC Ranking 13th (avg.); 13th (max.); 14th (min.)
Exempt Event* AdvoCare Invitational (three at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(3-4)
True Neutral-Site Games
(0-1)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
George Washington Columbia
Western Carolina
Rutgers
(ACC/B1G)
Penn
FAU
South Carolina State
Stanford*
Iowa State/
Indiana State*
Gonzaga/Florida/
Seton Hall/
Quinnipiac*
Wofford
(American Airlines Arena, Miami)
Gonzaga/
Florida/
Seton Hall/
Quinnipiac*

North Florida


Jerry Steinberg, managing editor of State of the U, was kind enough to send me his thoughts on Miami's 2016-17 non-conference slate.

In 2016, Miami basketball will have a nice mix of talented freshmen and battle-tested holdovers that could make them a surprise contender in the ACC and beyond.

They start the season with a slew of easy opponents like Western Carolina, Wofford, and Delaware.

But given that this will be a team seeking to find it's identity early on, no opponent should be taken lightly.

On November 30th they draw a somewhat disappointing assignment in Rutgers, as part of the ACC-B1G challenge. A more marquee name might have given us a better, early clue as to how good this team can be.

However, the Hurricanes will learn a lot more about how good freshmen Top 30 prospects Bruce Brown and Dewan Huell are, as they take on the Stanford Cardinal in the AdvoCare Invitational on Thanksgiving.

Potential match-ups with talented clubs like Iowa State, Seton Hall, and Florida also loom, should the 'Canes advance.

They face a very plucky program in George Washington on 12/22. GW defeated Virginia last season, so you know Coach Jim Larrañaga's staff will be on high alert for this one.

Overall, UM's OOC schedule is not one with a lot of trap games, nor is it the sexiest.

But their are enough challenges, that they should enter ACC play prepared and seasoned enough to make some noise in the toughest conference in America.

Be sure to visit State of the U to read Jerry's mid-September thoughts on the Canes' overall slate.

Keep in mind that in each of the last two seasons, Miami has lost at least one headscratcher at home (Northeastern in 2015, Green Bay and Eastern Kentucky in 2014). For 2016, the HoopHall Invitational semi-home game against SoCon power Wofford could fit that role. It's one of the rare trap games on the slate, following both a loaded AdvoCare Invitational and that uninspiring ACC/Big Ten Challenge date with Rutgers.

But if the Hurricanes can repeat their 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off run in Orlando, a loss to the Terriers would do just as much damage as last year's setback against the Huskies—not much. That's because a win over Stanford on Thanksgiving afternoon would likely lead to a Friday date with Iowa State and a Sunday showdown with one of the three possible NCAA squads in the lower half of the bracket—Gonzaga, Seton Hall, or Florida, the latter of whom the Canes defeated in both 2014 and 2015. A good AdvoCare run would provide the heft Miami needs to make up for the weaker games on its home slate.

UNC

North Carolina Tar Heels

Average Opponent Score 1.725 (avg.); 1.748 (max.); 1.695 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 12th (avg.); 15th (max.); 8th (min.)
ACC Ranking 1st (avg.); 2nd (max.); 1st (min.)
Exempt Event* Maui Jim Maui Invitational (one at home, three at Lahaina, Hawai'i)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(3)
Northern Iowa
Tennessee
Davidson
Long Beach State
Monmouth
Chattanooga*
Radford

Connecticut/
Oklahoma State*
Wisconsin/Oregon/
Georgetown/
Tennessee*
Kentucky
(Las Vegas)
Chaminade
(non-D1)*
Indiana
(ACC/B1G)
Hawai'i
Tulane
(Smoothie King Arena, New Orleans)


North Carolina's opening two weeks aren't as straightforward as you'd expect from an ACC squad, as 2016's National Runner-up opens at Tulane before returning to Chapel Hill to face defending SoCon champ Chattanooga and Big West favorite Long Beach State. Once in the Aloha State, the Tar Heels face last year's Big West champ, Hawai'i, though the 2016-17 Rainbow Warriors, ineligible for this postseason, won't be as strong as the squad that won a tourney game in March.

Only then will Roy Williams' squad get a relative breather, as they're the team that drew D2 Chaminade in the Maui quarterfinals.

Factor in the strength of the rest of the Maui field, an ACC/Big Ten Challenge trip to Bloomington, a showdown with Kentucky in Las Vegas, and the fact that the games against Tennessee and Radford might be the worst on UNC's home slate, and the Tar Heels own one of the more challenging slates in the entire country—even with that Chaminade tilt factored in.

Alex Thompson has a more UNC-focused look at the Heels' complete slate over at Tar Heel Blog.

NC State

North Carolina State Wolfpack

Average Opponent Score 1.103 (avg.); 1.180 (max.); 1.031 (min.);
At-Large Pool Ranking 129th (avg.); 117th (max.); 130th (min.)
ACC Ranking 15th (avg.); 14th (max.); 15th (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)
Loyola (Chicago)*
Rider
Boston University
Georgia Southern
St. Francis-Brooklyn
Fairfield
Tennessee State
(Reynolds Coliseum)
Appalachian State
McNeese State

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

Illinois
(ACC/B1G)


Cat Barber's presence wasn't enough to get the Wolfpack to the NCAAs during a disappointing 2015-16 season. Now he's with the Philadelphia 76ers and Mark Gottfried's team heads into 2016-17 with a one-year tourney drought and a non-conference schedule that screams "extend it to two." N.C. State's schedule was released late, and you have to wonder if that was due to an overwhelming sense of embarrassment and shame. Honestly, if N.C. State doesn't sweep its home games, something will have gone seriously wrong in Raleigh. Add in an underwhelming Paradise Jam field and a disappointing draw for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and there's a great chance the Pack could head into ACC play with a sterling record that might not help them at all on Selection Weekend.

Over at Backing the Pack, their reaction to this slate is pretty similar to mine, though they might not be quite as cynical.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Average Opponent Score 1.236 (avg.); 1.258 (max.); 1.213 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 102nd (avg.); 105th (max.); 101st (min.)
ACC Ranking 11th (avg.); 12th (max.); 11th (min.)
Exempt Event* Legends Classic (two at home, two at Brooklyn)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(0)
Iowa
(ACC/B1G)
Fort Wayne
Colgate
Saint Peter's
Seattle*
Bryant*
Loyola (Md.)
North Carolina A&T
Chicago State

Colorado*
Texas/Northwestern*
Villanova
(Newark, N.J.)
Purdue
(Indianapolis)


With the Fighting Irish in line for an ACC/Big Ten Challenge home date, they will again spend November and December playing in front of largely friendly crowds. (Notre Dame's last true non-conference road game that wasn't a Challenge affair was a November 2011 date against Gonzaga.) The two exceptions are the trip to Newark to face defending National Champion (and former Big East rival) Nova and the Crossroads Classic showdown with Purdue. Considering the weakness of the home slate, a strong showing in those two matchups and in the Legends Classic, ideally with games against both Colorado and Texas, will be necessary to move the Irish into the protected seed conversation before ACC play begins.

Brad Wechter examines the Notre Dame schedule in a bit more detail over at One Foot Down.

Pitt

Pittsburgh Panthers

Average Opponent Score 1.441 (avg.); 1.453 (max.); 1.429 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 57th (avg.); 66th (max.); 47th (min.)
ACC Ranking 6th (avg.); 6th (max.); 5th (min.)
Exempt Event* 2K Classic Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project (two at home, two at MSG)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
Yale
Buffalo
Eastern Michigan*
Morehead State
Omaha
Marshall
Gardner-Webb*
Rice

SMU*
Michigan/Marquette*
Penn State
(Newark, N.J.)
Duquesne
(Consol Energy Center)

Maryland
(ACC/B1G)


Anson Whaley of Cardiac Hill sent along his thoughts on the Panthers' non-conference schedule, the first for new head coach Kevin Stallings.

Pitt's fans have clamored for an upgrade in the team's non-conference schedule for many years. They'll get their wish in 2016. The schedule doesn't feature absolute powerhouses, but it should quietly provide a solid challenge and a nice respite from the steady stream of weaker opponents the Panthers have feasted on in the past. Leading the way are a pair of games in the 2K Classic Championship Rounds. There, Pitt will battle a 25-win SMU team in the first game and, depending how they fare, will then face either Michigan or Marquette. Immediately after that is a date with a Yale team that upset fifth-seeded Baylor in the NCAA Tournament last season followed only a week later by a road trip to Maryland in the ACC-B1G Challenge. Those four games come within the span of under two weeks and will present the team with a stiff challenge. Things don't end there, either. Later in the non-con, Pitt has two rivalry contests in the annual City Game vs. Duquesne and a game with in-state foe Penn State. Consider, too, that the Panthers will be home for only two of those games (Penn State and Yale) and it's easy to see that the non-conference schedule will be plenty challenging with a new coach installing a new system.

Anson also wrote a piece quickly reviewing the Panthers' entire 2016-17 slate over at Cardiac Hill.

When Pitt released this schedule, I was surprised by the improvement from recent Jamie Dixon slates, even with only one true road game among the 13 contests scheduled. The home opponents are much stronger, with only the bottom two teams being absolute pushovers (and Rice should be better this season), and the Legends Classic and ACC/Big Ten tilt with Maryland will be worthy early tests. November and December likely won't put the Panthers in position for a high seed, but this schedule is good enough to give them more bubble breathing room than last year's did.

Syracuse

Syracuse Orange

Average Opponent Score 1.287
At-Large Pool Ranking 93rd (avg.); 97th (max.); 83rd (min.)
ACC Ranking 9th (avg.); 11th (max.); 9th (min.)
Exempt Event* Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational (three at home, one at Brooklyn)

True Home Games
(10)

Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(1)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
Georgetown
St. John's
Eastern Michigan
Monmouth*
North Florida
Boston University
Colgate
Holy Cross*
Cornell
South Carolina State*
South Carolina*
(Brooklyn)
Connecticut
(MSG)

Wisconsin
(ACC/B1G)


With the late commitment of Nebraska transfer Andrew White and the addition of John Gillon from Colorado State to help run the point, the Orange are receiving more preseason attention now than earlier in the offseason. Given Syracuse's earlier roster uncertainty, particularly in the backcourt, it's not surprising that this slate suddenly looks underwhelming. Then again, after reaching the 2016 Final Four after being one of the last teams in, it's not like Jim Boeheim is going to worry too much about seeding.

So, instead of playing in a tournament like the Battle 4 Atlantis this November, the Orange are in a five-team round-robin event that includes a virtual home game in Brooklyn against South Carolina (not likely to share the 2017 bubble with 'Cuse) and an actual home contest against Monmouth (who should contend for an at-large again). Three former Big East rivals join the slate, with Georgetown and St. John's headed to the Carrier Dome and UConn aiming to play another classic against the Orange at Madison Square Garden. And the lone true road game is an ACC/Big Ten tilt with Wisconsin, one that should be a great early measuring stick for Syracuse's national hopes.

Friend of the blog John Cassillo analyzed the building of the Orange's non-conference slate for Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, a piece that summarized Donna Ditota's excellent work on the subject for Syracuse.com.

Virginia

Virginia Cavaliers

Average Opponent Score 1.597 (avg.); 1.607 (max.); 1.588 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 25th (avg.); 36st (max.); 21st (min.)
ACC Ranking 4th (avg.); 5th (max.); 3rd (min.)
Exempt Event* Emerald Coast Classic (two at home, two at Niceville, Fla.)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(3)
West Virginia
Ohio State
(ACC/B1G)
Yale
East Carolina
St. Francis-Brooklyn*
Robert Morris
Grambling State*

Iowa*
Providence/Memphis*

Villanova
California
UNC Greensboro


Brian J. Leung of Streaking The Lawn kindly sent along his thoughts on Tony Bennett's 2016-17 non-conference slate.

Everyone knows that the ACC basketball gauntlet is the toughest in the country. By the time tournament season rolls around, the teams in the nation's toughest conference have been beating each other up for over three months already. Virginia's schedule is no different, but the Hoos also have an out-of-conference schedule that's bound to grab anyone's attention. It's a schedule that includes defending national champions Villanova, right smack in the middle of ACC play. The Hoos also host Ohio State and No. 15 West Virginia back-to-back, and they'll have to travel across the country to play Cal and their sophomore potential lottery pick Ivan Rabb on the road. Another game to mark on your calendar? Virginia transfer Austin Nichols—a preseason All-American—could face his former teammates Memphis in the Emerald Coast Classic. Yes, there are some gimme games on this schedule as you'd expect, but the Cavaliers are definitely looking to put together another No. 1 seed bid with a very strong out of conference slate.

Over at STL, Brian and Caroline Darney wrote an excellent summary of UVa's complete schedule that's worth your time.

The Cavaliers' schedule has a little bit of everything. The only thing missing is a more challenging ACC/Big Ten Challenge game. If only the conferences and ESPN had been creative (trollish?) enough to pair a Virginia team due for a home game with longtime postseason nemesis Michigan State—who was set to travel—instead of giving us yet another Sparty-Duke showdown. (Yawn.) Oh well.

If the Cavaliers take care of business in November and December, they will indeed be in great position to lock down a spot on the top two seed lines for the fourth straight season.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Hokies

Average Opponent Score 1.235 (avg.); 1.337 (max.); 1.128 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 103rd (avg.); 85th (max.); 117th (min.)
ACC Ranking 12th (avg.); 8th (max.); 12th (min.)
Exempt Event* Directv Wooden Legacy (two at Fullerton, Calif, one at Anaheim, Calif.)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(1-3)
Semi-Away Games
(0-2)
True Away Games
(1)
Ole Miss
High Point
Charleston Southern
VMI
UMES
The Citadel
UMBC
Maine

New Mexico*
Texas A&M/Cal State Northridge*
Dayton/UCLA/
Nebraska/Portland*
Texas A&M/Cal State Northridge*
Dayton/UCLA/
Nebraska/Portland*
Michigan
(ACC/B1G)


After a 20-win season and NIT appearance, the Hokies head into the new season with expectations of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. To get there, however, Tech will need to perform strongly in the Wooden Legacy over Thanksgiving weekend and in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge showdown at Michigan that immediately follows. With just one of the eight home games on the slate coming against a quality opponent, a bad showing in Orange County and Ann Arbor will leave Virginia Tech with a profile that screams "LEAVE US OUT," barring a great ACC campaign.

In his look at Tech's slate for Gobbler Country, Jawhar Ali writes that consistent early season performances might be more important for Buzz Williams' squad as preparation for conference season.

Wake

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Average Opponent Score 1.707 (avg.); 1.799 (max.); 1.614 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 13th (avg.); 10th (max.); 15th (min.)
ACC Ranking 2nd (avg.); 1st (max.); 2nd (min.)
Exempt Event* Gildan Charleston Classic (three at Charleston, S.C.)
True Home Games
(5)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2-3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(4-5)
LSU
Bucknell
Charlotte
Coastal Carolina
Radford

UTEP*
Villanova/
Western Michigan*
Boise State/
Mississippi State/
College of Charleston/
UCF*

Boise State/
Mississippi State/
College of Charleston/
UCF*
Xavier
Richmond
Northwestern
(ACC/B1G)
UNC Greensboro


Thanks to the possibility of five true road games and the potential of a Charleston Classic semifinal matchup against Villanova, Wake Forest's non-conference slate ranks second among all ACC teams when accounting for average scores. Since Danny Manning's team still appears to be a ways from NCAA contention, look for the Demon Deacons to take their lumps over the season's first two months. Honestly, it's too bad Wake and Virginia Tech can't just swap.

On second thought, with LSU and most of the Charleston Classic field (other than Nova) likely to underperform their opponent ratings this year, maybe things won't be quite so dire for the Deacs. That's the opinion of Ned Harwood of Blogger So Dear who thinks Wake's 2016-17 non-conference schedule is a bit more manageable than last year's.

This might be a case where the numbers aren't telling the whole story, but we'll know more by the time the New Year rolls around.

The 10 teams of the Big 12 are on deck for Thursday.

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