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Analyzing The Big 12's Non-Conference Schedules For 2016-17

Might the conference send 70% of its membership to the NCAA Tournament again?

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In March of 2016, six Big 12 at-large entries joined tournament champion Kansas in the field of 68. Thanks to the strength of the league as a whole, Texas Tech and West Virginia were able to easily make the field despite not doing a great job of building their November and December schedules. After analyzing this season's crop of non-conference schedules, the Red Raiders and Mountaineers will have to hope for a repeat this March.

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 10/06/2016: 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.

Update 10/11/16: While reviewing the Pac-12's schedules again for that post, I noticed that Oregon added not one but two games since I started—one against (drumroll) Savannah State (!) and another against non-D1 Western Washington. That really shook up the standings and averages, so these have again been updated.

Mean Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.406)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
Big 12 Rank
(out of 10)
Kansas 1.758 +0.352 10 1
Texas 1.585 +0.179 29 2
Oklahoma 1.518 +0.112 43 3
Iowa State 1.503 +0.097 46 4
Oklahoma State 1.487 +0.081 50 5
Baylor 1.430 +0.024 63 6
West Virginia 1.183 -0.223 112 7
TCU 1.173 -0.233 113 8
Kansas State 1.128 -0.279 123 9
Texas Tech 0.974 -0.432 133 10
Big 12 average 1.374 -0.032 6 of 9*

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

Six of the 10 Big 12 schools have mean opponent average scores that rank in the top half of the at-large pool, but, as you'd expect, only Kansas breaks the top 10 nationally. At-large contenders West Virginia and Texas Tech join likely second-division squads TCU and Kansas State in the national bottom 30, with the Red Raiders' average non-conference opponent ranking third from bottom. Tech's score doesn't even crack 1.000, meaning that its slate is loaded with home cupcakes. On the other hand, Oklahoma State—another squad likely to struggle—surprisingly ranks fifth, due in no small part to road games at Maryland and Tulsa.

Keep in mind that each Big 12 team is participating in a bracketed exempt event this season, so the maximum and minimum schedule rankings will see more change than in this series' three previous entries.

Best-Case (Maximum) Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.445)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
Big 12 Rank
(out of 10)
Kansas 1.761 +0.316 13 1
Oklahoma State 1.610 +0.165 34 2
Texas 1.594 +0.149 38 3
Iowa State 1.568 +0.123 44 4
Oklahoma 1.548 +0.104 47 5
Baylor 1.495 +0.051 58 6
TCU 1.195 -0.250 113 7
West Virginia 1.187 -0.258 115 8
Kansas State 1.144 -0.301 125 9
Texas Tech 1.000 -0.445 133 10
Big 12 average 1.410 -0.035 6 of 9*

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

Kansas retains the top spot in the best-case ranking, which projects each team making the championship game in its respective exempt event. However, the Jayhawks fall out of the national top 10, likely because of the relatively weak field for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic and its Kansas City location. Since KU plays regularly at Sprint Center, its two CBE games count as semi-home contests, meaning they don't quite get the boost a team playing a true neutral-site game would receive in my rating system.

On the other hand, Oklahoma State jumps from fifth in the Big 12 to second in the unlikely event that they defeat UConn and UNC en route to a hypothetical Maui Jim Maui Invitational final appearance against Oregon. Those three high-quality neutral-site matchups would do wonders for an already decent Cowboy slate.

Texas Tech manages to get to 1.000, while remaining in last, thanks to its hypothetical Auburn-Purdue path in the Cancun Challenge.

Worst-Case (Minimum) Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.360)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
Big 12 Rank
(out of 10)
Kansas 1.755 +0.395 7 1
Texas 1.576 +0.216 23 2
Oklahoma 1.483 +0.123 38 3
Iowa State 1.383 +0.023 60 4
Oklahoma State 1.350 -0.002 66 5
Baylor 1.192 -0.011 68 6
West Virginia 1.178 -0.182 109 7
TCU 1.151 -0.209 113 8
Kansas State 1.112 -0.249 123 9
Texas Tech 0.948 -0.412 134 10
Big 12 average 1.329 -0.030 5 of 9*

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

On the flip side, the relative consistency of the CBE Classic field, along with the fact that only four teams are involved in the bracket, helps Kansas in the worst-case scenario ranking. A loss to UAB followed by a meeting with Georgia isn't quite as damaging to the Jayhawks' average opponent score as what would happen to Oklahoma State's after a disastrous Maui showing, for example. In the Cowboys' case, a trip to the 7th/8th-place game in Maui would involve a loss to UConn, a second day meeting with D2 Chaminade (which counts as a zero in my ratings system), and a concluding showdown with Tennessee. Such a path would keep Oklahoma State in the Big 12 top five, but barely in the top half of the national table.

True Road And Non-D1 Games

True Road Games
Scheduled
True Road Games
Scheduled Against
Non-Power 6 Teams
Non-Division I Games
Scheduled
16
(5 SEC/Big 12 Challenge)
6 3-4


Taking the five conference challenge games out of the equation, Big 12 members are scheduled to play roughly one true road game apiece, with just a little more than half of those contests benefitting teams from outside of the six power conferences. (And that total doesn't include Oklahoma State's trip to Wichita to play the Shockers off campus.)

However, three Big 12 teams have non-Division I teams on their schedules, and in the likely event Oklahoma State falls to UConn in the Maui quarterfinals and faces Chaminade on day two, the Cowboys will have two on their slate.

Team Capsules

Baylor

Baylor Bears

Average Opponent Score 1.430 (avg.); 1.495 (max.); 1.350 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 63rd (avg.); 58th (max.); 68th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 5th (avg.); 6th (max.); 6th (min.)
Exempt Event* Battle 4 Atlantis (one at home, three at Paradise Island, Bahamas)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
Oregon
Xavier
Sam Houston State
FGCU*
Oral Roberts
Texas Southern
Southern
John Brown
(non-D1)
Jackson State
(Fort Hood)
VCU*
Michigan State/St. John's*
Louisville/
Wichita State/
LSU/Old Dominion*

Ole Miss
(SEC/Big 12)


Last season, Baylor played, and lost, two true road games during its non-conference schedule en route to earning a five seed in the NCAAs. That placement was largely due to the strength of the Big 12 and the quality of those two away setbacks, which came against Oregon and Texas A&M. This season, the Bears won't play a true road non-conference road game until the SEC/Big 12 Challenge in January. Yet, as SiberianBear noted over at Our Daily Bears, Scott Drew's team's 2016-17 schedule is of higher quality than last season's.

A return game against Oregon and the start of a home-and-home with Xavier, both likely national contenders, helps fuel the improvement. So does Baylor's participation in the Battle 4 Atlantis—which boasts a stronger field than 2015's five-team round-robin that featured the Ducks and three truly awful opponents. While Scott Drew lost a considerable amount of talent from a team that fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, the Bears will be in the bid hunt again. And this schedule should give Baylor plenty of opportunities to prove themselves early on.

Iowa St

Iowa State Cyclones

Average Opponent Score 1.503 (avg.); 1.568 (max.); 1.383 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 46th (avg.); 44th (max.); 60th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 4th (avg.); 4th (max.); 4th (min.)
Exempt Event* AdvoCare Invitational (three at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
True Home Games
(6)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2-4)
Semi-Away Games
(0-2)
True Away Games
(2)
Cincinnati
Omaha
Mount St. Mary's
Savannah State
The Citadel
Mississippi Valley State

Indiana State*
Miami/Stanford*
Gonzaga/Florida/
Seton Hall/
Quinnipiac*
Drake
(Des Moines)
Miami/Stanford*
Gonzaga/Florida/
Seton Hall/
Quinnipiac*
Iowa
Vanderbilt
(SEC/Big 12)


Like Baylor, Iowa State heads into the new season with several familiar faces having departed, meaning the Cyclones will use November and December to work on chemistry and consistency. The Hilton Coliseum slate is built with those aims in mind—other than the visit from Cincinnati, that is. That game, along with the traditional December meeting with Iowa and a trip to Florida for the challenging AdvoCare Invitational will serve as measuring sticks for Steve Prohm's crew. If the Cyclones get their act together early, they could be in line for another top four seed when March comes around. More than likely, however, Iowa State might struggle a bit in November and December while building toward a Big 12 slate that will give them plenty of opportunities to build an at-large case.

Kansas

Kansas Jayhawks

Average Opponent Score 1.758 (avg.); 1.761 (max.); 1.755 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 10th (avg.); 13th (max.); 7th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 1st (avg.); 1st (max.); 1st (min.)
Exempt Event* CBE Hall of Fame Classic (two at home, two at Kansas City, Mo.)
True Home Games
(6)
Semi-Home Games
(3)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)
Stanford
Nebraska
Long Beach State
UNC Asheville*
Siena*
UMKC
UAB*
Georgia/George Washington*
Davidson
(Kansas City)
Duke
(MSG)
Indiana
(Honolulu)

Kentucky
(SEC/Big 12)
UNLV


Oh look, it's a typical Bill Self Kansas schedule—a decent slate of home games (with a minimal number of metric-deflating teams), some neutral-site made-for-TV goodness mixed with some away made-for-TV goodness, and the annual game (or three) in Kansas City. While this Jayhawk slate isn't quite at the level of last season's—thanks in no small part to swapping Maui for the less daunting CBE event—it's still one that will keep KU in the one seed hunt all year long.

At Rock Chalk Talk, mikeville provides some interesting facts (well, at least to me) on the 2016-17 Kansas non-conference slate.

Kansas St

Kansas State Wildcats

Average Opponent Score 1.128 (avg.); 1.144 (max.); 1.112 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 123rd (avg.); 125th (max.); 123rd (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 9th (avg.); 9th (max.); 9th (min.)
Exempt Event* Barclays Center Classic (two at home, two at Brooklyn)
True Home Games
(7)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(1)
True Away Games
(2)
Green Bay
Omaha
Gardner-Webb
Robert Morris*
Hampton*
Western Illinois
Prairie View
Washington State
(Kansas City)
Boston College*
Maryland/
Richmond*
Colorado State
(Denver)
Tennessee
(SEC/Big 12)
Saint Louis


K-State has missed the last two editions of March Madness, and Bruce Weber's job will be in peril if that streak jumps to three. That honestly looks likely based on this schedule, which features just one guaranteed game against a 2016 NCAA team—Hampton, a 16 seed. That game is part of the Barclays Center Classic, where the Wildcats should be able to add a second—against Maryland, as long as they first grab a win over an awful BC team in the semifinals in Brooklyn. Quasi-neutral games against Washington State and Colorado State aren't likely to move the needle much, and neither will the two road games, one of which is a reunion with deposed Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford, now at Saint Louis.

This slate looks likely to result in 11 or 12 non-league wins that won't mean a thing to the Selection Committee.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Sooners

Average Opponent Score 1.518 (avg.); 1.548 (max.); 1.483 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 43rd (avg.); 47th (max.); 38th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 3rd (avg.); 5th (max.); 3rd (min.)
Exempt Event* Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off (three at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
True Home Games
(6)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
Florida
(SEC/Big 12)
Memphis
Oral Roberts
Northwestern State
Northern Colorado
Abilene Christian
Wichita State
(Oklahoma City)
Tulane*
Northern Iowa/
Arizona State*
Xavier/Clemson/
Davidson/
Missouri*
Auburn
(Uncasville, Conn.)

Wisconsin


The Sooners' roster is yet another that will look markedly different than 2015-16's version, which is a problem coming off a Final Four season. Lon Kruger's new-look squad will be tested early on, particularly when December's contests against Wisconsin, Wichita State, and Memphis arrive. We'll get a good idea of how good Oklahoma during the second weekend of the season, as a favorable draw means the Sooners could reach the final of the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where Xavier is likely to be waiting

At Crimson And Cream Machine, Rich DeCray writes that it's Kruger's opinion that the slate will prepare the young Sooners for the rigors of Big 12 play.

Oklahoma St

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Average Opponent Score 1.487 (avg.); 1.610 (max.); 1.358 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 50th (avg.); 34th (max.); 66th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 5th (avg.); 2nd (max.); 5th (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
(2-3)
Semi-Away Games
(1-2)
True Away Games
(2)
Arkansas
(SEC/Big 12)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Campbell
New Orleans
UAPB
Central Arkansas*
Rogers State
(non-D1)

Connecticut*
North Carolina/
Chaminade
(non-D1)
*
Wisconsin/Oregon/
Georgetown/
Tennessee*
North Carolina/
Chaminade
(non-D1)
*
Wichita State Shockers
(InTrust Bank Arena, Wichita)
Maryland
Tulsa


Travis Ford's reign of mediocrity is over in Stillwater, and former Stephen F. Austin head coach Brad Underwood has moved north to replace him. With some talented newcomers joining the Cowboys for the 2016-17 season, there's hope that Oklahoma State's NCAA drought will last only a year. And thanks to a slate that's features plenty of challenges away from Gallagher-Iba Arena, that's a definite possibility. While the Pokes might struggle a bit in a loaded Maui Invitational field, they'll get chances to grab quality road wins at Maryland, Tulsa, and Wichita State as December unfolds. If the new Cowboys gel quickly, they'll be in position to surprise early. If not, it could be a long season and a second consecutive March spent at home.

If you want to read more about Oklahoma State's non-conference schedule, head over to Cowboys Ride For Free for Jeremy Karll's in-depth review.

TCU

TCU Horned Frogs

Average Opponent Score 1.173 (avg.); 1.195 (max.); 1.151 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 113th (avg.); 113th (max.); 113th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 8th (avg.); 7th (max.); 8th (min.)
Exempt Event* Global Sports Classic (two at home, two at Las Vegas (UNLV))
True Home Games
(10)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(1)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)
Washington
Illinois State
Wofford
Auburn
(SEC/Big 12)
Texas Southern
Arkansas State
Bradley
Alabama State*
Jacksonville State*
St. Thomas (non-D1)

Washington/
Western Kentucky*

SMU
UNLV*


After four seasons, three of which were downright terrible, Trent Johnson is out in Fort Worth, with Jamie Dixon arriving from Pitt to take the reins at his alma mater. Panther fans would find this schedule familiar, other than the two true road games scheduled. Curiously, one of those is the Horned Frogs' Global Sports Classic semifinal matchup with host UNLV. With a win over the Runnin' Rebels, TCU would likely next face Washington, a team already set to visit Fort Worth four days later.

The Frogs' home-heavy slate should give them a nice record heading into Big 12 play, but they'll need to do some serious damage in Big 12 play to make the NCAAs for the first time since 1998. Dixon truly has his work cut out for him.

Texas

Texas Longhorns

Average Opponent Score 1.585 (avg.); 1.594 (max.); 1.576 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 29th (avg.); 38th (max.); 23rd (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 2nd (avg.); 3rd (max.); 2nd (min.)
Exempt Event* Legends Classic (two at home, two at Brooklyn)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(!)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)
Alabama
Long Beach State
UAB
UT Arlington
Kent State
ULM*
Eastern Washington*
Incarnate Word
Arkansas
(Houston)
Northwestern*
Notre Dame/
Colorado*

Michigan
Georgia
(SEC/Big 12)


Burnt Orange Nation's Cody Daniel sent me a paragraph on the Texas fan's perspective on this season's non-conference schedule.

Texas' non-conference slate over the past handful of seasons has featured a few ranked, big-name opponents including North Carolina, Texas A&M in the Bahamas, Kentucky, and Michigan State. That isn't the case for the 2016-17 season and aside from a road meeting with Michigan, there isn't much to be excited about before the 'Horns enter Big 12 play. Michigan may be Texas' only non-conference opponent that's dancing when March arrives, which isn't appealing for the fans. But considering Smart has a young team seeking to replace six seniors, the schedule could mean Texas is sitting pretty and potentially undefeated for its Big 12 opener against Kansas State Dec. 30.

Reaction to Cody's short piece on the schedule at BON was less than positive, primarily because of the Longhorns' home schedule. But my metric is a little more favorable , as the first four home games listed aren't horrible (and the quartet should be helpful metrics-wise, with the possible exception of the visit from Alabama), while Michigan, Arkansas, Georgia, and the second opponent in the Legends Classic are all likely at-large contenders. In short, Texas's November and December lineup might not be as flashy as those of recent years, Shaka Smart's young roster will still have chances to make a mark.

If you want to read more about Texas basketball, BON's Jeff Haley and Jonathan Brashear have an eBook preview of the season slated for release later in October. Having read their in-depth look at the non-conference slate, I can tell you it will be an informative and highly entertaining read. You can pre-order a copy on iTunes or Amazon.

Texas Tech

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Average Opponent Score 0.974 (avg.); 1.000 (max.); 0.948 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 133rd (avg.); 133rd (max.); 134th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 10th (avg.); 10th (max.); 10th (min.)
Exempt Event* Cancun Challenge (two at home, two at Cancun, Mexico)
True Home Games
(10)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
LSU
(SEC/Big 12)
Eastern Kentucky*
Incarnate Word
North Texas
Rice
Idaho State*
UTSA
Houston Baptist
Longwood
Nicholls State

Auburn*
Purdue/Utah State*

Richmond


Last season, the Red Raiders made their first NCAA trip since 2007. Not long afterward, Tubby Smith moved on to Memphis, with Little Rock coach Chris Beard eventually replacing him, after first making a short stop at UNLV. Beard's first schedule looks similar to Smith's final one, which means Tech will probably have to be nearly perfect in November and December and cause a few shocks in Big 12 play to make a repeat tourney appearance. This year's home slate is pillow soft, while Purdue is the only likely NCAA squad the Red Raiders could encounter away from Lubbock.

In his analysis for Viva The Matadors, Eric Linthicum writes that Texas Tech will have to be careful once league play starts because of this slate's deficiencies.

WVU

West Virginia Mountaineers

Average Opponent Score 1.183 (avg.); 1.187 (max.); 1.178 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 112th (avg.); 115th (max.); 109th (min.)
Big 12 Ranking 7th (avg.); 8th (max.); 7th (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
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
Texas A&M
(SEC/Big 12)
Manhattan*
Mount St. Mary's
Radford
New Hampshire*
Northern Kentucky
UMKC
VMI
Mississippi Valley State
Western Carolina
(Charleston, W.V.)
Illinois*
Florida State/
Temple*

Virginia


The Mountaineers rank among the teams positioned to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 crown, but this non-conference schedule does them few favors. Other than a trip to Charlottesville and Texas A&M's January visit to Morgantown, there's not much on this non-conference slate that will help WVU seeding-wise. Improvement out of Illinois and Florida State and continued quality from Temple would add to the importance of the two NIT Season Tip-Off games in Brooklyn. If that doesn't happen, Bob Huggins' squad will be left needing to do a lot of extra work in Big 12 play to secure a protected seed.

Week one of this series concludes tomorrow with a look at the Big East.

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