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

Featuring lots of input from SB Nation's Big East bloggers

Last season, the Big East sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament, a decrease of one from the conference's 2015 total. However, the Villanova Wildcats made up for that drop by winning the whole thing. While the Wildcats have a chance at a repeat, their 2016-17 non-conference schedule might hold them back a bit. That can't be said for the Xavier Musketeers, whose slate ranks as the best among college basketball's six power conferences based on my metric.

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 10/07/16: I didn't include Villanova's January home game with Virginia originally, 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 East Rank
(out of 10)
Xavier 1.866 +0.460 3 1
Seton Hall 1.684 +0.278 15 2
Butler 1.581 +0.175 32 3
St. John's 1.488 +0.082 49 4
Villanova 1.459 +0.053 53 5
Georgetown 1.385 -0.021 74 6
Marquette 1.344 -0.063 76 7
Creighton 1.331 -0.075 80 8
Providence 1.320 -0.086 84 9
DePaul 1.022 -0.384 132 10
Big East average 1.448 0.042 2 of 9*

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

While only half of the Big East ranks in the top half of my projected at-large pool in terms of average opponent score, all but one of the 10 squads sit in the top 100, which is impressive for a power conference. Unfortunately, the exception, now-perennial doormat DePaul, sits only four spots above rock bottom.

Marquette and Creighton, two teams that should contend for a bit, might be in trouble with their below-average non-conference slates. And that's with the Golden Eagles' schedule significantly improved over last season's version.

Best-Case (Maximum) Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.445)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
Big East Rank
(out of 10)
Xavier 1.918 +0.473 3 1
Seton Hall 1.777 +0.332 10 2
Butler 1.643 +0.198 30 3
St. John's 1.519 +0.075 51 4
Villanova 1.503 +0.058 55 5
Georgetown 1.470 +0.026 61 6
Creighton 1.399 -0.046 78 7
Marquette 1.348 -0.097 83 8
Providence 1.328 -0.116 87 9
DePaul 1.054 -0.391 132 10
Big East average 1.496 0.051 2 of 9*

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

With each Big East member participating in a bracketed tournament this fall, the best-case and worst-case scenarios are all in play, though ranking changes are more evident on a national scale. With Oklahoma awaiting Xavier in a projected run to the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-Off final and Seton Hall needing to take out both Florida and Gonzaga to earn an AdvoCare Invitational championship game appearance one week later, it's no wonder both of those squads rank within the national top 11. Georgetown could also receive a nice boost with an unexpected run to the Maui final.

Worst-Case (Minimum) Schedule Ranking

Team Opponent Score Distance From Average
(1.360)
At-Large Pool Rank
(out of 135)
Big East Rank
(out of 10)
Xavier 1.787 +0.427 3 1
Seton Hall 1.553 +0.193 25 2
Butler 1.519 +0.159 32 3
St. John's 1.440 +0.080 44 4
Villanova 1.415 +0.055 50 5
Marquette 1.339 -0.021 69 6
Providence 1.312 -0.048 76 7
Creighton 1.268 -0.092 89 8
Georgetown 1.219 -0.141 98 9
DePaul 0.990 -0.370 131 10
Big East average 1.384 0.024 2 of 9*

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

Even if Xavier were to drop its first two games in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which would set up a hypothetical worst-case matchup with Tulane, the Musketeers' slate would still remain third nationally because of the other games on it, particularly those on the road.

Marquette and Providence, participating in four-team bracketed events, get a bump in this ranking after dropping in the "best-case scenario" table. That's because four-team brackets are typically more balanced than eight-team ones, so there's less of a gap between the first and fourth squads.

True Road And Non-D1 Games

True Road Games
Scheduled
True Road Games
Scheduled Against
Non-Power 6 Teams
Non-Division I Games
Scheduled
19-20
(4 Gavitt Games)
5-6 1-2


Big East members average nearly two true road non-conference games apiece. Only a Villanova-College of Charleston meeting on the third day of the Gildan Charleston Classic would push that number to 2.0. (The Wildcats already host the Cougars in a non-bracketed game.) Creighton was the only team to purposely schedule a non-Division I team, though Georgetown could meet Chaminade on the third day of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

As I move into team capsules, I want to thank our Big East bloggers, particularly Robert O'Neill and his crew at the conference flagship Big East Coast Bias, for their contributions to this piece, which mean you have to read less of my thoughts the rest of the way.

Team Capsules

Butler

Butler Bulldogs

Average Opponent Score 1.581 (avg.); 1.643 (max.); 1.519 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 32nd (avg.); 30th (max.); 32nd (min.)
Big East Ranking 3rd (avg.); 3rd (max.); 3rd (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
(0)
True Away Games
(2)
Cincinnati
Northwestern
(Gavitt Games)
Vermont
Bucknell*
Norfolk State*
Northern Colorado
Central Arkansas

Vanderbilt*
Arizona/
Santa Clara*
Indiana
(Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)

Utah
Indiana State


BECB's Marisa Miller offers these thoughts on Chris Holtmann's schedule for 2016-17.

The Butler Bulldogs this year have a really weird mix of actually difficult non-conference games and easy wins. But with the losses of Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, I honestly can't be certain that these "should be_ easy wins will actually be easy wins. Northern Colorado, Norfolk State, and Central Arkansas should all be gimmies. Utah and Northwestern will be tricky. The real test of the team before the Big East schedule begins is at the Crossroads Classic against IU. That game will determine if this year's Dawgs have bite or just a lot of bark.

Factor in a trip to Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend and this is a rather difficult schedule for a team that's rebuilding after stumbling into the NCAAs last year. If the Bulldogs manage to get past Bryce Drew's Vandy team in the semifinals at Orleans Arena, a game with Arizona would almost assuredly follow. While that would be a likely loss for Butler, it might be one that pays dividends for both for the team's experience level and its metrics.

Creighton

Creighton Bluejays

Average Opponent Score 1.331 (avg.); 1.399 (max.); 1.268 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 80th (avg.); 78th (max.); 89th (min.)
Big East Ranking 8th (avg.); 7th (max.); 8th (min.)
Exempt Event* U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam (one at home, three at St. Thomas, V.I.)
True Home Games
(8)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)
Wisconsin
(Gavitt Games)
Akron
Buffalo
Oral Roberts*
Loyola (Md.)
UMKC
Longwood
Truman State
(non-D1)

Washington State*
North Carolina State/
Montana*
Ole Miss/
Saint Joseph's/
Loyola of Chicago/
Oral Roberts*

Arizona State
Nebraska


This preview of the Bluejays' slate comes courtesy of BECB's Alex Sindelar.

Creighton's non-conference schedule starts with a regional foe, the UMKC Kangaroos out of the Summit League. This will act as a primer for their marquee matchup with Wisconsin in Omaha. That's about as good as it gets for the Bluejays, lest they get a matchup with St. Joe's in the Paradise Jam. Reigning MAC champion Buffalo will visit the Bluejays in what should be a high-scoring affair, as both teams are relatively indifferent to playing defense. Afterwards, the Jays draw MAC Championship loser Akron and intrastate rival Nebraska, the former being a much more appealing matchup as Nebraska hasn't had the best of luck against Creighton (the Bluejays will have a chance to tie the series record at 25-25 with a win this year). The non-conference slate will essentially end with a trip to Tempe, where Creighton will attempt to get revenge against Arizona State after a 79-77 loss in Omaha last year. Five games into the conference slate Creighton will host the Truman State Bulldogs, a D-II team, to finish out their non-conference schedule in what should be an excellent showing of the Bluejays' depth.

Alex wrote a more detailed look at the Jays' schedule over at Big East Coast Bias.

To be honest, other than that game against the Badgers, there's not much quality on the early slate for a Creighton squad that should finish in the top half of the Big East, a position that should put Greg McDermott's in the thick of the at-large hunt. But when you consider the Paradise Jam likely won't add much heft, this non-league slate could end up causing the Bluejays some serious worry in March.

DePaul

DePaul Blue Demons

Average Opponent Score 1.022 (avg.); 1.054 (max.); 0.990 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 132nd (avg.); 132nd (max.); 131st (min.)
Big East Ranking 10th (avg.); 10th (max.); 10th (min.)
Exempt Event* Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic (two at home, two at Las Vegas
True Home Games
(9)
^ on-campus
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
Milwaukee
Rutgers
(Gavitt Games)
Missouri State
Robert Morris^
Drake^
Southeast Missouri*
UIC^
Lamar
Chicago State*

Wyoming*
USC/Missouri State*
Temple
(Miami)

Northwestern


BECB's Vijay Vemu offers these thoughts on the second slate of Dave Leitao's second stint in Chicago.

This is a fair non-conference schedule for the DePaul Blue Demons. With the exception of Northwestern and Rutgers, DePaul doesn't face that stiff of competition in their first eight non-conference games. But it ramps a bit after that. On December 10th, they play Temple in the HoopHall Miami Invitational. Then games against Wyoming and a potential date against USC loom in the distance. All of that right before they face Villanova in the first game of Big East action will show what DePaul is really about. My guess is that they won't make it past that stretch.

That final statement is a halting one when you consider that my metrics hate this schedule—ranking it dead last in the Big East and among the bottom five in the table of 135 teams with a hypothetical at-large chance. In other words, don't expect the Blue Demons to make an NCAA trip even if they're an unexpected surprise.

Note that DePaul could meet Missouri State twice—at home and on the second night at Orleans Arena.

Georgetown

Georgetown Hoyas

Average Opponent Score 1.385 (avg.); 1.470 (max.); 1.219 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 74th (avg.); 61st (max.); 98th (min.)
Big East Ranking 6th (avg.); 6th (max.); 9th (min.)
Exempt Event Maui Jim Maui Invitational (one at home, three at Lahaina, Hawai'i)
True Home Games
(8)
^ on-campus
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3-4)
Semi-Away Games
(0-1)
True Away Games
(1)
Maryland
(Gavitt Games)
Connecticut
Elon
Arkansas State*^
USC Upstate
UNC Greensboro
Howard
Coppin State

Oregon*
Wisconsin/
Tennessee*
North Carolina/
Connecticut/
Oklahoma State/
Chaminade
(non-D1)
*
La Salle
(Miami)
North Carolina/
Connecticut/
Oklahoma State/
Chaminade
(non-D1)*
Syracuse


Last season, the Hoyas got off to a bad start, losing to Radford and Maryland, before going on a decent 6-1 run through late November and early December, and finally dropping two of their final three before Big East play. John Thompson III's 2016-17 schedule is just as likely to cause Georgetown fans heart palpitations, as a rematch with Maryland (this time at the Verizon Center) follows what should be an opening win against USC Upstate. This year's Maui Invitational field isn't quite as forgiving as the 2K Classic last year, simply because a loss to Oregon in the quarterfinals would like pit the Hoyas against Tennessee and Oklahoma State teams that won't help a profile all that much.

But all would not be lost thanks to a trip to Syracuse and January home date with UConn, who the Hoyas might also meet up with on day three in Maui. Those two games should aid Georgetown's at-large hopes, but that's only if it avoids last season's multiple pratfalls.

Marquette

Marquette Golden Eagles

Average Opponent Score 1.344 (avg.); 1.348 (max.); 1.339 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 76th (avg.); 83rd (max.); 69th (min.)
Big East Ranking 7th (avg.); 8th (max.); 6th (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
(3)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(1)
Wisconsin
Fresno State
Western Carolina
IUPUI*
St. Francis (Pa.)
SIU Edwardsville
Houston Baptist
Howard*

Michigan*
SMU/Pittsburgh*
Vanderbilt
(Annapolis, Md.)

Georgia


For Marquette, Anonymous Eagle's BrewtownAndy offers his thoughts. He also wrote a great piece using KenPom ratings to compare this schedule to the Golden Eagles' previous five.

The best part about the 2016-17 Marquette non-conference schedule is that it's not the 2015-16 non-conference schedule. Holy crap, was that thing a pile of garbage. This year is much better. After a season where seven teams finished the previous year with a sub-300 KenPom ranking, there are just two teams that fit that description for this coming season and both are easily explainable: one was assigned as part of the 2K Classic, and the other is against a team that's coached by a Marquette alumnus.

There's a bunch of high quality opponents scattered throughout the slate, and Marquette will get RPI boosters from playing two teams each from the SEC and Big Ten. The most important thing to watch for in MU's non-conference action is how they handle Badger Hate Week. In a seven day stretch, MU will play at Georgia, host Fresno State, and host Wisconsin. It's not an ideal scenario, but when you're scheduling around the Milwaukee Bucks, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Finals Week, that's the kind of thing that you end up having to deal with, I guess.

Considering Marquette's awful 2016-17 schedule not only knocked it out of NCAA consideration, but also from the NIT hunt, this year's is indeed a major improvement. And with the Golden Eagles likely to be in the middle of the Big East pack, that might be enough to get them back to the postseason for the first time since 2013's Elite Eight run.

If you can't get enough Marquette scheduling info, BECB's Eugene Rapay has a game-by-game breakdown of the non-conference slate.

Providence

Providence Friars

Average Opponent Score 1.320 (avg.); 1.328 (max.); 1.312 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 84th (avg.); 87th (max.); 76th (min.)
Big East Ranking 9th (avg.); 9th (max.); 7th (min.)
Exempt Event* Emerald Coast Classic (two at home, two at Niceville, Fla.)
True Home Games
(9)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(2)
Rhode Island
Massachusetts
Vermont
Wagner
St. Francis-Brooklyn
Brown
New Hampshire
Maine
Grambling State*

Memphis*
Virginia/Iowa*

Ohio State
(Gavitt Games)
Boston College


BECB's Mike Hopkins provides some background on Providence's 2016-17 November and December lineup.

Ed Cooley directed assistant coach Brian Blaney to build this 2016-17 non-conference schedule with the belief that both Ben Bentil and Paschal Chukwu would be experienced juniors on this season's team. Bentil opted to leave Providence after a breakout sophomore season and entered the 2016 NBA Draft, while Chukwu readies for his redshirt sophomore season wearing a Syracuse uniform after opting to leave Providence after his freshman campaign.

With that in mind, Providence's non-conference schedule is tougher than it may appear. Opening against a veteran bunch like Vermont, who returns 4 starters, and then traveling to Columbus, Ohio three days later to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games isn't the easiest way for a team in "development mode" to begin its season. With more than 50% of Providence's scholarship players being either a freshman or sophomore, Cooley has to hope his relatively inexperienced roster figures out their roles and finds their stride before too much damage is done heading into a brutal opening stretch of the Big East schedule, beginning at Xavier on December 28th.

Like most seasons, Providence has a few tough games mixed in with some soft opponents and buy games. The bad RPI teams they got dealt for the campus sites portion of the 2016 Emerald Coast Classic—Grambling State and St. Francis-Brooklyn—will hurt their rating, as does a Maine squad that was supposed to be getting better as their young players developed, but the Black Bears seem to be hitting reset as Bob Walsh's squad lost six players to transfer, including promising guard Issac Vann, who left in favor of VCU.

On the positive side, Providence's annual in-state rivarly game against the Rhode Island Rams should be a boost with Dan Hurley's squad expected to be a top-25 team with the return of star guard E.C. Matthews from an ACL tear suffered in the first half of the first game of the 2015-16 season.

The difficulty of the opening game against the Catamounts could prove to be an asset should Providence win and getting a Big Ten team on the road presents a big RPI opportunity against the Buckeyes. The best case scenario in the Emerald Coast Classic would be to beat Memphis and then get a crack at Virginia, especially with Iowa expected to take a step back after losing a lot from last season.

I'd give Providence's non-conference schedule a grade of B.

After three straight NCAA trips, the Friars could be in for a long season, particularly with Bentill and Kris Dunn gone. Providence is likely to get knocked down early, but if Ed Cooley's group can learn and gel quickly, they'll be in position to make noise when Big East play starts. However, it's questionable whether they can get any quality non-conference wins to help what's likely to be a longshot March case.

Over at BECB, Chris Grenham offers his breakdown of all of Providence's early season opposition.

St John's

St. John's Red Storm

Average Opponent Score 1.488 (avg.); 1.519 (max.); 1.440 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 49th (avg.); 51st (max.); 44th (min.)
Big East Ranking 4th (avg.); 4th (max.); 4th (min.)
Exempt Event* Battle 4 Atlantis (one at home, three at Paradise Island, Bahamas)
True Home Games
(6)
^ on campus
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(3)
Penn State
Fordham^
Cal State Northridge^
Delaware State^
Bethune Cookman^
Binghamton*^

Michigan State*
Baylor/VCU*
Louisville/
Wichita State/
LSU/
Old Dominion*
LIU-Brooklyn
(Barclays Center)

Syracuse
Minnesota
(Gavitt Games)
Tulane


Norman Rose from Rumble In The Garden offered his thoughts on the Red Storm's 2016-17 slate.

The schedule has some notably poor teams—7 of 13 of the non-conference opponents are sub-200 KenPom squads—but that's needed both for confidence and for the team to work out their identity and get the system in place. The schedule will look better if Minnesota and/ or Penn State really make a rise - and both could be poised to do so. It would be really helpful for St. John's to win both of those games and the game at Tulane, because the Battle for Atlantis looks like a great opportunity to see how close they are... but also an opportunity to pick up three Ls. Only Old Dominion looks like a team that will definitely have fallen off. Then again, if the problem with St. John's was that they didn't have a point guard quick enough to put pressure on opponents, maybe they surprise with a win. Really, for a team that was that poor last year, every game is a landmine, and we can't assume much after a loss to Incarnate Word.

For more info, check out Norman's handy game-by-game breakdown of St. John's November and December at Rumble In The Garden.

Last season, the Red Storm won seven of its 13 non-conference game before crashing to a 1-18 finish in Big East play. As you'd expect, hopes aren't all that high for Chris Mullin's second year back in Jamaica, Queens. A similar 7-6 mark is quite possible, thanks to the half-dozen winnable home games and a couple of away trips that fall in the same bucket. But that doesn't include excursions to the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis or to the Carrier Dome, where the Orange will be looking for revenge after two straight St. John's wins in the series.

SHU

Seton Hall Pirates

Average Opponent Score 1.684 (avg.); 1.777 (max.); 1.553 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 15th (avg.); 10th (max.); 25th (min.)
Big East Ranking 2nd (avg.); 2nd (max.); 2nd (min.)
Exempt Event* AdvoCare Invitational (three at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.)
True Home Games
(5)
Semi-Home Games
(1)
True Neutral-Site Games
(2-3)
Semi-Away Games
(2-3)

True Away Games
(1)
Columbia
Delaware
Rutgers
Fairleigh Dickinson
Central Connecticut State
South Carolina
(MSG)
Gonzaga/
Quinnipiac*
Iowa State/
Miami/
Stanford/
Indiana State*
California
(Pearl Harbor, Honolulu)
Florida*
Iowa State/Miami/
Stanford/
Indiana State*
Hawai'i
(Pearl Harbor, Honolulu)
Iowa
(Gavitt Games)


Robert O'Neill chimes in on the Pirates 2016-17 slate.

Seton Hall's schedule is strange to me because they're missing a high-quality home game like they had with Wichita State last season. However, the Pirates are definitely more set to benefit if they can go to Iowa and pick up a big win, grab a couple wins in a strong AdvoCare Invitational field, or knock off a talented Cal team in Pearl Harbor. If they can rack up double-digit wins in the non-conference portion again, the Pirates will be contenders to head back to the NCAA Tournament, even with the departure of leading scorer Isaiah Whitehead.

With the Hall's five home games almost assuredly Ws, the seven games away from Newark might have an oversized impact on the Pirates' March hopes. Personally, I can't wait to be in the building for the UF-SHU matchup in Lake Buena Vista on Thanksgiving night, since it will be a vital contest for both squads. Should the Pirates win the virtual road game with the Gators, they'd be well positioned to bring home a surprising title—provided they knock off Gonzaga on the following night.

Naturally, if Seton Hall struggles away from home, its margin for error during Big East play will shrink considerably.

Eugene Rapay has far more info on the Pirates' slate over at BECB.

Nova

Villanova Wildcats

Average Opponent Score 1.459 (avg.); 1.503 (max.); 1.415 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 53rd (avg.); 55th (max.); 50th (min.)
Big East Ranking 5th (avg.); 5th (max.); 5th (min.)
Exempt Event* Gildan Charleston Classic (one at home, three at Charleston, S.C.)
True Home Games
(6)
Semi-Home Games
(0)
True Neutral-Site Games
(3-4)
Semi-Away Games
(0)
True Away Games
(3-4)
Virginia
Saint Joseph's
Temple
College of Charleston*
American
Lafayette

Western Michigan*
Wake Forest/
UTEP*
Boise State/
Mississippi State/
College of Charleston/
UCF*
Notre Dame
(Newark, N.J.)

Purdue
(Gavitt Games)
La Salle
Boise State/
Mississippi State/
College of Charleston/
UCF*
Penn


Chris Lane from VUHoops.com offers his analysis of the defending National Champs' slate.

Prior to last season Jay Wright talked about toughening up his team's schedule to prepare for the NCAA Tournament. A tough trip to Virginia in addition to a neutral site game against Oklahoma (both losses) helped his team learn to deal with adversity early and it paid off in March/April. It's a similar approach this year. 'Nova heads to Purdue for the Gavitt Games in just the second game of the season, duels with Notre Dame at a neutral site, and hosts Virginia in the return leg of their home-and-home series. The field in the Charleston Classic leaves a lot to be desired (they head to Atlantis next year), but it looks like the Wildcats have a good recipe going: schedule 2-3 Top-25-ish opponents, hope somebody from the Big 5 is good, and roll the dice on an exempt tournament.

I'm going to go one step further than Chris and say that if Saint Joe's and Temple remain decent and La Salle is as improved as anticipated, this schedule will be a decent one, particularly if 'Nova can beat Purdue, Notre Dame, and Virginia (in a late January game I originally forgot about). If not, well, while the Wildcats won't be in any danger of missing the field because of it, but they'll need to run through the Big East to get a top two seed again.

Xavier

Xavier Musketeers

Average Opponent Score 1.866 (avg.); 1.918 (max.); 1.787 (min.)
At-Large Pool Ranking 3rd (avg.); 3rd (max.); 3rd (min.)
Big East Ranking 1st (avg.); 1st (max.); 1st (min.)
Exempt Event* Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off (one at home, 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
(3)
Utah
Northern Iowa*
Buffalo
North Dakota State
Wake Forest
Lehigh
Eastern Washington

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

Baylor
Cincinnati
Colorado


Last but most certainly not least, Banners On The Parkway's Brad D has some thoughts on the highest-ranked power conference schedule in my rankings.

Right now Xavier's biggest non-conference opponent is the Hamilton Co. court system. If the Musketeers can get Myles Davis back, he's suspended by the team at least until his situation improves, the non-con presents no teams that Xavier can't beat. Before joining the Big East, X had to overschedule before conference play and try to sail through the Atlantic 10 with only one or two losses. Now, the Musketeers schedule like an established power.

Buffalo presents an interesting early gauge in that they were a tournament team last year. A Xavier team at far less than their best could struggle there. The trip to Orlando for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off could lead to a matchup with Oklahoma and a great chance to boost the resume of things shake out well. This is Xavier and holiday tournaments, though, so we count zero chickens until they are quite fully hatched.

The last surge of the non-conference ramps up to deposit Xavier safely in the Big East ready to go. Baylor and Colorado will be tricky opponents on the road, and Utah won't be a cakewalk at home. Those are the three games that I think will tell us if this is another #2 seed level team. If the Musketeers roll through them all, optimism on Victory Parkway will be well founded.

I'll go one step further and say that Xavier can position itself for a No. 1 seed with this slate, which would be daunting for all but a few teams. Of course, if Davis doesn't return to the fold in a timely manner, things could get ugly quick. Still, the Musketeers have enough talent without him to at least grab a few quality wins against this gauntlet.

Banners On The Parkway is currently in the midst of its season preview series, which features a breakdown of all of the Musketeers' non-conference opponents. Eugene Rapay also offers more analysis over at Big East Coast Bias.

On Monday, this series resumes with a look at the Big Ten.

Be sure to follow @ChrisDobbertean on Twitter and to like Blogging the Bracket on Facebook and Google Plus.