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Analyzing The SWAC’s Non-Conference Schedules For 2017-18

This conference’s scheduling aims differ from the rest. Its members’ results reflect this.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-North Carolina vs Texas Southern
While UNC had its way with Texas Southern in the First Round of the 2017 NCAAs, the Tigers have a schedule that will prepare them for yet another SWAC title and automatic bid.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

For all of the posts in this series, visit the 2017-18 Non-Conference Scheduling Hub.

Ranking The Teams

The SWAC has a bad reputation, and these numbers reflect this. Only conference powerhouses Texas Southern and Southern—the only two teams to represent the league in the last five NCAAs—managed to rise out of the bottom 50 of the four-year table. And the Jaguars stand a mere 18 places above that group.

SWAC Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
Texas Southern -1.6740265 206
Southern -4.9385275 284
Jackson State -6.2500775 310
Prairie View A&M -7.494055 326
Alabama State -7.497417 327
Alcorn State -7.51373 328
Alabama A&M -10.648495 344
Arkansas Pine Bluff -10.654355 345
Mississippi Valley State -11.092155 347
Grambling State -11.48488 350
Average -7.92477185 316.7
Conference Rank 32nd of 32

Ranking The Schedules

Scheduling plays a major role in why the SWAC is mired to the bottom of Division I. (If you haven’t checked out the recent episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel focusing on HBCU football and basketball scheduling, it’s well worth your time.)

Given the preponderance of road games and contests against teams from Division I’s higher echelons, it should be no surprise that the SWAC’s average schedule rankings sit at the top of the standings—in every category. A full 30% of the conference ranks in the top 10 of three of the four classifications, with Alabama State joining that group in the Known Schedule ranking. With seven of 10 SWAC teams in the top 100 consistently, it’s a bit surprising to see Grambling State landing near spot 200.

*Denotes team will participate in a bracketed tournament. Reminder: Known Score = known matchups only; Average Score = known games+average of potential bracketed matchups; Maximum Score = known games+games against best potential bracketed matchups; Minimum Score = known games+games against worst potential bracketed matchups

SWAC Schedule Strengths And National Ranks

Team Average Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Known Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Maximum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Minimum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank
Team Average Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Known Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Maximum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Minimum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank
Texas Southern 13.23408134 1 13.23408134 1 13.23408134 1 13.23408134 1
Alcorn State 7.398604508 5 7.398604508 5 7.398604508 8 7.398604508 5
Prairie View A&M* 6.613556659 7 7.059442458 6 6.752006846 10 6.475106471 7
Alabama State* 5.774381977 14 7.041723495 7 6.239103591 14 5.309660363 15
Southern 4.474383362 50 4.474383362 42 4.474383362 65 4.474383362 39
Mississippi Valley State 4.332296033 58 4.332296033 46 4.332296033 70 4.332296033 44
Alabama A&M* 3.465781652 92 3.726317821 65 3.734755104 93 3.1968082 85
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 2.714628154 123 2.714628154 117 2.714628154 136 2.714628154 107
Jackson State* 1.817297432 176 2.109266089 148 1.899852793 186 1.734742071 167
Grambling State 1.545331769 195 1.545331769 190 1.545331769 215 1.545331769 183
Average 5.137034289 72.1 5.363607503 62.7 5.23250435 79.8 5.041564227 65.3
Conference Rank 1st of 32 1st of 32 1st of 32 1st of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

With so many lowly-ranked teams and so many rough schedules, it’s no surprise that the SWAC suffers from the largest scheduling gaps in all of Division I. Naturally, none of the 10 teams under-scheduled. Grambling State, in fact, did relatively well in this metric, as the Tigers only over-scheduled by 155 places. On the other hand, Alcorn State, the 328th-ranked team in the four-year metric has the fifth-ranked schedule this season—a difference of 323.

SWAC Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Team Score Rank Avg. Schedule Strength Rank Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Team Score Rank Avg. Schedule Strength Rank Scheduling Gap
247 Jackson State 310 176 134
280 Grambling State 350 195 155
310 Texas Southern 206 1 205
318 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 345 123 222
324 Southern 284 50 234
333 Alabama A&M 344 92 252
342 Mississippi Valley State 347 58 289
345 Alabama State 327 14 313
347 Prairie View A&M 326 7 319
349 Alcorn State 328 5 323

SWAC Home, Power Conference, & Non-D1 Games

True Home Games Scheduled Home Games Scheduled Against Power 7 Teams Road Games Scheduled Against Power 7 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
True Home Games Scheduled Home Games Scheduled Against Power 7 Teams Road Games Scheduled Against Power 7 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
18 0 43 10

The SWAC plays fewer home non-conference games than anyone. Its 10 members won’t even get an average of two apiece—and the total of 18 is 21 fewer than the second-lowest conference on the list, the NEC, and its 39. More than half of those 18 contests, 10, will come against non-D1 opposition. Meanwhile, league members will rack up road losses to Power 7 opponents—and other better off schools—to help fund their schools’ athletic departments. This season, SWAC teams will play 43 away games against power conference foes alone.

SWAC Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 10 0
American Athletic 9 0
Big 12 8 0
MAC 8 0
Big Ten 8 0
MW 7 0
Pac-12 7 0
C-USA 6 0
OVC 6 2
Sun Belt 5 2
WAC 5 0
WCC 5 0
ACC 4 0
MEAC 4 1
SEC 4 0
SoCon 4 1
A 10 3 0
Big East 3 0
MVC 3 0
Southland 3 0
Big Sky 2 1
Big West 2 0
Horizon 2 0
MAAC 2 0
Summit 2 2
Big South 1 1
Ivy 1 0
America East 0 0
Atlantic Sun 0 0
CAA 0 0
NEC 0 0
Patriot 0 0

Given the low RPI and KenPom standing of most league teams, it’s become a meme in college basketball that “you don’t schedule the SWAC twice.” As a result, these 10 teams must criss-cross the country to fill their schedules, with 26 of the 31 other Division I leagues represented on 2017-18 SWAC slates.

SWAC Non-Conference Games By Strength And Location

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
1-25 0 15 0 15 1.5 0
26-50 0 13 0 13 1.3 0
51-75 0 9 0 9 0.9 0
76-100 1 6 1 8 0.8 0
101-150 2 20 0 22 2.2 3
151-200 0 18 1 19 1.9 2
201-250 2 9 4 15 1.5 1
251-300 1 4 1 6 0.6 3
301-351 2 4 1 7 0.7 1
Non-D1 10 0 0 10 1 0
Total 18 98 8 124
Average 1.8 9.8 0.8 12.4
Percentage 0.1451612903 0.7903225806 0.06451612903
Rank (out of 32 conferences) 32nd 1st 22nd

Take a look at the bottom Total row of the table above. A whopping 97 of the 123 known SWAC non-conference games are away contests. And all but 17 of those are against Top 200 teams.

Team-By-Team Breakdown

Teams are listed in order of their Average Schedule Strength National Ranking. Numbers in parentheses are opponent’s Team Score Ranking. Logos via SportsLogos.net.

1. Texas Southern Tigers

*Exempt Event: HoopHall Miami Invitational (Visitor)

True Home Games (0) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (13)
True Home Games (0) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (13)
None None None None Gonzaga (4)
Washington State (183)
Ohio State (46)
Syracuse (38)*
Kansas (5)*
Clemson (47)
Oakland (115)*
Toledo (114)*
Oregon (18)
Baylor (13)
Wyoming (131)
TCU (69)
BYU (51)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (@TCU, @Baylor)

The Tigers last played a home non-conference game on November 28th, 2014—a win over Lamar. Since then, they’ve played 32 away from the H&PE Arena, winning only seven, with four of those coming last year. (Houston will play more non-league games at the H&PE this season, thanks to renovations to what used to be called Hofheinz Pavilion.) You can add another 13 to the total this year, and with four 2017 NCAA teams and last season’s NIT champs among the group, I wouldn’t expect Mike Davis’s team to head into SWAC play with four victories this year.

But considering how well Texas Southern will be prepared for league play, that might not matter except when it comes to the Tigers’ seeding.

5. Alcorn State Braves

*Exempt Event: CBE Hall Of Fame Classic (Visitor)

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Yale (96)* None None None LSU (90)
Concordia (Ala.) (Non-D1) Creighton (34)*
Rust (Non-D1) UNI (82)
Fisk (Non-D1) Baylor (13)*
Blue Mountain (Non-D1) Central Arkansas (336)*
Tulane (235)
Iowa State (14)
Vanderbilt (37)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Blue Mountain, Rust) and 0 losses

While Southern has been Texas Southern’s main challenger for the SWAC title of late, the Braves might fill that role this season after winning 18 games last year. And thanks to their participation in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, Alcorn State will welcome Ivy contender Yale to Lorman, Mississippi. However, the Bulldogs are the only Division I squad on the five-game strong home slate. Meanwhile, the group of eight road games features a half-dozen likely losses, with trips to Central Arkansas and Tulane possible exceptions.

7. Prairie View A&M Panthers

*Exempt Event: MGM Resorts Main Event (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (1) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
True Home Games (1) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
Jarvis Christian (Non-D1) None Eastern Kentucky (217)* None Utah (24)*
Georgia State (117) or Oregon (18)
Eastern Washington (181)* UNLV (154)*
New Mexico State (86)
Hawai'i (149)
Texas A&M (44)
Tulsa (87)
Houston (72)
Ohio (127)
New Mexico (105)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Jarvis Christian) and 2 losses (@Houston, @Utah)

The Panthers picked up one of the SWAC’s bigger non-conference wins of 2016 by winning at Fresno State in their second game, but Prairie View didn’t win another game against Division I opposition until their third SWAC game. Still, Byron Smith’s squad won 13 games a season ago, though they’ll need to replace a trio of performers who graduated to equal that total this year. PVA&MU will be another squad traveling long distances this fall—as trips to Hawai’i, Las Vegas, and a pair of Pac-12 schools are on tap.

14. Alabama State Hornets

*Exempt Event: Cayman Islands Classic (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (7)
Tennessee State (226) None Jacksonville State (258) or Louisiana Tech (97) Mississippi State (101)
Winthrop (144) Savannah State (330)* (New Orleans) Iowa (33)*
Fort Wayne (141) or South Dakota State (119)*
Liberty (289) Oregon (18)
(New Orleans) Chattanooga (124)*
Cincinnati (20)
Jacksonville State (258)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (Jacksonville State, @Tennessee State)

The Hornets will play a pair of Division I teams at home this year, a rarity in the modern SWAC. That gives Alabama State some hope that it can improve upon its total of one D1 non-league win of a year ago (against eight overall victories). Note that Lewis Jackson’s side will play in a pair of bracketed tournaments—November’s Cayman Islands Classic Mainland event at Chattanooga and the New Orleans Shootout in December.

50. Southern Jaguars

*Exempt Event: Global Sports Invitational

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
UT Martin (227)* None None None Illinois (71)*
Wiley (Non-D1) Marshall (178)*
Florida A&M (351) Missouri State (188)
Ecclesia (Non-D1) Duke (9)
North Carolina Central (182)*
Tulane (235)
UCF (136)
Baylor (13)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (@Florida A&M, Ecclesia) and 2 losses (@Tulane, @Baylor)

The Jaguars played five home games a season ago, winning three (though just one came against a Division I opponent), and eventually bowed out in the SWAC semifinals with 15 wins. Considering Southern won at Florida A&M in 2016, it’s possible Roman Banks’s team could pick up another trio of home wins, at a minimum, over a four-game 2017 slate. The potentially painful two-game trip to Durham to take on both of that city’s powers—Duke and North Carolina Central—is one of the more thoughtful road swings in the country this season.

58. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils

*Exempt Event: Savannah Invitational (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (0) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (12)
True Home Games (0) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (12)
None None Southeastern Louisiana (298)* None BYU (51)
Utah (24)
Utah State (125)
Kent State (148)*
Loyola of Chicago (140)*
Samford (225)*
Oklahoma State (32)
Duquesne (195)
Akron (93)
Grand Canyon (172)
UNLV (154)
UAB (147)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Kent State, @Grand Canyon)

A Delta Devil squad that won seven games all of last season didn’t claim a single non-conference win—but that’s understandable since their 2016-17 slate featured 12 road games and one neutral-site contest. And look at what awaits Mississippi Valley State this fall. At least the Western road trips—to Utah at the beginning of the season and the Desert Southwest later on—are compact.

92. Alabama A&M Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Barclays Center Classic (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (9)
True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (9)
Georgia State (117) None UT Arlington (109) or UAB (147) Ohio (127)
Southern Mississippi (308) Western Carolina (268)* (Legacy Arena) Samford (225)
Alabama (59)*
Minnesota (64)*
Niagara (297)*
Austin Peay (290)
DePaul (171)
Michigan (27)
Georgetown (52)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 3 losses (@Southern Mississippi, @UAB, @Georgia State)

Last season, the Bulldogs won twice, both in SWAC play. They lost their lone non-conference home game, played as part of a home-and-home series with Tennessee Tech. This year, they get a pair in Donnie Marsh’s first season, though both Southern Mississippi and Georgia State defeated A&M one year ago.

Note that Alabama A&M is ineligible for the NCAAs this season due to APR penalties.

123. Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions

*Exempt Event: Men Against Breast Cancer Showcase

True Home Games (0) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (4) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
True Home Games (0) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (4) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
None None Troy (228) None Hawai'i (149)
(Honolulu) SMU (15)
North Dakota (223) Air Force (234)*
(Honolulu) Pacific (231)*
Texas State (208)* Santa Clara (175)
Canisius (185)* Oregon State (135)
Fresno State (116)
Weber State (177)
Cincinnati (20)
UT Martin (227)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Hawai’i, @UT Martin)

The Lions will also double their tournament pleasure this season, though they’ll be playing in a pair of November round-robin affairs—one at Hawai’i and the other at Pacific. With the trip to Honolulu and six excursions to the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones, a UAPB squad that won just seven times in all of 2016-17 is likely to rack up the miles, paychecks, and losses this time around as well. They don’t even have the three home games, which resulted in two losses, to fall back in 2017.

176. Jackson State Tigers

*Exempt Event: Emerald Coast Classic (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Millsaps (Non-D1) None Maryland Eastern Shore (315)* None Mercer (151)
Fisk (Non-D1) Omaha (176) or St. Bonaventure (84)*
Tennessee Tech (245)* Maryland (30)*
Louisiana Monroe (202)
Central Michigan (179)
Southern Illinois (158)
Toledo (114)
Ball State (197)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Fisk) and 0 losses

Jackson State won four non-league games last season, including one at Drake, though the Tigers victory total grew to 14 when SWAC play was all said and done. However, JSU will play two fewer home games this season (with none scheduled against D1 opposition). On the other hand, the Tigers will play just a single Power 7 foe—Maryland in an Emerald Coast Classic on-campus matchup. The presence of so many mid-majors on the schedule should make JSU’s non-conference season a little less painful than most of their SWAC rivals’.

195. Grambling State Tigers

*Exempt Event: Ramblin’ Wreck Showcase

True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (11)
True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (11)
Tougaloo (Non-D1) None None None VCU (35)
Southeastern Louisiana (298) Iowa (33)
South Dakota (191)
Bethune Cookman (337)*
UTRGV (335)*
North Texas (303)*
Georgia Tech (73)*
Grand Canyon (172)
ULM (202)
East Carolina (198)
Seattle (281)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (UTRGV (N), @ULM)

After spending large parts of the previous five seasons rooted to the bottom of the SWAC and Division I, the Tigers roared in 2016-17, winning 15 games, including two against D1 foes during non-conference play (both from the similarly-situated MEAC). But last year’s slate featured three home games and a trio of neutral-site matchups, meaning a 2017-18 lineup with 11 true road games could see Grambling take a step back early.

The Tigers join Alabama A&M in the group of teams ineligible for March Madness due to APR penalties.

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