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

Much like the SWAC, members of Division I’s Eastern HBCU league are at a disadvantage when putting together their November and December slates. But unlike their Western counterparts, MEAC schools at least get to spend a little more time closer to home during the season’s opening weeks.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Four-NC Central vs UC Davis
NCCU head coach LeVelle Moton aims to get the Eagles to the NCAAs for a second straight season. But if that happens, Durham’s other D1 team might end up going to Dayton again, thanks to its non-conference schedule.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

Just nine MEAC squads have finished above .500 over the past four seasons, so it’s not surprising that every conference member ranks in the bottom half of the four-year ranking table. However, it’s far more troubling that 10 teams sit among the bottom 50 teams in Division I.

MEAC Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
North Carolina Central -0.781012 182
Norfolk State -3.9813105 261
Hampton -4.7582105 280
Maryland Eastern Shore -6.57891 315
Morgan State -7.233606 322
Savannah State -7.73692 330
Howard -8.131236 333
South Carolina State -8.240626 334
Bethune-Cookman -9.00561 337
Delaware State -9.198685 338
Coppin State -9.225915 339
North Carolina A&T -11.262265 348
Florida A&M -11.956215 351
Average -7.545424692 313.0769231
Conference Rank 31st of 32

Ranking The Schedules

While a SWAC member—Texas Southern—owns the nation’s single most difficult schedule, the MEAC can claim the second, thanks to Savannah State. Of course, those two sets of Tigers have differing postseason hopes, as I’ll discuss below. But while all 10 SWAC slates rank in the national top 200, meaning the conference average ranking is the best in all of Division I, the 13-member MEAC has a wider range of non-league slates. Five teams rank in the bottom 100 nationally, with North Carolina Central and Bethune-Cookman sitting among the bottom 50. That means that the MEAC’s overall numbers suffer, though the league average schedule still ranks among top five nationally in three of the four categories below.

*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

MEAC 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
Savannah State* 9.51955447 2 10.28718913 2 9.812603266 2 9.226505673 2
Coppin State 5.990211218 11 5.990211218 12 5.990211218 19 5.990211218 8
Maryland Eastern Shore* 4.916037237 35 5.366779739 22 4.982081526 48 4.849992948 31
Howard* 3.629238798 81 3.653331302 70 3.735652877 92 3.52282472 73
Florida A&M 3.477560297 90 3.477560297 76 3.477560297 105 3.477560297 75
Hampton* 2.782244234 118 2.880588805 105 2.964487652 126 2.600000817 111
South Carolina State 2.353785387 141 2.353785387 136 2.353785387 161 2.353785387 123
Morgan State 1.547558039 193 1.547558039 189 1.547558039 214 1.547558039 182
North Carolina A&T* 0.3054519567 264 0.5246370071 250 0.3877431567 274 0.2231607567 258
Delaware State -0.002564765 283 -0.002564765 274 -0.002564765 293 -0.002564765 274
Norfolk State -0.077546995 288 -0.077546995 279 -0.077546995 296 -0.077546995 279
North Carolina Central -0.7575027464 320 -0.7575027464 313 -0.7575027464 323 -0.7575027464 306
Bethune-Cookman -1.577845651 340 -1.577845651 335 -1.577845651 340 -1.577845651 337
Average 2.469706268 166.6153846 2.589706213 158.6923077 2.525863328 176.3846154 2.413549208 158.3846154
Conference Rank 5 of 32 4 of 32 7 of 32 4 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Just three four MEAC squads boast non-conference slates that rank fewer than 100 spots better or worse than their four-year ranking, with 340th-ranked Bethune-Cookman earning special mention for somehow scheduling the 337th-ranked schedule. Things aren’t so rosy for defending conference champ North Carolina Central, which under-scheduled itself by 138 places. But at least the Eagles did better than Savannah State and Coppin State, the two schools tied for the biggest scheduling gap in the country—a whopping 328 places above their four-year ranking.

On average, the MEAC boasts the second-biggest average scheduling gap in the nation, with only the SWAC (naturally) ranking lower.

MEAC 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
10 Bethune-Cookman 337 340 -3
73 Norfolk State 261 288 -27
132 Delaware State 338 283 55
194 North Carolina A&T 348 264 84
242 Morgan State 322 193 129
253 North Carolina Central 182 320 -138
286 Hampton 280 118 162
305 South Carolina State 334 141 193
332 Howard 333 81 252
335 Florida A&M 351 90 261
339 Maryland Eastern Shore 315 35 280
350 Savannah State 330 2 328
351 Coppin State 339 11 328
246.3076923 Average (31/32 conf.) 313.0769231 166.6153846 146.4615385

MEAC 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
53 0 52 26

Despite sharing many of the same financial and competitive difficulties, the MEAC isn’t quite as disadvantaged during November and December as the SWAC. The conference’s members will play 53 home non-conference home games (tied for 17th among the 25 mid-major leagues) compared to 18 for D1’s other HBCU conference. However, MEAC members still play almost exactly as Power 7 road games as total home games—52, nine more than the SWAC’s total. That’s the most power conference road trips in the mid-major class. Making matters worse, nearly half of the MEAC’s 53 home contests feature non-D1 foes.

All of these factors conspire to keep the MEAC’s metrics near the bottom of Division I no matter the category.

MEAC Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 26 0
ACC 12 0
American Athletic 12 0
A 10 10 0
Big South 8 0
OVC 8 1
Big East 7 0
Big Ten 7 0
Sun Belt 7 0
Atlantic Sun 6 0
Big 12 6 0
WAC 6 0
America East 5 0
C-USA 5 0
CAA 5 0
MAC 5 0
MVC 5 0
NEC 5 0
Patriot 5 0
SoCon 5 1
Horizon 4 0
Pac-12 4 0
SWAC 4 1
Big West 3 2
Ivy 3 0
MAAC 3 1
SEC 3 0
Southland 3 1
Summit 2 1
WCC 2 0
Big Sky 1 0
MW 1 0

While MEAC teams will play games against every Division I conference this season, contests with non-D1 opponents dominate. But looking down the list, I can’t help but think league slates could improve if other Eastern leagues would schedule the soon-to-be 12 members of the conference a bit more frequently. However, given the MEAC’s low esteem nationally, I wouldn’t expect that to happen.

MEAC 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 14 0 14 1.076923077 0
26-50 0 8 0 8 0.6153846154 0
51-75 0 12 0 12 0.9230769231 0
76-100 0 10 0 10 0.7692307692 1
101-150 3 16 1 20 1.538461538 0
151-200 1 27 1 29 2.230769231 2
201-250 9 11 0 20 1.538461538 3
251-300 7 12 3 22 1.692307692 1
301-351 7 15 2 24 1.846153846 1
Non-D1 26 0 0 26 2 0
Total 53 125 7 185
Average 4.076923077 9.615384615 0.5384615385 14.23076923
Percentage 0.2864864865 0.6756756757 0.03783783784
Conference Rank (of 32) 31st 2nd 30th

Not only will two-thirds of MEAC non-conference games take place away from league arenas, more than half of those contests will be hosted by teams from outside of the top 150. Not only that, but MEAC squads won’t get to play a single top 100 team at home.

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.

2. Savannah State Tigers

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

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9-10)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9-10)
ETSU (121) None Jacksonville State (258)* None Cincinnati (20)*
Middle Georgia State (Non-D1) Alabama State (327) Louisiana (123)*
Carver Bible (Non-D1) (or Chattanooga)* Chattanooga (124)
William & Mary (113) (or Alabama State)*
Texas Tech (58)
Wichita State (10)
Georgia Southern (189)
Texas A&M (44)
Baylor (13)
Virginia (2)
Michigan State (16)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Middle Georgia State) and 3 losses (Georgia Southern, @William & Mary, @ETSU)

The Tigers’ Division I days are numbered, as the university announced a decision to drop back down to Division II back in April. While the timing of the move is still up in the air, Horace Broadnax’s squad will keep on collecting power conference beatings and paychecks in what’s likely to be its final D1 season. (And that’s it, since Savannah State is banned from the NCAAs due to APR violations. One final insult, as it were.) Last season, SSU went 1-4 in Power 7 games, winning at Oregon State. They’ll play seven such games this season, all against teams that could earn at-large bids this spring.

11. Coppin State Eagles

*Exempt Event: Showcase On The Banks

True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (13)
True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (13)
Navy (238) None None None Oregon (18)
Mount St. Mary's (236) East Carolina (198)*
Cincinnati (20)
Cleveland State (219)*
Rutgers (199)*
Central Connecticut State (346)*
Ohio (127)
Georgetown (52)
UConn (55)
UMBC (307)
West Virginia (11)
Georgia Tech (73)
Penn State (95)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Georgetown, @Mount St. Mary’s)

Maryland legend Juan Dixon replaces Michael Grant after an eight-win campaign that didn’t feature a single Division I non-conference win. With just two home games (a decrease of one from a season ago) and no non-D1 opponents on the schedule, it could be a similarly barren November and December for Coppin.

35. Maryland Eastern Shore Fighting Hawks

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

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
Valley Forge (Non-D1) None Jackson State (310)* None Maryland (30)*
American (283) Omaha (176) or St. Bonaventure (84)*
Central Penn (Non-D1) Tennessee Tech (245)* Georgetown (52)
Old Dominion (110)
Duquesne (195)
Liberty (289)
Virginia Tech (75)
Creighton (34)
Iowa State (14)
Drake (260)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Central Penn, Valley Forge) and 2 losses (@American, @Virginia Tech)

While Bobby Collins’s Fighting Hawks claimed 14 victories last season, just one came against a Division I non-conference foe, as Maryland Eastern Shore shocked UTEP in the Sun Bowl Invitational third-place game. This season’s non-conference slate is largely a local one, highlighted by a game at Maryland, but that’s not to say the Hawks will stay exclusively in the Mid-Atlantic. UMES travels to Florida for a pair of games in the Emerald Coast Classic’s visitors’ bracket and a trio of December games in the Heartland, with two of those featuring 2017 NCAA qualifiers.

81. Howard Bison

*Exempt Event: Hoosier Tip-Off Classic

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (11)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (11)
Central Penn (Non-D1) None None None George Washington (83)
Penn (230) Indiana (31)*
Washington Adventist (Non-D1) Gonzaga (4)
Eastern Michigan (137)*
Arkansas State (204)*
USF (267)*
Liberty (289)
Georgetown (52)
American (283)
Jacksonville State (258)
Hawai'i (149)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (American, Central Penn) and 3 losses (@Georgetown, @George Washington, @Jacksonville State)

In the last two seasons, the Bison have won a total of 22 games, just six more than they managed in 2014-15’s 16-16 campaign alone. So, the pressure is on Kevin Nickelberry’s team to perform. And that won’t be easy with 11 road games, including trips to Indiana, Gonzaga, and Hawai’i, on the 2017-18 schedule. At least Howard will play six games in the Nation’s Capital, three at Burr Arena and a trio at other District institutions.

90. Florida A&M Rattlers

*Exempt Event: Hoops In The Heartland

True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (14)
True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (14)
Albany State (Non-D1) None None None Grand Canyon (172)
North Florida (209) UNLV (154)
Miami (Fla.) (29)
Mississippi State (101)*
North Dakota State (134)*
Green Bay (118)*
Stephen F. Austin (99)*
Texas (39)
Murray State (153)
Mercer (151)
Southern (284)
Georgia Tech (73)
Fordham (186)
Ball State (197)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 1 loss (Southern)

Former Oregon assistant Robert McCullum will attempt to get the Rattlers’ out of Division I’s basement. But with 14 road games on FAMU’s 2017 non-conference slate, the road to respectability looks to be a lengthy one, especially after a six-victory 2016-17 campaign.

118. Hampton Pirates

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
Bluefield (Non-D1) None Northern Arizona (319)* None Rider (212)
Saint Leo (Non-D1) UC Irvine (100) or William & Mary (113)
Mid-Atlantic Christian (Non-D1) Rider (212)* George Washington (83)*
Coastal Carolina (180) Xavier (25)*
Gardner-Webb (213) Missouri State (188)
Appalachian State (286) Virginia (2)
UTRGV (335)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (William & Mary) and 3 losses (Rider, @Gardner-Webb, @Appalachian State)

With a half-dozen home games and just a pair of Power 7 road trips, the Pirates have an atypical MEAC schedule. Edward Joyner Jr.’s squad even has a chance to claim the visitors’ bracket of its exempt event, as Hampton should get past Northern Arizona in the semifinals. In the final, either UC Irvine or a Rider squad the Pirates will meet on Opening Night would await.

141. South Carolina State Bulldogs

*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 (10)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
Central Arkansas (336)* None None None Wisconsin (12)*
Morris (Non-D1) Boston College (160)
Brevard (Non-D1) Yale (96)*
Charleston Southern (292) UCLA (28)*
Jacksonville (306) Winthrop (144)
North Carolina State (67)
Presbyterian (349)
Furman (196)
College of Charleston (133)
UCF (136)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Furman) and 1 loss (@Jacksonville)

The Bulldogs’ lone Division I non-league win of 2016 came against Furman, but S.C. State travels to Greenville this season. Murray Garvin’s squad, which won 11 games last season, also visits five Power 7 opponents and a trio of mid-majors with legitimate conference title hopes—Yale, Winthrop, and College of Charleston. At least the Bulldogs can limit their time away from campus, with five in-Carolinas road trips and five home games on the schedule.

193. Morgan State Bears

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (10)
True Home Games (2) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (10)
Lincoln (Pa.) (Non-D1) None None Grand Canyon (172) Binghamton (331)
Goldey-Beacom (Non-D1) (Las Vegas) USF (267)
West Virginia (11)
Mount St. Mary's (236)
George Washington (83)
Navy (238)
Towson (152)
Manhattan (233)
George Mason (157)
Cal State Northridge (265)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Manhattan) and 2 losses (Towson, @Cal State Northridge)

After a 14-win campaign that saw the Bears win 11 MEAC games, Morgan State heads into this season as a potential league champ. However, a schedule that features two non-D1 home games and 12 games away from Baltimore will likely place Todd Bozeman’s team in Dayton should it claim the auto bid in March.

264. North Carolina A&T Aggies

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9)
Greensboro (Non-D1) None Radford (255)* None Clemson (47)
The Citadel (323) UC Davis (218) or Jacksonville (306)
Mid-Atlantic Christian (Non-D1) Lamar (299)* East Carolina (198)
Tennessee State (226) Central Connecticut State (346)
Presbyterian (349)
Georgetown (52)
Duquesne (195)*
Southern Illinois (158)*
Virginia Tech (75)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Greensboro) and 2 losses (@East Carolina, Jacksonville)

Jay Joyner’s first season in charge in Greensboro opened with a win, but just two further victories followed—with an upset win over N.C. Central in the regular-season finale the only one the Aggies claimed over a Division I opponent all year. So, truly any improvement A&T can make in November and December will be noticeable, even if the Aggies take their lumps in their nine road games and trip to the Las Vegas Classic in December.

283. Delaware State Hornets

*Exempt Event: Adolph Rupp Classic

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
Cairn (Non-D1) None None None DePaul (171)
Georgian Court (Non-D1) Fort Wayne (141)*
Binghamton (331) UIC (302)*
UMBC (307) ETSU (121)*
Delaware (269) Troy (228)*
East Carolina (198)
Duquesne (195)
Pittsburgh (53)
Nebraska (88)
Penn (230)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 3 losses (@UMBC, @Delaware, @Binghamton)

Keith Walker’s Hornets won at St. John’s last season, arguably the MEAC’s biggest non-league win of 2016. This season, Delaware State, which won 10 games a season ago, visits four Power 7 opponents, but curiously not Kentucky, which anchors its exempt event. That’s probably for the best.

288. Norfolk State Spartans

*Exempt Event: Grand Canyon Classic

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
Lynchburg (Non-D1) None Robert Morris (262)* None Auburn (122)
Kent State (148) (Little Rock) San Diego (221)*
Bowling Green (211) Old Dominion (110) Grand Canyon (172)*
Mid-Atlantic Christian (Non-D1) (Norfolk Scope) Little Rock (165)*
Niagara (297) Loyola of Chicago (140)
Elizabeth City State (Non-D1) Eastern Kentucky (217)
Stony Brook (142)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Elizabeth City State, Eastern Kentucky) and 2 losses (@Niagara, @Bowling Green)

The Spartans’ consistency rivals that of North Carolina Central, even if Norfolk State hasn’t been able to reach the heights of 2012’s NCAA win over Missouri in the five seasons since. After a pair of 17-17 seasons, Robert Jones’s squad will attempt to get back to the top of the MEAC, starting with a manageable non-conference slate that features two home games against MAC foes and just a single power conference road game. Note that the neutral-site game against Old Dominion is at the Monarchs’ former home arena, the Scope, and part of ODU’s season ticket package. However, since that building hosts the MEAC Tournament, I’m grouping the contest under the true neutral-site group instead of the semi-road one.

320. North Carolina Central Eagles

*Exempt Event: Global Sports Invitational

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Warren Wilson (Non-D1) None None None UIC (302)
Southern (284)* Evansville (120)
Christendom (Non-D1) UT Martin (227)*
Southeast Missouri (285) Marshall (178)*
McNeese State (321) Illinois (71)*
St. Andrew's (Non-D1) Southeast Missouri (285)
George Mason (157)
Grand Canyon (172)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (@McNeese State) and 1 loss (@Marshall)

Despite racking up 25 wins, including nine out of MEAC play, the Eagles season ended at the hands of UC Davis in the First Four. Still, a bid is a bid and LaVelle Moton’s squad has a fourth in five years in its sights. Last season, Central managed to win four non-conference road games, including one at Missouri. That should make teams like Illinois, Marshall (even if the Herd defeated NCCU last season), and Grand Canyon a bit nervous heading into the new campaign.

340. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats

*Exempt Event: Ramblin’ Wreck Showcase

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (10)
Johnson (Fla.) (Non-D1) None None None UTRGV (335)*
Grambling State (350)* North Texas (303)*
Florida College (Non-D1) Georgia Tech (73)*
Boston University (214) Jacksonville (306)
Cal Poly (243) FAU (291)
USF (267)
Kennesaw State (305)
Washington (103)
Washington State (183)
Stetson (325)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Florida College, Kennesaw State) and 2 losses (Jacksonville, @USF)

While the Wildcats will only play five home games and must travel to Washington state for a pair of games, B-CU will play enough squads that join them in the bottom 100 that improvement upon last season’s win total of 10 is possible in Ryan Ridder’s first year in charge in Daytona Beach.

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