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

Seemingly all of the focus on the WAC nationally is honed in on a newly tournament-eligible team, but after looking at the schedules, maybe it shouldn’t be.

NCAA Basketball: Grand Canyon at Arizona
Grand Canyon heads into its first season of NCAA Tournament eligibility with a schedule that’s not quite as strong as last season’s.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

The two teams that have represented the WAC in the last six NCAA Tournaments lead the way, with the one looking to join them as a league power—Grand Canyon—sitting third and ending the conference’s representation in the top 200. Utah Valley is poised to rise into the top 200 with another good season, while UTRGV and Chicago State are likely to remain in the bottom 20.

WAC Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
New Mexico State 3.5456145 86
Cal State Bakersfield 0.965282 139
Grand Canyon -0.438131 172
UMKC -3.620379 251
Utah Valley -3.686895 254
Seattle -4.816247 281
UTRGV -8.476525 335
Chicago State -9.58911 342
Average -3.264548813 232.5
Conference Rank 23rd of 32

Ranking The Schedules

Just like the WAC is a hodgepodge of institutions, this group of eight schedules is also all over the place. Typically woeful Chicago State has the most difficult non-conference slate by far, ranking in the top 20 in the Average ranking with only New Mexico State joining the Cougars in the top 100—at 98th. Four teams rank in the second 100, while Seattle and Grand Canyon are among the bottom 50 nationally. But when you combine the tremendous spread between the best and worst schedules with the fact 75 percent of the conference at least managed to build a top 200 lineup, you end up with a WAC that ranks in the middle of Division I overall.

*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

WAC 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
Chicago State* 5.513819629 20 6.307938121 10 5.596357791 28 5.431281467 14
New Mexico State* 3.317851874 98 2.838345839 109 3.763790422 87 2.853285281 100
Cal State Bakersfield* 2.903528857 114 3.482338285 75 3.099585538 119 2.734053863 106
Utah Valley 2.256680697 147 2.256680697 141 2.256680697 168 2.256680697 131
UMKC* 2.143533553 152 2.585144306 122 2.267709534 167 2.004617864 150
UTRGV 1.594397356 190 1.594397356 186 1.594397356 209 1.594397356 178
Seattle* -0.6916359776 316 -0.7738841403 315 -0.4412803674 311 -0.9419915879 317
Grand Canyon -1.157396664 332 -1.157396664 326 -1.157396664 335 -1.157396664 326
Average 1.985097416 171.125 2.141695475 160.5 2.122480538 178 1.846866035 165.25
Conference Rank 15th of 32 10th of 32 17th of 32 11th of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Of the three most likely contenders for the WAC crown, New Mexico State and Cal State Bakersfield did the best when it comes to scheduling to their capabilities—the Aggies under-scheduled by 12 places while the Roadrunners overdid things by 25. However, the third, Grand Canyon, loaded up on likely home wins with a scheduling deficit of 160 spots the result. However, that doesn’t compare to Chicago State, the 342nd-ranked team in the four-year rankings that boasts the 20th-rated schedule nationally.

WAC 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
33 New Mexico State 86 98 -12
70 Cal State Bakersfield 139 114 25
91 Seattle 281 316 -35
206 UMKC 251 152 99
214 Utah Valley 254 147 107
263 UTRGV 335 190 145
284 Grand Canyon 172 332 -160
348 Chicago State 342 20 322
188.625 Average (17/32 conf.) 232.5 171.125 61.375

WAC 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
62 1 (+1 semi-home game) 22 (+1 semi-road game) 20 (1 Great Alaska Shootout)

Don’t be too impressed by the single Power 7 home game—Seattle’s guest, California, could be in for some serious rebuilding after Cuonzo Martin’s sudden departure for Missouri. Grand Canyon’s contest in Phoenix against St. John’s is far more noteworthy. Typical of a league ranked in Division I’s lower reaches, nearly a third of the home games played by WAC members will come against non-D1 opposition. That makes the conference’s total of 62 home contests, which ranks ninth of the 25 mid-major leagues, look far less impressive.

WAC Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 20 0
Big West 8 2
Big Sky 7 1
Southland 7 3
Big Ten 6 0
MEAC 6 0
WCC 6 1
ACC 5 1
C-USA 5 2
MW 5 0
Pac-12 5 1
Sun Belt 5 1
MVC 4 1
SWAC 4 0
MAC 3 3
OVC 3 1
SEC 3 0
A 10 2 0
Atlantic Sun 2 0
Big 12 2 0
Big East 2 0
Horizon 2 0
Summit 2 0
America East 1 0
American Athletic 1 0
Big South 1 1
CAA 1 2
MAAC 1 0
NEC 1 0
Ivy 0 2
Patriot 0 0
SoCon 0 0

Despite having only eight members, WAC schedules feature contests against 28 leagues in 2017-18, with only the SoCon and academics-sensitive Ivy and Patriot Leagues missing. The far-flung nature of the conference is partly responsible for this, as the leagues playing more than four WAC opponents aren’t limited to its traditional, and now long-departed, footprint. Still, a few more games against the Big West and Big Sky would be preferable to so many non-D1 games, particularly since those conferences’ members use that same tactic to fill their own schedules.

WAC 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 11 0 11 1.375 0
26-50 1 6 0 7 0.875 1
51-75 1 5 1 7 0.875 1
76-100 2 3 1 6 0.75 3
101-150 5 5 1 11 1.375 4
151-200 9 6 0 15 1.875 6
201-250 5 6 2 13 1.625 3
251-300 7 6 0 13 1.625 2
301-351 13 4 1 18 2.25 2
Non-D1 19 1 0 20 2.5 0
Total 62 53 6 121
Average 7.75 6.625 0.75 15.125
Percentage 0.5123966942 0.4380165289 0.04958677686
Conference Rank (of 32) 14th 18th 26th

Even though a whopping 90 of the WAC’s 121 known non-league games are scheduled against teams from outside of the top 100, 11 top 25 road games ensures most league members will get at least one severe test, and a big paycheck, early in the season.

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.

20. Chicago State Cougars

*Exempt Event: Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis (Mainland)

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (12)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (12)
Silver Lake (Non-D1) None Nicholls State (329) or None Iowa (33)
East-West (Non-D1) Presbyterian (349)* Purdue (19)*
Northern Illinois (184) Notre Dame (21)
Bradley (270) UNI (82)*
UMBC (307)*
Drake (260)
Marquette (57)
Oakland (115)
Northwestern (61)
SIU Edwardsville (313)
Wisconsin (12)
Western Michigan (155)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (East-West) and 5 losses (@Wisconsin, @Oakland, @Notre Dame, @Bradley, @Northwestern)

The 6-26 Cougars defeated just two Division I teams during the non-conference season in 2016, and neither appears on the schedule for 2017. Chicago State will play one more non-league home game this time around, but the 13 contests played away from the Jones Convocation Center include plenty of likely heavy losses.

98. New Mexico State Aggies

*Exempt Event: Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (4-5)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (4-5)
East Central (Okla.) (Non-D1) None Davidson (78)* Illinois (71) Saint Mary's (22)
New Mexico (105) Miami (Fla.) (29) (Chicago) UTEP (168)
Colorado State (92) (or Hawai'i)* New Mexico (105)
UTEP (168) USC (65) or Hawai'i (149)
Prairie View A&M (326) Princeton (76) or (or Miami (Fla.))*
San Diego (221) Middle Tennessee (81) or UC Irvine (100)
Eastern New Mexico (Non-D1) Akron (93)*
Northern New Mexico (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 7 wins (@San Diego, New Mexico, UTEP, @UC Irvine, Eastern New Mexico, UTEP, Northern New Mexico) and 2 losses (@Colorado State, @New Mexico)

Even though the defending tournament champion Aggies won’t enter this season as the WAC favorite, they do have the most testing schedule of the contenders. However, it might not be quite at-large worthy, thanks to the three non-D1 games present. But if UTEP and New Mexico improve enough to make those series matter and the Aggies can upset Saint Mary’s and do some damage at the Diamond Head Classic, NMSU will put itself back in the national picture in Chris Jans’s first season.

Fittingly, the Aggies will serve as Illinois‘s opponent for a game in Chicago honoring Lou Henson—the winningest coach in the history of both programs.

114. Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners

*Exempt Event: GCI Great Alaska Shootout

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Whittier (Non-D1) None Santa Clara (175) or None Georgia Southern (189)
Northern Arizona (319) Idaho (229)* Arizona (7)
Life Pacific (Non-D1) College of Charleston (133) or Lamar (299)
Idaho (229) Central Michigan (179) or Alaska Anchorage (Non-D1)*
Georgia Southern (189) Sam Houston State (193) or UCLA (28)
Cal Poly (243)* Fresno State (116)
Delaware (269)
Arkansas (42)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Fresno State, @Northern Arizona) and 1 loss (@Arizona)

Even though Rod Barnes’s Roadrunners couldn’t qualify for the NCAAs for the second straight year, they went on quite the NIT run—winning three road games to make it to New York for the semifinals. And Bakersfield will again rack up the miles during the early portion of this season, going to such far-flung locales as Anchorage, Tucson, Statesboro, Ga., and Newark, Del. The home-and-home series with Georgia Southern could be one of the better ones scheduled in November and December, while CSUB will be College of Charleston‘s main threat for the final Great Alaska Shootout crown.

147. Utah Valley Wolverines

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
UC Davis (218) None None None Kentucky (3)
Eastern Oregon (Non-D1) Duke (9)
BYU (51) Idaho State (320)
UTSA (301) North Dakota (223)
Weber State (177) Cal State Fullerton (272)
Bethesda (Non-D1) Hawai'i (149)
Montana Tech (Non-D1) Sam Houston State (193)
UC Riverside (274)
Cal State Fullerton (272)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 4 wins (Idaho State, @BYU, UTSA, Montana Tech) and 2 losses (@UTSA, @UC Davis)

While Utah Valley needed to go 2-1 in the CBI to reach .500, the Wolverines made a little bit of noise early in Mark Pope’s second season by defeating BYU for the first time in program history—in Provo no less. The Cougars are the biggest name of the nine visiting Orem in November and December of 2017. However, BYU isn’t the true marquee game on this slate—UVU will be challenged right out of the gate thanks to trips to Kentucky and Duke on consecutive nights. Still, even with those two difficult games, the home games mean the Wolverines might just match their eight non-league wins from a season ago.

152. UMKC Kangaroos

*Exempt Event: Gulf Coast Showcase

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
Haskell (Non-D1) None Manhattan (233)* None Wichita State (10)
Loyola of Chicago (140) Missouri State (188) or Kansas State (41)
South Dakota (191) Georgia Southern (189)* UT Martin (227)
Central Michigan (179) Towson (152) or Southeast Missouri (285)
South Dakota State (119) Northern Illinois (184) or North Carolina State (67)
Avila (Non-D1) Penn (230) or Incarnate Word (271)
William Jewell (Non-D1) FAU (291)* USC Upstate (250)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Southeast Missouri, South Dakota, William Jewell) and 2 losses (@South Dakota State, USC Upstate)

Kareem Richardson’s Roos won more than they lost for the first time in his four-year tenure, and the first time overall since 2010-11. But a 7-10 run through the non-conference left UMKC with work to do in WAC play. Even though the Roos have a trio of rough power conference road games and their half of the Gulf Coast Showcase bracket is the scarier one, it’s possible UMKC can make it to league play with a winning record this time around.

190. UTRGV Vaqueros

*Exempt Event: Ramblin’ Wreck Showcase

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Nicholls State (329) None None None Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (200)
Bethune Cookman (337)* Texas State (208)
Grambling State (350)* North Texas (303)*
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (200) Georgia Tech (73)*
UC Irvine (100) SMU (15)
UT Arlington (109) Texas A&M (44)
Hampton (280) Rice (224)
Our Lady of the Lake (Non-D1) Oklahoma State (32)
Wayland Baptist (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 4 wins (Grambling State (N), Texas State, Wayland Baptist, Our Lady of the Lake) and 2 losses (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, @Texas A&M-Corpus Christi)

The Vaqueros’ exempt event ranks among the worst in the country, as anchor Georgia Tech is the only participant not ranked within the bottom 50 of this series’ four-year rankings. But considering UTRGV gets two of those teams at home, they could very well earn a split of that quartet of games. But with UC Irvine and UT Arlington visiting Edinboro and four Power 7 road trips, don’t expect Lew Hill’s squad to match their eight non-conference wins of a season ago.

316. Seattle Redhawks

*Exempt Event: 2K Classic Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4-5)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4-5)
Puget Sound (Non-D1) None Detroit Mercy (237)* None Saint Louis (239)*
Idaho State (320) Houston Baptist (282) Washington State (183)
Eastern Washington (181) (or Belmont)* Belmont (111)
Kennesaw State (305) (or Houston Baptist)*
Pacific Lutheran (Non-D1) Washington (103)*
St. Martin's (Non-D1) Saint Mary's (22)
Portland (215)
California (49)
Nicholls State (329)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Pacific Lutheran) and 3 losses (@Eastern Washington, Eastern Washington, Washington)

Jim Hayford replaced Cameron Dollar as the Redhawks’ head coach at the end of last season, and his charges, 13-17 a season ago, will spend most of their November and December in the Pacific Northwest with a couple of major exceptions. Seattle’s final road game will be at Saint Mary’s, the WCC favorite, while all four 2K Classic games will take place away from home, even if one of those is scheduled for UW across town. Winning eight of the nine games scheduled for either Key Arena or the Connolly Complex is task one for a program attempting to gain relevance in an improving league.

332. Grand Canyon Antelopes

*Exempt Event: Grand Canyon Classic

True Home Games (11) Semi-Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (11) Semi-Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (3)
Florida A&M (351) St. John's (102) None None Boise State (77)
Robert Morris (262)* (Talking Stick Resort Arena) Louisville (8)
Little Rock (165)* Morgan State (322) Illinois (71)
Norfolk State (261)* (Las Vegas)
San Diego (221)*
UC Riverside (274)
Grambling State (350)
North Carolina Central (182)
Mississippi Valley State (347)
Longwood (341)
William Jessup (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Mississippi Valley State) and 2 losses (Louisville, @UC Riverside)

Dan Majerle’s ‘Lopes are finally NCAA Tournament-eligible and expectations are sky high in Phoenix. With just three true road games on the non-conference schedule, the GCU student section should join the players in getting their reps in before WAC play begins. However, the quality of the opposition leaves a bit to be desired, and means the conference favorite will have the slenderest of at-large hopes should things go wrong in Vegas in mid-March.

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