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Analyzing The Summit League’s Non-Conference Schedules For 2017-18

South Dakota State has represented the Summit in two consecutive NCAA Tournaments—and the Jackrabbits have a non-conference schedule that will prepare them for a three-peat.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Gonzaga vs South Dakota State
Mike Daum and the Jackrabbits are back for another Summit League title run.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

Even though none of its members rank within the Top 100 of the four-year rankings, the Summit League is on the rise. That’s due to the continued success of South Dakota State and North Dakota State along with the improvement of Fort Wayne, Omaha, and South Dakota. The conference’s perceived stature naturally isn’t borne out by its 14th-place standing in the conference table. The fact none of its squads fall in the bottom 50 helps boost the Summit’s average rank, though Western Illinois barely avoids slipping into that ignominious group.

Summit Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
South Dakota State 1.9359685 119
North Dakota State 1.043484 134
Fort Wayne 0.855738 141
Omaha -0.53825795 176
Denver -1.0623275 187
South Dakota -1.2232875 191
Oral Roberts -1.8649408 216
Western Illinois -5.3697965 300
Average -0.7779274688 183
Conference Rank 14th of 32

Ranking The Schedules

With three schedules ranking among the top 65 in three of the four categories below and none ranking worse than 275th, the Summit League’s eight members did a decent job of building their November and December slates. And that’s even factoring in some of the difficulties these teams encounter, which I’ll elaborate upon 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

Summit 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
South Dakota State* 4.313230868 59 3.978502242 55 5.064911243 46 3.70547589 65
Omaha* 4.192170803 61 4.792373544 34 4.199877814 75 4.184463791 46
Oral Roberts* 4.137940243 62 4.444990295 43 4.147402543 76 4.128477943 48
Fort Wayne 1.542102839 196 1.642366978 182 1.869216918 192 1.214988759 203
North Dakota State* 1.437818538 208 1.742376923 175 1.623310397 207 1.252326678 199
Western Illinois 1.424500869 209 1.424500869 199 1.424500869 221 1.424500869 191
South Dakota 0.7808002132 242 0.7808002132 232 0.7808002132 255 0.7808002132 229
Denver 0.1223263157 275 0.1223263157 269 0.1223263157 285 0.1223263157 262
Average 2.243861336 164 2.366029673 148.625 2.404043289 169.625 2.101670057 155.375
Conference Rank 7th of 32 5th of 32 9th of 32 5th of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

The Summit’s league-wide schedule gap is a bit deceiving, as the eight members’ average four-year ranking and 2017-18 non-conference slate are rather close when examined in total. But when you look at each team individually, no team really stands out as having done even a decent job on this front. For example, 2017 regular season champ South Dakota under-scheduled by 51 spots, while 2016 and 2017 NCAA rep South Dakota State over-scheduled by 60.

Summit 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
125 South Dakota 191 242 -51
130 Fort Wayne 141 196 -55
142 South Dakota State 119 59 60
171 North Dakota State 134 208 -74
197 Denver 187 275 -88
200 Western Illinois 300 209 91
224 Omaha 176 61 115
279 Oral Roberts 216 62 154
183.5 Average (4/32 conf.) 183 164 19

Summit Home, Power Conference, & Non-D1 Games

True Home Games Scheduled Home Games Scheduled Against Power 6 Teams Road Games Scheduled Against Power 6 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
True Home Games Scheduled Home Games Scheduled Against Power 6 Teams Road Games Scheduled Against Power 6 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
57 0 27 27

With the Summit dropping down to eight teams for a season—thanks to IUPUI‘s summer departure and awaiting North Dakota’s arrival next July—the conference slate drops to only 14 games for 2017-18. And that means coaches had to find two more non-league games for November/December—a total of four more than most teams with 18-game league schedules play. So, the average of a little more than eight home games isn’t all that impressive for a 15- or 17-game non-league slate, even if it ranks 14th out of 25 mid-major leagues.

The geographic isolation of the Summit’s more northern members and the relative lack of Division I teams west of the Mississippi means this conference’s teams need to both travel considerable distances and schedule non-Division II foes to fill their sizable November and December slates. The Summit ranks third among the mid-majors in terms of non-D1 games, though its total of 27 pales in comparison to the Southland’s 45.

Summit Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 27 0
Big Sky 11 0
Big 12 8 0
MVC 8 0
Horizon 7 0
MW 7 0
Pac-12 7 0
Atlantic Sun 6 0
OVC 5 0
Big West 4 1
MAC 4 1
SEC 4 0
Big Ten 3 1
ACC 2 0
American Athletic 2 1
MEAC 2 2
Patriot 2 0
Sun Belt 2 1
SWAC 2 2
WAC 2 0
Big East 1 0
Big South 1 0
C-USA 1 3
CAA 1 0
NEC 1 0
Southland 1 0
A 10 0 1
America East 0 0
Ivy 0 0
MAAC 0 0
SoCon 0 0
WCC 0 1

Of course, it would help if the four conferences that share the Summit’s footprint would schedule its members more consistently. The top four Division I leagues on this list—all with teams that are relatively close some of the eight in the Summit League— play a total of 34 games against its members. That’s just seven fewer than number of contests scheduled against teams from outside of Division I. And that total includes home-and-home series between NDSU and North Dakota and Omaha’s pair against Drake and Montana State!

Summit 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 9 0 9 1.125 1
26-50 0 6 0 6 0.75 1
51-75 0 8 0 8 1 0
76-100 2 4 1 7 0.875 2
101-150 2 7 1 10 1.25 3
151-200 4 2 3 9 1.125 2
201-250 7 4 2 13 1.625 1
251-300 8 8 4 20 2.5 0
301-351 7 3 2 12 1.5 4
Non-D1 27 0 0 27 3.375 0
Total 57 51 13 121
Average 7.125 6.375 1.625 15.125
Percentage 0.4710743802 0.4214876033 0.1074380165
Conference Rank (of 32) 16th 19th 15th

Even when you break teams out by ranking, games against non-Division I foes stand out, though a total of 32 games against the bottom 100 of Division I is just as worrisome from a rankings and seedings perspective.

The fact the Summit ranks 15th in neutral-site games scheduled keeps the league from being ranked equally in terms of home and away games—and from being smack dab in the middle of D1 in both categories.

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.

59. South Dakota State Jackrabbits

*Exempt Event: Cayman Islands Classic

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
UC Irvine (100) Missouri State (188) Wyoming (131)* None Kansas (5)
Mary (Non-D1) (Sioux Falls, S.D.) Iowa (33) or Ole Miss (63)
Alabama State (327)* Louisiana (123)* Wichita State (10)
Dakota State (Non-D1) Cincinnati (20) or Colorado (60)
Concordia (Neb.) (Non-D1) Richmond (80) or UMKC (251)
North Dakota (223) Buffalo (104) or
Drake (260) UAB (147)*
Presentation (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (UMKC, @Drake) and 3 losses (@UC Irvine, UC Irvine (N), @Wichita State)

Even with T.J. Otzelberger taking over for Scott Nagy at the beginning of last season, the beat goes on for the Jackrabbits, who pulled it together late to reach a second consecutive NCAA Tournament, albeit as a 16 seed, not the 12 seed earned in 2016. And considering this schedule—particularly the trip to the Cincinnati and Iowa-anchored Cayman Islands Classic and those road games against Kansas and Wichita State—it might be a similar story this season.

61. Omaha Mavericks

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

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (8)
Drake (260) None Tennessee Tech (245)* Montana State (276) Oklahoma (23)
Arkansas State (204) Jackson State (310) or (Great Falls, Mont.) New Mexico (105)*
Cornell (Iowa) (Non-D1) Maryland Eastern Shore (315)* Louisville (8)
Montana State (276) TCU (69)*
Doane (Non-D1) Washington (103)
UC Santa Barbara (201)
Drake (260)
Kansas (5)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (@UC Santa Barbara, Montana State) and 0 losses

The Mavericks, who came tantalizingly close to earning their first NCAA bid last March, have one of the more intriguing schedules out there. Not only does Omaha travel to the Florida Panhandle for the Emerald Coast Classic and to six national brands, the Mavericks join NDSU in having two non-conference home-and-home series on their respective plates. Okay, it’s really one-and-a-half for Derrin Hansen’s squad, since the first leg of the Montana State series is in Great Falls, not Bozeman. Still, that’s the type of creativity more teams in the mid-major ranks might need to use when building schedules in the future, particularly if 20-game power league slates become the norm.

62. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

*Exempt Event: Legends Classic (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1-2) True Road Games (8-9)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1-2) True Road Games (8-9)
Avila (Non-D1) None Montana (166)* UC Santa Barbara (201) Tulsa (87)
Oakland (115) (or Pepperdine)* Oklahoma State (32)*
Southern Nazarene (Non-D1) UNLV (154) Pepperdine (192)
Missouri State (188) (MGM Grand Garden) (or UC Santa Barbara)*
East Texas Baptist (Non-D1) Penn State (95)*
Nebraska Christian (Non-D1) Kansas State (41)
Little Rock (165)
FGCU (146)
Arkansas (42)
Minnesota (64)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Little Rock) and 4 losses (Montana (N), Tulsa, @Oakland, @Missouri State)

For the first time since 1999, Scott Sutton won’t be pacing the Golden Eagles’ sideline, and new head coach Paul Mills will attempt to rebuild a program that’s coming off a pair of losing seasons. But don’t expect much improvement with this slate. The two Division I teams visiting the Mabee Center this fall are serious threats to reach in the NCAAs as their respective conferences’ auto bid winners and there are six power conference road games too (and a trip to ASUN power FGCU). And then there’s a tricky trip to Malibu for the Pepperdine-hosted Legends Classic subregional.

196. Fort Wayne Mastodons

*Exempt Event: Adolph Rupp Classic

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (7)
Defiance (Non-D1) None Liberty (289) Louisiana Tech (97) Oakland (115)
Delaware State (338)* (New Orleans) (or Alabama State) UIC (302)*
Detroit Mercy (237) Alabama State (327) (New Orleans) Kentucky (3)*
IU Kokomo (Non-D1) (or Louisiana Tech) ETSU (121)*
SIU Edwardsville (313) (New Orleans) Akron (93)
Stetson (325) Miami (Ohio) (253)
Olivet (Non-D1) Indiana (31)
Concordia (Mich.) (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 5 wins (Indiana, Miami (Ohio), Stetson, Detroit Mercy, Olivet) and 0 losses

While Mastodon fans might wish their squad had joined IUPUI in shifting to the more geographically-convenient Horizon League, Fort Wayne is still in a decent geographic position for November and December scheduling. However, Jon Coffman still needed to line up games against three non-D1 squads and to sign up for a non-exempt tournament in New Orleans to fill this season’s slate.

Three (possible future rival?) Horizon squads feature on this slate, as do road trips to both Kentucky and Indiana, a squad Fort Wayne famously defeated last season.

208. North Dakota State Bison

*Exempt Event: Hoops In The Heartland

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7-8)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7-8)
Florida A&M (351)* None UNCW (91) None UC Santa Barbara (201)
Stetson (325) (El Paso) USC (65)
Missouri State (188) Howard (333) Missouri State (188)
Valley City State (Non-D1) (or UTEP) Stephen F. Austin (99)*
Jamestown (Non-D1) Mississippi State (101)*
North Dakota (223) North Dakota (223)
Mayville State (Non-D1) Arizona (7)
UTEP (168)
(or Howard)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (@North Dakota) and 1 loss (@Missouri State, North Dakota)

Like Fort Wayne, the Bison have a December non-exempt tournament on tap, as they’ll head to El Paso for the Sun Bowl Classic, which could provide a pair of decent tests provided NDSU defeats UNCW in the semifinals. The customary home-and-home with North Dakota serves as a preview of next season’s Summit slate—particularly since the two games will be spread out over a longer period than the nine-day span of 2016’s series. (The Bison will also play the Missouri State twice.) However, NDSU will rack up the miles to play its more noteworthy non-league foes: Pac-12 Final Four contenders USC and Arizona and possible SEC at-large threat Mississippi State.

209. Western Illinois Leathernecks

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4)
St. Mary's (Minn.) (Non-D1) None None None SIU Edwardsville (313)
Eastern Illinois (252) Iowa State (14)
Calvary (Non-D1) Eastern Illinois (252)
IUPUI (241) Butler (26)
Miami (Ohio) (253)
American (283)
Milwaukee (194)
Lincoln Christian (Non-D1)
Oak Hills Christian (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Oak Hills Christian, Milwaukee) and 4 losses (@Eastern Illinois, @Miami (Ohio), @American, Eastern Illinois)

Billy Wright enters his fourth season in charge with many questions to still answer, as only ORU’s collapse prevented the Leathernecks from a third consecutive basement finish. So, you can understand why WIU’s slate—featuring just 13 games, with nine at home and four of those against non-D1 foes—might appear underwhelming. Yes, there are road trips to Iowa State and Butler, but other than those two contests, there’s not much here for the Leathernecks to truly fear.

242. South Dakota Coyotes

*Exempt Event: Sanford Pentagon Showcase

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
Mayville State (Non-D1) Southern Mississippi (308)* None None Bowling Green (211)
Grambling State (350) Northern Colorado (295)* TCU (69)
Mount Marty (Non-D1)* Youngstown State (278)* UMKC (251)
Drake (260) Duke (9)
Eastern Washington (181) Northern Arizona (319)
Northland (Non-D1) San Jose State (287)
Peru State (Non-D1) UCLA (28)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (@Drake, Bowling Green) and 1 loss (@UMKC)

The 2017 Summit regular season champs get to stick closer to home than most of their league rivals this November and December, thanks to three very winnable games in Sioux Falls for the Sanford Pentagon Showcase. Given the weakness of the home slate and the fact that only three of the seven road games look out of reach, the Coyotes should have double-digit wins heading into league play.

275. Denver Pioneers

*Exempt Event: Homewood Suites FGCU Shootout

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
UC Irvine (100) None St. Francis-Brooklyn (317)* None Colorado (60)
Johnson & Wales (N.C.) (Non-D1) Navy (238)* FGCU (146)*
Wyoming (131) Northern Colorado (295)
Air Force (234) Stanford (74)
San Jose State (287) Montana State (276)
USC Upstate (250)
Colorado Mesa (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (@San José State, @Air Force, Northern Colorado) and 1 loss (@Wyoming)

Given Denver’s position on the edge of the Rockies, the Pioneers have a bit more luck in scheduling non-conference games than many of their Summit rivals. Yes, two non-D1 teams visit Magness Arena, but so do three Mountain West squads. Rodney Billups’s squad also heads to Florida for three games as part of FGCU‘s round-robin and to a pair of Pac-12 squads in Stanford and Front Range rival Colorado.

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