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

If you’re looking for this conference’s strongest non-league slates, make your way to the Detroit area.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Oakland
Greg Kampe and his Golden Grizzlies should again be well-tested as they work toward a second straight Horizon League regular season crown.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

The Horizon was the loser of the mini wave of realignment that followed the Wichita State Shockers’ move from the Missouri Valley to the American, with the Valley poaching Valparaiso, ranked 68th in my four-year table, to fill the gap. In turn, the Horizon replaced Valpo with IUPUI, a great geographic fit that sits 173 places below the Crusaders in the rankings. As a result, 70 percent of this league’s membership now ranks in the bottom half of Division I. Like the CAA, realignment has turned the Horizon, formerly a consistent threat to send multiple teams to the NCAAs, into another one-bid league.

Horizon Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
Oakland 2.2338616 115
Green Bay 1.977241 118
Wright State -0.2354924 161
Milwaukee -1.30932245 194
Cleveland State -2.095044 219
Northern Kentucky -2.2736665 222
Detroit -2.8519033 237
IUPUI -3.031863 241
Youngstown State -4.6747405 278
UIC -5.5088495 302
Average -1.776977905 208.7
Conference Rank 21st of 32

Ranking The Schedules

With 80 percent of the Horizon having set schedules, the games the conference already has lined up rank favorably with the rest of the nation, hence why the league’s Known and Minimum Schedule rankings are slightly stronger than the Average and Maximum ones. Even though no Horizon member cracks the top 50 nationally in any of the four metrics, the fact the majority of squads sit in the top half of Division I means the average Horizon non-conference slate ranks far better than the national average.

*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

Horizon 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
Oakland 3.889705369 69 3.889705369 59 3.889705369 85 3.889705369 53
Detroit Mercy* 3.218682048 102 3.434877667 80 3.546070154 102 2.891293942 97
IUPUI 3.00476883 109 3.00476883 99 3.00476883 125 3.00476883 93
Milwaukee 2.781143146 119 2.781143146 115 2.781143146 133 2.781143146 104
UIC 2.049800346 158 2.049800346 156 2.049800346 176 2.049800346 144
Northern Kentucky* 1.996110911 164 2.255788 142 2.695928708 138 1.49911914 186
Cleveland State 1.90787929 167 1.90787929 162 1.90787929 184 1.90787929 153
Youngstown State 1.625191526 189 1.625191526 185 1.625191526 206 1.625191526 176
Green Bay 0.6685747481 249 0.6685747481 239 0.6685747481 261 0.6685747481 235
Wright State 0.2174709038 271 0.2174709038 264 0.2174709038 279 0.2174709038 259
Average 2.135932712 159.7 2.183519983 150.1 2.238653302 168.9 2.053494724 150
Conference Rank 11th of 32 9th of 32 13th of 32 6th of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

All but two Horizon teams over-scheduled this season, and despite the average schedule gap of 49 places, no team did a particularly good job of keeping its four-year ranking and Average Schedule rank close. Oakland and Cleveland State, three points below and above that mark of 49, did the best. On the flip side, potential contender UIC did the worst—over-scheduling by 144 spots. Still, there aren’t any truly huge gaps of 250-plus like those found in the leagues at the bottom of Division I, like the SWAC, MEAC, and Southland.

Horizon 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
115 Oakland 115 69 46
128 Cleveland State 219 167 52
140 Northern Kentucky 222 164 58
176 Milwaukee 194 119 75
198 Youngstown State 278 189 89
220 Wright State 161 271 -110
243 Green Bay 118 249 -131
245 IUPUI 241 109 132
249 Detroit Mercy 237 102 135
261 UIC 302 158 144
197.5 Average (13/32 conf.) 208.7 159.7 49

Horizon 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
58 1 22 18

Just one power conference squad will visit a Horizon League gym this season, as DePaul will look to avenge last season’s home loss to UIC. The 22 Power 7 road games seems a bit low, though perhaps that’s due to many Big Ten teams scheduling opposition with more cupcake-like tendencies than stronger local rivals.

Overall, the Horizon is average for a mid-major league in terms of the number of home games (13th of 25), Power 7 road trips (12th), and non-D1 games (tied for 13th).

Horizon Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
MAC 20 0
Non-D1 16 0
OVC 10 1
Big Ten 8 0
MVC 7 1
Summit 7 0
MEAC 4 0
SEC 4 0
ACC 3 0
American Athletic 3 0
Atlantic Sun 3 0
Big East 3 0
Big Sky 3 1
C-USA 3 1
CAA 3 0
MAAC 3 1
SoCon 3 0
A 10 2 0
Big 12 2 0
NEC 2 0
Pac-12 2 0
Sun Belt 2 1
WAC 2 0
America East 1 1
Big South 1 0
Ivy 1 0
MW 1 0
Southland 1 1
SWAC 1 0
WCC 1 0
Big West 0 0
Patriot 0 0

While Horizon schedules are naturally Midwest-centric, conference members will miss just two Division I leagues entirely this season. The presence of 16 non-Division I games means there’s room for improvement, particularly when you see that just 17 games feature Summit and OVC opposition. Those two neighboring loops also rely on teams from Division II and below to fill out their schedules.

Horizon 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 1 10 1 0
26-50 0 5 1 6 0.6 0
51-75 0 2 0 2 0.2 0
76-100 0 3 0 3 0.3 2
101-150 10 12 1 23 2.3 1
151-200 10 15 2 27 2.7 2
201-250 6 3 0 9 0.9 0
251-300 6 6 2 14 1.4 2
301-351 8 3 1 12 1.2 1
Non-D1 18 0 0 18 1.8 0
Total 58 58 8 124
Average 5.8 5.8 0.8 12.4
Percentage 0.4677419355 0.4677419355 0.06451612903
Conference Rank (of 32) 17th 15th 21st

However, those non-Division I games help Horizon members approach parity in terms of home and away games. More interestingly, however, is the fact that these 10 teams will play an average of five games apiece against teams ranked in the second 100 of the four-year rankings. That’s a goal all mid-major leagues should be striving toward, especially with 20-game Power 7 slates becoming the new reality. Why? Well, while it’s nearly impossible to schedule teams in the top 100 consistently (since that group is Power 7 heavy), teams ranked outside of the top 200 don’t really help your schedule strength either, particularly when it comes to March Madness seeding.

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.

69. Oakland Golden Grizzlies

*Exempt Event: HoopHall Miami Invitational (Visitor)

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
Fort Wayne (141) None Michigan State (16) None Toledo (114)*
New Orleans (273) (Little Caesars Arena) Syracuse (38)*
Texas Southern (206)* Kansas (5)*
Chicago State (342) Oral Roberts (216)
Towson (152) Western Michigan (155)
Eastern Michigan (137) Eastern Michigan (137)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Western Michigan, Chicago State, Oral Roberts) and 1 loss (@Michigan State)

While Greg Kampe’s Grizzlies visit both Syracuse and Kansas as part of their HoopHall Miami travels, the highlight of Oakland’s slate is the game in Detroit against Michigan State. The Golden Grizzlies have played the Spartans very close in their last two neutral-site meetings, both in Auburn Hills—losing by four in 2013 and six after overtime in 2015. A home-and-home with Rob Murphy’s Eastern Michigan is also a series to keep an eye on this fall.

102. Detroit Mercy Titans

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

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4-5)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4-5)
Siena Heights (Non-D1) None Seattle (281)* None Virginia Tech (75)*
Toledo (114) Houston Baptist (282) Belmont (111)
Western Michigan (155) (or Belmont)* (or Houston Baptist)*
ETSU (121) Michigan (27) Saint Louis (239)*
Murray State (153) (Little Caesars Arena) Fort Wayne (141)
UCLA (28)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 4 losses (@ETSU, @Murray State, @Toledo, Fort Wayne)

Considering the Titans won just one non-conference game against Division I opposition, Bacari Alexander’s squad won’t need to do much to improve this November and December. However, the four road games are hellacious, as is the Belmont-hosted Legends Classic subregional and a neutral-site tilt against Michigan. If UDM can’t defeat Seattle or Houston Baptist in Nashville, it could be yet another long fall at Calihan Hall.

109. IUPUI Jaguars

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
Anderson (Non-D1) None None None Bradley (270)
Morehead State (162) Eastern Illinois (252)
SIU Edwardsville (313) Western Illinois (300)
IU Kokomo (Non-D1) Ball State (197)
Purdue (19)
Washington State (183)
Gonzaga (4)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Ball State, Western Illinois) and 2 losses (@SIU Edwardsville, @Western Illinois)

Curiously, the Jaguars didn’t play a single Horizon team during their final year in the Summit, and they’ll play just one former league rival, WIU, this time around. The most interesting thing about this slate: other than a trip to the Palouse to play both Washington State and Gonzaga, IUPUI won’t leave Indiana and Illinois during the non-conference.

119. Milwaukee Panthers

*Exempt Event: Black & Gold Shootout

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
LaCrosse (Non-D1)* None None None Iowa State (14)
Concordia-St. Paul (Non-D1)* Wisconsin (12)
FIU (259)* Northern Illinois (184)
Elon (170)* Jacksonville (306)
Loyola of Chicago (140) Western Illinois (300)
Montana State (276) Belmont (111)
Western Michigan (155)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Jacksonville, @Montana State) and 3 losses (@Loyola of Chicago, Western Illinois, Belmont)

For the moment, forget about the Panthers’ run to the Horizon League title game and consider that Milwaukee won just three encounters against Division I foes before conference play started. But even with visits to Iowa State and Wisconsin on tap, 2016-17’s non-league win total is completely passable, thanks in no small part to five home games against beatable D1 foes.

158. UIC Flames

*Exempt Event: Adolph Rupp Classic

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
North Carolina Central (182) None None None Kentucky (3)*
Saint Joseph's (107) Troy (228)*
Delaware State (338)* Loyola of Chicago (140)
Fort Wayne (141)* Illinois State (70)
Wisconsin-Parkside (Non-D1) Northern Illinois (184)
DePaul (171)
Dartmouth (256)
Trinity Christian (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 4 wins (Trinity Christian, @DePaul) and 3 losses (@Northern Illinois, Loyola of Chicago)

The Flames picked up seven of their 17 wins last season in the non-conference, with five of those victories coming against Division I foes. Unfortunately, four of those squads aren’t part of this schedule (but DePaul is, and the Blue Demons visit UIC Pavilion this time), with Saint Joseph’s, Illinois State, and, most distressingly, Kentucky among the new squads on 2017’s slate. In short, if UIC is really going to mount a Horizon title run, its record might not show it when league play starts.

164. Northern Kentucky Norse

*Exempt Event: Islands Of The Bahamas Showcase

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4)
ETSU (121) None James Madison (173)* None Memphis (79)
Wilmington (Non-D1) Iona (98) or ETSU (121)
Berea (Non-D1) Weber State (177) UMBC (307)
Morehead State (162) Vermont (89) or Texas A&M (44)
Eastern Kentucky (217) Coastal Carolina (180) or
Bradley (270) or
UTSA (301)*

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

The team that kept Milwaukee from the NCAAs (and a likely trip to Dayton) will look to establish itself as the Horizon’s newest power after what should be a successful run through one of the more manageable non-league slates out there. Yes, NKU has a game against a Texas A&M squad that should challenge for second in the SEC, but the other name brand team on the schedule, Memphis, is very much a team in transition. A home-and-home with ETSU is intriguing and two or three wins could be available in the Norse’s exempt event in the Bahamas.

167. Cleveland State Vikings

*Exempt Event: Showcase On The Banks

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)
Coppin State (339)* None None None Akron (93)
Central Connecticut State (346)* Rutgers (199)*
Arkansas State (204) East Carolina (198)*
Notre Dame (Ohio) (Non-D1) Kent State (148)
Toledo (114) Western Michigan (155)
Niagara (297)
Cincinnati (20)
Michigan State (16)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Western Michigan) and 2 losses (Kent State (N), @Arkansas State)

Former WKU and Georgia head coach Dennis Felton takes over the Vikings this season and constructed a maiden schedule that builds to the two biggest challenges—trips to Cincinnati and Michigan State. CSU also gets two home games as part of the Rutgers-anchored Showcase on the Banks, one of the weakest MTEs on the calendar this November.

189. Youngstown State Penguins

*Exempt Event: Sanford Pentagon Showcase

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (6)
Franciscan (Non-D1) None Kent State (148) South Dakota (191)* Canisius (185)
Westminster (Pa.) (Non-D1)* (Akron) DePaul (171)
Robert Morris (262) Northern Colorado (295)* Butler (26)
Southern Mississippi (308)* Idaho State (320)
Utah State (125)
Indiana (31)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Westminster (Pa.), @Robert Morris) and 0 losses

Jerrod Calhoun replaced Jerry Slocum after the Penguins stumbled to a 13-21 finish after starting out 6-6. Those half-dozen wins might look appetizing after a 2017 non-conference slate that features just three home games and tricky visits to Butler and Indiana. Note that two of the three games at the Sanford Pentagon Showcase in Sioux Falls should be quite winnable.

249. Green Bay Phoenix

*Exempt Event: Hoops In The Heartland

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
Lakeland (Non-D1)* None None None Northern Illinois (184)
Florida A&M (351)* Mississippi State (101)*
Stetson (325)* Belmont (111)
Eastern Illinois (252) Missouri (150)
Rockford (Non-D1) Indiana State (174)
Bowling Green (211) Wisconsin (12)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (@Bowling Green) and 1 loss (@Wisconsin)

Linc Darner’s third Phoenix squad should again challenge for the Horizon crown and will likely enter league play with at least six wins, thanks to a forgiving home slate. The same cannot be said for the half-dozen road trips, with games against four potential NCAA squads (Belmont, Mississippi State, Missouri, and in-state rival Wisconsin) looking particularly rough.

271. Wright State Raiders

*Exempt Event: Wright State MTE

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
Murray State (153) None None None Loyola of Chicago (140)
Tiffin (Non-D1)* Miami (Ohio) (253)
Gardner-Webb (213)* WKU (190)
Jacksonville (306)* Toledo (114)
Fairfield (232)* Missouri State (188)
Ohio Valley (Non-D1) Georgia Tech (73)
Kent State (148)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Miami (Ohio), Kent State, Murray State) and 2 losses (Toledo, @Loyola of Chicago)

For the second straight season, the Raiders will host an exempt round-robin, though they might struggle to sweep this season’s edition with MAAC favorite Fairfield featuring in the showcase game. Still, a schedule that features two non-D1 foes and only a single power conference game (against Georgia Tech) should help push Scott Nagy’s squad to another 20-win campaign.

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