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

One of this season’s conference favorites boasts its most difficult non-league slate. But in a major upset, it isn’t Stephen F. Austin.

NCAA Basketball: Stephen F. Austin at Kentucky
Last season, Kentucky dunked all over Stephen F. Austin in one of the many difficult games the 2016 Southland champs scheduled. The Lumberjacks’ 2017-18 slate isn’t quite so testing.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

With Stephen F. Austin edging into the four-year ranking’s top 100 and four teams in the bottom 50 (and a trio of teams ranking just above), there’s a serious quality gap in the Southland. SFA’s run of 12 and 14 seeds between 2014 and 2016 has been the exception, not the rule for league reps in the NCAA. Therefore, it should be no surprise that New Orleans, 273rd nationally in these standings, ended up in Dayton a season ago. It’s also not shocking that only the NEC, MEAC, and SWAC rank lower among Division I’s 32 conferences.

Southland Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
Stephen F. Austin 3.010202 99
Sam Houston State -1.2700585 193
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi -1.444769 200
Incarnate Word -4.3659385 271
New Orleans -4.393185 273
Houston Baptist -4.842281 282
Northwestern State -5.1804795 294
Southeastern Louisiana -5.32886 298
Lamar -5.330009 299
McNeese State -7.07208 321
Nicholls State -7.71857 329
Abilene Christian -7.885885 332
Central Arkansas -8.72167 336
Average -4.657198731 271.3076923
Conference Rank 29th of 32

Ranking The Schedules

if you consider one factor that goes into building non-conference schedules, games against Division I opponents, it’s a surprise that Southland has five teams ranked in the top 50 nationally in the majority of the four categories. But then you consider the number of quality road games those squads will play and things make a lot more sense. Somewhat surprisingly, just four conference members have non-league slates that rank in the bottom 100 nationally in three of the four tables.

*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

Southland Schedule Strengths And National Rankings

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
Northwestern State 6.986519977 6 6.986519977 8 6.986519977 9 6.986519977 6
Houston Baptist* 5.731526914 16 6.448783854 9 5.788190675 25 5.674863154 11
Central Arkansas 5.477481289 21 5.477481289 19 5.477481289 31 5.477481289 13
Incarnate Word 5.185186744 25 5.185186744 25 5.185186744 40 5.185186744 16
New Orleans 4.728191518 42 4.728191518 36 4.728191518 54 4.728191518 34
McNeese State 3.092483634 106 3.092483634 96 3.092483634 120 3.092483634 89
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 2.904115455 113 2.904115455 102 2.904115455 128 2.904115455 96
Sam Houston State* 2.556444851 129 3.072718236 98 2.835329373 130 2.272331604 128
Southeastern Louisiana 1.315358958 216 1.315358958 202 1.315358958 223 1.315358958 195
Nicholls State* 0.4359896154 259 0.897078 221 0.5971251154 267 0.2748541154 255
Stephen F. Austin -0.0130109538 284 -0.0130109538 276 -0.0130109538 294 -0.0130109538 275
Lamar* -0.0733172144 286 0.3883916583 255 0.1445962519 283 -0.2912306808 288
Abilene Christian -0.3097965383 298 -0.3097965383 292 -0.3097965383 306 -0.3097965383 289
Average 2.924398019 138.5384615 3.090269372 126.0769231 2.979367038 146.9230769 2.86902679 130.3846154
Conference Rank 3rd of 32 5th of 32 3rd of 32 3rd of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Of the Southland’s 13 teams, only Stephen F. Austin managed to under-schedule this season, by 185 places. Everyone else overdid it, though the margin varies by 302 places—that’s the distance between Lamar’s 13-place gap and UCA’s of 315. The Bears’ scheduling gap is, for the record, the sixth most substantial in all of D1.

Southland 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
39 Lamar 299 286 13
89 Abilene Christian 332 298 34
150 Sam Houston State 193 129 64
161 Nicholls State 329 259 70
186 Southeastern Louisiana 298 216 82
195 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 200 113 87
300 Stephen F. Austin 99 284 -185
313 McNeese State 321 106 215
320 New Orleans 273 42 231
329 Incarnate Word 271 25 246
337 Houston Baptist 282 16 266
341 Northwestern State 294 6 288
346 Central Arkansas 336 21 315
238.9230769 Average (30/32 conf.) 271.3076923 138.5384615 132.7692308

Southland 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
63 0 39 45 (1 semi-road, 1 neutral)

Non-conference scheduling puts the Southland behind the eight ball right at the start. While the Southland is tied for seventh among the mid-major leagues when comparing non-conference home games, nearly three-fourths of those feature opponents from outside of Division I. That total of 45 non-D1 games leads all of Division I by a not insignificant margin—the second-place Big South has just 28 such games scheduled. Plus, Southland members will play nearly that many Power 7 road games—the total of 39 ranks third among mid-majors. That’s not a formula that will help a conference rise up the metrics tables.

Southland Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 45 1
Sun Belt 17 0
American Athletic 11 0
C-USA 10 0
SEC 9 0
Big 12 7 0
WAC 7 3
ACC 4 0
Pac-12 4 0
WCC 4 1
Atlantic Sun 3 0
Big East 3 0
Big Sky 3 1
Big South 3 1
MAC 3 0
MW 3 0
OVC 3 0
SWAC 3 0
MEAC 2 1
MVC 2 0
A 10 1 0
Big Ten 1 0
Big West 1 1
Horizon 1 1
MAAC 1 0
SoCon 1 0
Summit 1 0
America East 0 1
CAA 0 1
Ivy 0 0
NEC 0 0
Patriot 0 0

Non-D1 games dominate Southland non-league slates, with 28 more contests league-wide than ones lined against the most frequently Division I league, the Sun Belt. But when you consider Southland members have just 46 games scheduled against other regional D1 teams, there might just be room for more cooperation between Southern conferences on scheduling. However, the financial constraints experienced by many Southland members might keep its teams chasing buy games.

Southland 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 13 0 13 1 0
26-50 0 7 0 7 0.5384615385 0
51-75 0 11 0 11 0.8461538462 0
76-100 0 7 0 7 0.5384615385 0
101-150 3 12 0 15 1.153846154 2
151-200 4 9 1 14 1.076923077 1
201-250 8 11 3 22 1.692307692 3
251-300 2 2 0 4 0.3076923077 2
301-351 3 9 2 14 1.076923077 3
Non-D1 43 1 1 45 3.461538462 1
Total 63 82 7 152
Average 4.846153846 6.307692308 0.5384615385 11.69230769
Percentage 0.4144736842 0.5394736842 0.04605263158
Conference Rank (of 32) 24th 6th 27th

The Southland’s non-D1 game problem is so pervasive that Northwestern State is even playing two lower-division squads away from home this season. And they’re not named Chaminade or Alaska Anchorage. In total, a mere 20 Southland non-conference home games will feature a Division I visitor. That cannot be good for ticket sales and the bottom line, even with Power 7 paychecks factored in.

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.

6. Northwestern State Demons

*Exempt Event: Jamaica Classic Montego Bay (Mainland Only)

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (6)
LeTourneau (Non-D1)* None Louisiana College (Non-D1) LSU-Shreveport (Non-D1) Texas (39)
Rice (224) (Alexandria, La.) (at Centenary College) SMU (15)
Lyon (Ark.) (Non-D1) ULM (202)
Colorado State (92)*
Oklahoma (23)
Utah (24)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 4 wins (LeTourneau, LSU-Shreveport, ULM (N), Louisiana College) and 2 losses (@Oklahoma, @Rice)

While the Demons will visit Colorado State and host a non-D1 squad as part of the Jamaica Classic, they won’t be traveling to Montego Bay for the inaugural event. And that’s too bad, considering the two neutral-site games on this year’s schedule both feature lower-division teams. Still, Mick McConathy’s team should be well tested by the trip to Fort Collins and a quartet of power conference road games. On the other hand, it’s a shame that a team pegged as a potential Southland champion won’t get more realistic opportunities to improve its potential March placement.

16. Houston Baptist Huskies

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

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Arlington Baptist (Non-D1) None Detroit Mercy (237) or None Providence (43)*
Dallas Christian (Non-D1) Seattle (281)* Belmont (111)*
Texas State (208) Virginia Tech (75)*
Barclay (Non-D1) Oklahoma State (32)
Saint Peter's (164)
UTSA (301)
Michigan State (16)
Vanderbilt (37)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Dallas Christian, Saint Peter’s, Arlington Baptist) and 0 losses

HBU has won 17 games and reached the postseason in each of the last two seasons, and the Huskies could be poised to make the step up to the NCAAs this season. Five power conference road games and a 2K Classic subregional at Belmont should adequately prepare Ron Cottrell’s squad to meet that goal.

21. Central Arkansas Bears

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

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9)
University of the Ozarks (Non-D1) None None None Baylor (13)
Alcorn State (328)* UCLA (28)*
Morehead State (162) South Carolina State (334)*
Little Rock (165) Tulsa (87)
Little Rock (165)
San Francisco (129)
California (49)
Morehead State (162)
Oregon (18)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 3 losses (Little Rock, @Little Rock, @Morehead State)

In his three seasons in charge, Russ Pennell’s Bears have won just 17 total games, with only two of those coming out of Southland play. Four home contests give UCA hopes of improving that number in 2017, but with five Power 7 games also on the slate, expectations must be tempered. Note that Central Arkansas will play a pair of non-conference home-and-homes with Morehead State from the OVC and neighbors Little Rock.

25. Incarnate Word Cardinals

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4)
Southwestern (Non-D1) None None None Houston (72)
Trinity (Non-D1) Gonzaga (4)
McMurry (Non-D1) UTEP (168)
Loyola Marymount (205) Florida (17)
Sacramento State (275)
Texas Lutheran (Non-D1)
UMKC (251)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Texas Lutheran) and 1 loss (@Loyola Marymount)

The Cardinals join Abilene Christian in jumping up to the ranks of the NCAA Tournament-eligible. However, UIW is coming off its worst transitional season, having recorded just 12 wins. While Ken Burmeister’s team might be able to sweep its six home games, the four road contests—including trips to national runner-up Gonzaga and Elite Eight squad Florida—could all be beatdowns.

42. New Orleans Privateers

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Spring Hill (Non-D1) None None None St. John's (102)
Williams Baptist (Non-D1) Oakland (115)
Oklahoma Panhandle State (Non-D1) Memphis (79)
South Alabama (263)
Houston (72)
SMU (15)
Louisiana (123)
UAB (147)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Williams Baptist) and 1 loss (Louisiana)

The 2017 Southland Tournament champs will have to defend their title without a quartet of key seniors. And with just three home games on the schedule, the path to a second straight 20-win season will require either a few upset wins on the road or another run through conference play.

106. McNeese State Cowboys

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)
Ecclesia (Non-D1) None None None Houston (72)
Champion Christian (Non-D1) San Diego State (50)
Southern-New Orleans (Non-D1) Loyola Marymount (205)
Texas College (Non-D1) Louisiana (123)
North Texas (303)
North Carolina State (67)
Pittsburgh (53)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Southern-New Orleans) and 2 losses (Louisiana, @North Carolina State)

McNeese closes Burton Coliseum with a four-game non-conference home slate that doesn’t feature a single Division I foe. But since a Cowboy team that won just seven times last season actually lost its home opener to Louisiana College, you can’t just pencil in four wins for Dave Simmons’s squad. And with trips to Houston, San Diego State and a pair of ACC foes in North Carolina State and Pittsburgh on tap as well, it could be another long season in Lake Charles.

113. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
Our Lady of the Lake (Non-D1) None None None Baylor (13)
UTRGV (335) Georgia (54)
Texas Lutheran (Non-D1) UTSA (301)
St. Mary's (Texas) (Non-D1) Texas State (208)
UTRGV (335)
Ole Miss (63)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 6 wins (Our Lady of the Lake, @UTRGV, @Texas State, UTRGV, St. Mary’s (Texas), UTSA) and 0 losses

In 2016-17, the Islanders won 19 regular-season games and five more in the postseason, as they fell to Saint Peter’s in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament final. Corpus Christi should again find itself in the thick of the conference race, even after the departure of a trio of key seniors. However, they’ll probably enter Southland play with fewer than the seven wins they recorded in non-league play a year ago. While Willis Wilson’s team should sweep its four home games, the path to three non-league road wins looks to be a perilous one.

129. Sam Houston State Bearkats

*Exempt Event: GCI Great Alaska Shootout

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4-5)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (4-5)
UT Tyler (Non-D1) None Central Michigan (179)* None Idaho (229)
Hardin Simmons (Non-D1) College of Charleston (133) or Alaska Anchorage (Non-D1)
Schreiner (Non-D1) Cal Poly (243)* (or Cal State Bakersfield,
St. Thomas (Texas) (Non-D1) Cal State Bakersfield (139) or Santa Clara, or
Little Rock (165) Santa Clara (175) Idaho)*
Utah Valley (254) Idaho (229) Baylor (13)
(or Alaska Anchorage)* Ole Miss (63)
LSU (90)

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

Jason Hooten has largely continued with Bob Marlin started in Huntsville, finishing under .500 just once since taking over in 2010-11. Last season, the Bearkats won 21 games, but they stumbled through the latter stages of league play and eventually lost to New Orleans in the conference semifinals. Nine of SHSU’s victories came in non-league play. They’ll likely have to make a run through the final Great Alaska Shootout to equal that total this year, especially with three Power 7 games awaiting them upon their return to the Lower 48.

216. Southeastern Louisiana Lions

*Exempt Event: Savannah Invitational (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (9)
Centenary (La.) (Non-D1) None Mississippi Valley State (347)* None Tulane (235)
Loyola (La.) (Non-D1) ULM (202)
Southern-New Orleans (Non-D1) Valparaiso (68)*
Kent State (148)*
Samford (225)*
UCF (136)
Grambling State (350)
Louisiana (123)
Notre Dame (21)

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

The Lions, winners of 16 a season ago, are another Southland squad with a home slate full of non-D1 foes. That’s a change from a season ago, when SELA won a trio of D1 home games, all against MEAC or SWAC foes. Jay Ladner’s club also won at UTEP and Southern, and they’ll require similar results to meet last fall’s non-league win total of seven. And that won’t be an easy feat, not with games at Valparaiso, UCF, Louisiana, and Notre Dame on the slate.

259. Nicholls State Colonels

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

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5-6)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5-6)
Spring Hill (Non-D1) None Presbyterian (349)* None UTRGV (335)
Blue Mountain (Non-D1) Chicago State (342) Villanova (1)*
Louisiana (123) (or UMBC)* WKU (190)*
Idaho (229) UMBC (307)
Culver-Stockton (Non-D1) (or Chicago State)*
Mobile (Non-D1) Tulane (235)
Seattle (281)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Mobile, Spring Hill) and 1 loss (@Louisiana)

Last season, Nicholls opened its account with a win at Boston College en route to a surprise non-conference mark of 7-6 and overall record of 14-17. But the Colonels’ first Power 7 test of this season will be just a little more difficult, as they visit Villanova as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Still, with six home games and a pair of games in a weak Atlantis Mainland bracket, Richie Riley could see his team improve upon last season’s non-league performance.

284. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

*Exempt Event: Hoops In The Heartland

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)
St. Edward's (Non-D1) None None None Longwood (341)
Letourneau (Non-D1) Mississippi State (101)*
Howard Payne (Non-D1)* Louisiana Tech (97)
Florida A&M (351)* LSU (90)
North Dakota State (134)* Missouri (150)
ULM (202)
Rice (224)
Arlington Baptist (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Longwood) and 2 losses (@ULM, @Rice)

Naturally, the Lumberjacks took a step back in their first season since Brad Underwood left Nacogdoches, but Kyle Keller still won 18 games in his debut campaign. However, just five of those came before Southland play, thanks to a brutal slate that started at Rupp Arena and ended in Honolulu. But with eight home games and more manageable power conference road trips on the agenda for November and December 2017, SFA could get off to a much better start this fall.

288. Lamar Cardinals

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

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
Coastal Carolina (180) None UC Davis (218)* None Tulsa (87)
Jarvis Christian (Non-D1) Radford (255) or UTEP (168)
Cal State Bakersfield (139) North Carolina A&T (348)* Coastal Carolina (180)
Southern-New Orleans (Non-D1) Southern Illinois (158)*
St. Thomas (Texas) (Non-D1) Duquesne (195)*
Howard Payne (Non-D1)

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

Last season, Tic Price’s Cardinals won 19 games (including one at Oregon State), an eight-game improvement from 2015-16 and good enough for a place in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. This time around, higher expectations are in place, and Lamar could deliver thanks to a slate that features six home games and just one Power 7 road game. Even the four games scheduled as part of the Las Vegas Classic are manageable, though a semifinal against UC Davis would have been an ideal second day matchup. Lamar is yet another Southland squad that’s attempted to alleviate its scheduling difficulties by scheduling a non-league home-and-home series—with the Sun Belt’s Coastal Carolina.

298. Abilene Christian Wildcats

*Exempt Event: Campbell MTE

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
Randall (Non-D1) None USC Upstate (250)* None Arkansas State (204)
Howard Payne (Non-D1) Bowling Green (211)* Campbell (311)*
Lipscomb (240) Air Force (234)
Schreiner (Non-D1)* Lipscomb (240)
Texas State (208) Texas Tech (58)
Arlington Baptist (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Schreiner, Howard Payne, Randall) and 0 losses

The Wildcats won 13 games in their final transitional season, but six of those came before Southland play. And with a half-dozen home games, including four against non-D1 foes, ACU should be able to at least equal their November and December win total this time around. A round-robin event at Campbell, a short trip to Texas Tech, and a home-and-home series with Lipscomb highlight a slate designed to prepare the Wildcats for their first season of NCAA eligibility.

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