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Analyzing The Big South’s Non-Conference Schedules For 2017-18

Last season, the conference’s NCAA rep, Winthrop, earned a higher seed than the league would normally expect. And the Big South’s general struggle in November and December scheduling plays a role in that.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Butler vs Winthrop
Winthrop earned a 13 seed last March, but that’s the exception rather than the rule for teams from the Big South.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

With just two teams in the top 150 of the four-year rankings and three ranking among the bottom 50, the Big South will typically find it difficult to rise above bracket lines 15 or 16. And that’s particularly true if powers UNC Asheville and Winthrop stumble in the conference tournament.

Big South Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
UNC Asheville 0.79889 143
Winthrop 0.6449915 144
High Point -1.7070235 207
Gardner Webb -1.776898 213
Radford -3.7079315 255
Liberty -5.066889 289
Charleston Southern -5.1107115 292
Campbell -6.260815 311
Longwood -9.45752 341
Presbyterian -11.4603 349
Average -4.3104207 254.4
Conference Rank 27th of 32

Ranking The Schedules

With just a pair of schedules ranking in the national top 100 across all four categories and anywhere from one to three landing among the bottom 50, it’s not surprising that the Big South consistently ranks among the lower half of D1’s 32 conferences. But after looking at the specific factors that characterize Big South scheduling, it’s honestly surprising that UNC Asheville and Gardner-Webb rank so highly.

*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

Big South Schedule Strengths And National Ranks

Team Known Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Average Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Maximum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Minimum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank
Team Known Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Average Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Maximum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Minimum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank
UNC Asheville 3.970614011 56 3.970614011 65 3.970614011 79 3.970614011 51
Gardner-Webb 3.726625929 64 3.726625929 74 3.726625929 94 3.726625929 63
Radford* 2.728442771 116 2.306013423 144 2.400964808 158 2.211062039 133
Charleston Southern 2.656918108 120 2.656918108 127 2.656918108 139 2.656918108 110
Winthrop 2.369971518 133 2.369971518 139 2.369971518 160 2.369971518 122
High Point 1.690722286 179 1.690722286 185 1.690722286 201 1.690722286 170
Longwood 0.1752812269 266 0.1752812269 272 0.1752812269 280 0.1752812269 260
Liberty* -0.0984032 280 0.0214993543 281 1.121439689 233 -1.058208789 322
Presbyterian* -0.1609765208 284 -0.5406760962 306 -0.3795405962 309 -0.7018115962 302
Campbell -1.111750969 325 -1.111750969 330 -1.111750969 334 -1.111750969 323

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Not surprisingly, just one Big South member, Campbell, under-scheduled for 2017-18. However, the other nine overdid things by varying amounts. Winthrop and Liberty stuck quite close to their four-year rankings, while High Point and Presbyterian also did respectable jobs. However, three teams—Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, and Radford—managed triple-digit chasms.

Big South 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
15 Winthrop 144 139 5
25 Liberty 289 281 8
54 Campbell 311 330 -19
60 High Point 207 185 22
107 Presbyterian 349 306 43
160 Longwood 341 272 69
181 UNC Asheville 143 65 78
222 Radford 255 144 111
254 Gardner-Webb 213 74 139
289 Charleston Southern 292 127 165
136.7 Average (18/32 conf.) 254.4 192.3 62.1

Big South 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
56 0 (+2 possible in MTEs) 25 28

The Big South’s combined schedule reflects all of the issues low-major schools encounter from year to year. While each team will play an average of nearly six home games, half of those will come against non-Division I teams. Sure, those teams might provide wins, but they don’t give fans much of a reason to show up to an arena.

The average of 2.5 power conference road games could be higher, but it takes exceptional circumstances—like the relocation of the Paradise Jam to Liberty’s Vines Center—to bring one of those teams to a Big South gym. And the Flames aren’t even guaranteed to play Colorado, Houston, or Wake Forest at home.

The Big South ranks second among the mid-majors (and all of Division I) in non-D1 home games, though the conference’s total of 27 is far lower than the Southland’s 45. But those matchups are the only thing that allows the conference to tie the America East for 15th in the comparison of home games scheduled by the 25 mid-majors.

Big South Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 28 0
SoCon 18 0
ACC 9 1
MEAC 8 0
SEC 8 0
Atlantic Sun 6 0
CAA 6 1
A 10 4 0
Big Ten 4 0
American Athletic 3 1
Southland 3 1
C-USA 2 1
Ivy 2 0
MAAC 2 1
MVC 2 1
MW 2 0
OVC 2 0
WCC 2 0
Horizon 1 0
MAC 1 0
NEC 1 0
Pac-12 1 1
Summit 1 0
Sun Belt 1 0
SWAC 1 1
WAC 1 1
America East 0 1
Big 12 0 0
Big East 0 0
Big Sky 0 0
Big West 0 1
Patriot 0 0

Games against non-D1 foes top the standings and it’s not particularly close, and that’s somewhat understandable. Given the need for home games, scheduling these opponents is a necessity for a league that sits close to the bottom of the regional pecking order. Still, it would be helpful if Big South squads could line up more games with teams from other Southern mid-major leagues, particularly the ASUN and MEAC, even though the latter’s financial considerations might prevent a serious increase in games against Big South opposition.

Big South 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 2 0 2 0.2 0
26-50 0 8 0 8 0.8 0
51-75 0 12 0 12 1.2 3
76-100 1 5 0 6 0.6 1
101-150 3 7 2 12 1.2 0
151-200 4 7 0 11 1.1 0
201-250 7 6 1 14 1.4 2
251-300 2 3 2 7 0.7 3
301-351 9 6 2 17 1.7 3
Non-D1 28 0 1 29 2.9 0
Total 54 56 8 118
Average 5.4 5.6 0.8 11.8
Percentage 0.4576271186 0.4745762712 0.06779661017
Conference Rank (of 32) 20th 14th 20th

For further context, nearly one-quarter of the Big South’s non-league games come against teams from outside of Division I. And when you combine those with the 38 contests scheduled against teams ranked lower than 200th nationally, you’ll find that over half of this conference’s November and December games feature opposition likely to act as metrics anchors.

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.

65. UNC Asheville Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: NIT Season Tip-Off (Visitor)

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
Lees-McRae (Non-D1) Western Carolina (268) None None Rhode Island (56)*
Monmouth (108)* (U.S. Cellular Arena) Vanderbilt (37)*
Wofford (145) Austin Peay (290)*
USC Upstate (250) Clemson (47)
Milligan (Non-D1) Furman (196)
UNC Greensboro (210)
Saint Mary's (22)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (@USC Upstate, @Furman, Western Carolina) and 1 losses (UNC Greensboro)

The Bulldogs managed to get four Division I games as part of their NIT Season Tip-Off participation, something that not every team (Monmouth, Rhode Island, Austin Peay) managed. The Big South regular season co-champs claimed eight non-league wins last season, but four difficult road games and the visit from Monmouth might limit them to that total this time around.

74. Gardner-Webb Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Wright State MTE

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (7)
Warren Wilson (Non-D1) None Fairfield (232)* None Miami (Fla.) (29)
Brevard (Non-D1)* Jacksonville (306)* Florida (17)
USC Upstate (250) UCF (136)
Toccoa Falls (Non-D1) Wright State (161)*
Auburn (122)
Maryland (30)
Hampton (280)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Toccoa Falls, Warren Wilson, Hampton) and 0 losses

Last season, the Bulldogs managed seven non-league wins, despite a 1-3 Legends Classic experience. But in 2017 Tim Craft can’t feel hopeful about his team increasing its win total. While Gardner-Webb will visit Wright State for a mid-majors only round-robin, it also faces five potentially ugly road games—against Miami, Florida, UCF, Auburn, and Maryland.

127. Charleston Southern Buccaneers

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
Columbia International (Non-D1) None None None Davidson (78)
Toccoa Falls (Non-D1) North Carolina State (67)
VMI (318) USC Upstate (250)
Eastern Kentucky (217) Illinois State (70)
Johnson & Wales (N.C.) (Non-D1) South Carolina State (334)
Florida State (36)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Columbia International, Toccoa Falls, Johnson & Wales (N.C.)) and 3 losses (@Florida State, USC Upstate, @VMI)

After racking up 19 victories in 2014-15, the Buccaneers have only managed to win 21 combined in the last two seasons. And only nine of those came outside of Big South play. That fact alone explains why seven of the 11 games on this year’s slate offer Charleston Southern the possibility of remaining competitive until the final buzzer.

139. Winthrop Eagles

*Exempt Event: Jamaica Classic Montego Bay (On-Campus Only)

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
Southern Illinois (158) None None None Colorado State (92)*
Central Penn (Non-D1) Auburn (122)
Mars Hill (Non-D1) Furman (196)
South Carolina State (334) Georgia (54)
Reinhardt (Non-D1) Alabama State (327)
VCU (35)

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

Last season, the Eagles completed the Big South regular season/tournament double and received a 13 seed for their trouble. While Pat Kelsey’s squad for 2017-18 will be tested by visits to Colorado State, Auburn, Georgia, and VCU, it should also breeze through its five-game home slate. It’s just too bad Winthrop couldn’t join the visitors’ bracket of the Jamaica event in full.

144. Radford Highlanders

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

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (8)
Georgia Southwestern (Non-D1) None North Carolina A&T (348)* None Ohio State (46)
James Madison (173) UC Davis (218) East Carolina (198)
Erskine (Non-D1) Lamar (299)* Elon (170)
Vanderbilt (37)
VMI (318)
Virginia Tech (75)
Nevada (112)*
San Francisco (129)*

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (VMI, Elon) and 0 losses

Mike Jones’s Highlanders followed consecutive 22-win seasons (with appearances in minor postseason tournaments) with a pair featuring a grand total of 30 victories. Yet with only three home games to balance out four power conference road trips and a tricky December swing through the Las Vegas Classic, Radford might need to focus on improving its win total once league play starts.

185. High Point Panthers

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
William & Mary (113) None Wofford (145) None Tennessee (62)
The Citadel (323) (Asheville, N.C.) Charlotte (203)
Methodist (Non-D1) Pittsburgh (53)
Johnson & Wales (N.C.) (Non-D1) College of Charleston (133)
Toccoa Falls (Non-D1) Western Carolina (268)

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

Other than a game against local rival Western Carolina (who the Panthers visit for the second straight season), this is a fresh set of opponents for Scott Cherry’s side. That probably isn’t a bad thing considering High Point won just 15 games, including just three against D1 opposition in non-conference play, in the first season of the post-John Brown era.

272. Longwood Lancers

*Exempt Event: UNCG Spartan Classic

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
Stephen F. Austin (99) None Delaware (269)* None UNC Greensboro (210)*
Columbia (167) VMI (318)
St. Francis (Pa.) (279) Illinois (71)
North Carolina Wesleyan (Non-D1)* Arizona State (85)
Bluefield State (Non-D1)* Grand Canyon (172)
Fayetteville State (Non-D1)
Cornell (277)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Stephen F. Austin, @St. Francis (Pa.))

Longwood has finished above .500 just once since moving up to Division I—in 2008-09. And the struggles continued in 2016-17, as Jayson Gee’s fourth Lancers squad picked up just a single D1 win before Big South play. Similar results might come to pass this season, even with seven home games on the schedule. Stephen F. Austin, Columbia, and St. Francis (Pa.) will all be formidable visitors, and an Arizona State-Grand Canyon road swing is a long day’s trip to a pair of likely losses.

281. Liberty Flames

*Exempt Event: Paradise Jam

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (2)
Clarks Summit (Non-D1)* None Fort Wayne (141) Louisiana Tech (97) Wake Forest (66)
Mercer (151)* (New Orleans) (or Alabama State) Georgia State (117)
Houston (72) or Alabama State (327) (New Orleans)
Drexel (242)* (or Louisiana Tech)
Colorado (60) or (New Orleans)
Wake Forest (66) or
Drake (260) or
Quinnipiac (264)*
Toccoa Falls (Non-D1)
Howard (333)
UNC Greensboro (210)
Maryland Eastern Shore (315)
Kentucky Christian (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (Clarks Summit) and 2 losses (@UNC Greensboro, @Houston)

Unfortunate circumstances led to the addition of three home games to the Flames’ home slate, as the seven other Paradise Jam participants will head to Lynchburg instead of St. Thomas, due to the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Irma. If circumstances align, Ritchie McKay’s club could play Houston and either Colorado or Wake Forest on its home floor, while the Flames are guaranteed to face the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem in a game that’s not tied to the tournament. While Liberty, which won 21 last season, should sweep its six previously-set home contests, a trip to a New Orleans Shootout that includes both Summit contender Fort Wayne and C-USA power Louisiana Tech will be a challenging one.

306. Presbyterian Blue Hose

*Exempt Event: Battle 4 Atlantis (Mainland)

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)
Johnson (Non-D1) None Nicholls State (329)* None Tennessee (62)*
UNC Greensboro (210) Chicago State (342) North Carolina State (67)*
North Carolina A&T (348) (or UMBC)* VMI (318)
South Carolina State (334) Charlotte (203)
Toccoa Falls (Non-D1) UMBC (307)
Piedmont (Non-D1) (or Chicago State)*
Virginia Tech (75)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 wins (VMI) and 2 losses (@UNC Wilmington, @Tennessee)

After a five-win campaign, Gregg Nibert resigned after 28-years at the helm in Clinton, S.C. Former Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns’s first season in charge will see the Blue Hose face six other teams that rank outside of the top 300 and a trio of non-D1 squads. Even with a pair of Battle 4 Atlantis road games against Tennessee and N.C. State and a trip to Virginia Tech, it’s very possible that Presbyterian could win more than five in the non-conference alone. And that’s thanks to the presence of so many fellow strugglers on the schedule.

330. Campbell Fighting Camels

*Exempt Event: Creek Classic

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (5)
Columbia International (Non-D1) None None None Penn State (95)
Johnson & Wales (N.C.) (Non-D1) UNCW (91)
Abilene Christian (332)* Stetson (325)
Bowling Green (211)* East Carolina (198)
USC Upstate (250)* Saint Louis (239)
The Citadel (323)
Allen (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Johnson & Wales (N.C.), @The Citadel, Stetson) and 2 losses (USC Upstate (N), UNC Wilmington)

Last season, the Camels cracked the .500 mark for the first time since 2012. And with seven home games, including a round-robin tournament and a trio of non-D1 contests, Kevin McGeehan’s club should be able to enter this season’s Big South campaign with a winning mark for the third consecutive year.

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