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

Big East members, step forward if you tried when you built your early schedule for 2017. Not so fast, Georgetown.

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Villanova
The home of the top team in the four-year ranking features some standout non-conference schedules and one stinker.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

The Big East boasts the top team in the four-year ranking, 2016 National Champ Villanova, and five other top 50 squads., with Xavier just in the top 25 and Butler just a bit outside. Georgetown, surprisingly stands 52nd, though the Hoyas may drop after Patrick Ewing’s first season in charge. Marquette may be able to crack the top 50 with a decent 2017-18, while St. John’s is probably a couple of years of consistent quality play away. Then there’s DePaul—do I really need to say anything further about the only Big East member that’s not even within shouting distance of the top 100?

Big East Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
Villanova 14.5138 1
Xavier 8.929755 25
Butler 8.9154415 26
Creighton 8.119899 34
Providence 7.108495 43
Seton Hall 6.6832115 48
Georgetown 6.391485 52
Marquette 5.848501 57
St. John's 2.6955895 102
DePaul -0.4271255 171
Average 6.8779052 55.9
Conference Rank 3rd of 32

Ranking The Schedules

The average Big East schedule ranks fourth nationally in the Average Strength metric and third in the Maximum one, but just 13th when looking at Known Games. What gives?

Well, nine of the 10 teams will participate in a bracketed exempt tournament this season, all of which feature relatively strong fields. Therefore, factoring in one or two high-quality TBD matchups means some teams could see their slates improve significantly with the right combo of result—just look at the contrast between the Known rankings with the Average and Maximium ones for Marquette, Butler, Villanova, and Creighton. On the other hand, you would expect DePaul’s to drop. There’s a gap in quality between the top six teams and bottom one (Portland) that share the Blue Phil Knight Invitational’s Victory bracket with the Blue Demons. And this is why DePaul’s Maximum and Minimum rankings vary by 119 places.

But then there’s Georgetown, the team originally set to represent the Big East in that half of the Portland mega-event. Thanks to the Hoyas’ withdrawal and a comically weak home slate, GU has the second-worst non-conference schedule in the country across all four measurements. Only East Carolina’s keeps the Hoyas off the bottom.

*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 East 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
Xavier* 5.075906078 32 4.819914095 32 5.278983434 37 4.872828722 28
Marquette* 4.586990385 45 3.30993287 85 5.418902454 33 3.581862392 72
Butler* 4.469758686 51 3.327413464 84 5.812298315 22 3.156896671 86
Villanova* 4.458072833 52 3.099199976 95 5.266346134 39 3.701344721 66
Seton Hall* 4.369966887 57 3.588854544 71 4.667385444 59 4.072548329 49
Creighton* 3.892505482 68 2.800905002 113 3.904810963 83 3.880200002 55
DePaul* 1.889648257 171 -0.185417625 286 3.005537188 124 0.5214712135 243
Providence* 1.54615538 194 1.48465718 196 1.892313535 189 1.199997224 205
St. John's* 1.092059665 225 0.7847027977 230 2.075487414 174 0.3353197135 251
Georgetown -4.940468546 350 -4.940468546 350 -4.940468546 350 -4.940468546 350
Average 2.644059511 124.5 1.808969376 154.2 3.238159634 111 2.038200044 140.5
Conference Rank 4th of 32 13th of 32 3rd of 32 7th of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

DePaul’s shift to the PK80 field from the Wooden Legacy closed the Blue Demons’ scheduling gap, and they’re one of just three teams in the country (along with UCLA and Wagner) to build a slate that matches their four-year ranking. Of the other nine Big East members, only Marquette managed to over-schedule, and by just 12 places. Xavier and Seton Hall kept their under-scheduling to a relative minimum. On the other side of the scale, St. John’s and Providence did poorly, but few teams underperformed nationally like Georgetown.

Big East 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
2 DePaul 171 171 0
20 Xavier 25 32 -7
26 Seton Hall 48 57 -9
34 Marquette 57 45 12
68 Butler 26 51 -25
86 Creighton 34 68 -34
124 Villanova 1 52 -51
235 St. John's 102 225 -123
272 Providence 43 194 -151
343 Georgetown 52 350 -298
121 Average (20/32 conf.) 55.9 124.5 -68.6

Big East Road & Non-D1 Games

True Road Games Scheduled Road Games Scheduled Against Non-Power 7 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
True Road Games Scheduled Road Games Scheduled Against Non-Power 7 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
16 (4 Gavitt Games + 1 semi-road game) 7 (+1 semi-road game +3 possible semi-road games in MTEs) 2 (+1 possible in Maui Invitational)

Only the Power 7’s other 10-member loop, the Big 12, managed to schedule fewer true road non-conference games than the Big East—by nearly a third (11)! However, almost half of the Big East’s games in that category feature mid-majors (7), while the Big 12 only managed one such contest. Then you add in Villanova’s semi-road game against Hofstra and the Big 12’s total looks even worse.

Big East Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Big Ten 14 5
A 10 11 1
NEC 8 0
MEAC 7 0
Pac-12 6 5
ACC 5 6
Ivy 5 0
MAAC 5 1
OVC 5 0
America East 4 0
American Athletic 4 3
Atlantic Sun 3 0
Big 12 3 4
C-USA 3 0
Horizon 3 0
MAC 3 0
Southland 3 0
SWAC 3 0
Patriot 2 0
SoCon 2 0
WAC 2 0
WCC 2 2
Big Sky 1 1
CAA 1 0
MVC 1 2
Non-D1 1 1
SEC 1 6
Summit 1 0
Sun Belt 1 0
Big South 0 0
Big West 0 1
MW 0 0

Just three Division I conferences are missing from Big East schedules this season, though St. John’s could meet the Big West’s Long Beach State in the AdvoCare Invitational’s latter stages. Thanks in part to the Gavitt Games, the Big Ten leads the way, though there’s a surprising level of geographic diversity within the top 10, as the Pac-12 and OVC join the Big Ten and seven primarily Eastern leagues. Curiously, the Big East has just four games scheduled against the “other half” of the old mega-conference, the American Athletic, and three games total against the Patriot League and CAA.

Big East 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 6 4 3 13 1.3 14
26-50 3 1 3 7 0.7 7
51-75 4 4 3 11 1.1 5
76-100 6 3 2 11 1.1 4
101-150 6 2 4 12 1.2 2
151-200 9 1 3 13 1.3 1
201-250 11 0 0 11 1.1 1
251-300 11 0 0 11 1.1 2
301-351 20 1 0 21 2.1 1
Non-D1 2 0 0 2 0.2 1
Total 78 16 18 112
Average 7.8 1.6 1.8 11.2
Percentage 0.6964285714 0.1428571429 0.1607142857
Conference Rank (of 32) 2nd 29th 4th

While the Big East ranks second in non-conference home games among all 32 conferences, it’s collectively scheduled four percent fewer than the first-place Big Ten. That corresponds to nearly one fewer home game for the average Big East squad, though that contest is more likely to be played at a neutral-site rather than on the road.

The average Big East slate contains four games against the top 100 and three against the bottom 101. However, Georgetown alone accounts for a whopping eight of the Big East’s 21 games against the bottom 50.

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.

Games marked with a ^ are part of the Gavitt Tip-Off series.

32. Xavier Musketeers

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational (Hosts’ Bracket)

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
Morehead State (162) None George Washington (83)* None Wisconsin (12)^
Rider (212)* Kansas State (41) or UNI (82)
Hampton (280)* Arizona State (85)*
Baylor (13)
Cincinnati (20)
Kent State (148)
Colorado (60)
ETSU (121)
Marshall (178)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (UNI (N), UNI) and 3 losses (@Baylor, @Colorado, @Cincinnati)

All three Power 7 teams that defeated the Musketeers in non-conference road games in 2016-17 visit the Cintas Center this time around. And when you add in a Gavitt Games trip to Wisconsin and a Las Vegas Invitational experience that will end with a game against a likely NCAA contender in either Arizona State or Kansas State, you can understand why Xavier’s 2017 non-conference slate rates as the Big East best. And that doesn’t factor the mid-major portion of the home slate, which is largely cupcake-free. Even 280th-ranked Hampton, the worst team here, is a threat to claim the MEAC’s auto bid.

45. Marquette Golden Eagles

*Exempt Event: Maui Jim Maui Invitational

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (1)
Mount St. Mary's (236)* VCU (35)* Chaminade (Non-D1) Wisconsin (12)
Purdue (19)^ Wichita State (10) or (or Notre Dame,
Eastern Illinois (252) California (49)* Michigan, LSU)*
Chicago State (342) Notre Dame (21)
Georgia (54) Michigan (27) or
Vermont (89) LSU (90)
Northern Illinois (184) (or Chaminade)*
American (283)

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

Steve Wojciechowski’s Golden Eagles snuck into the NCAA Tournament after a 19-win regular season and Big East quarterfinal exit, then bowed out to South Carolina in the Gamecocks’ backyard. If Marquette is successful against this slate, it should earn a seed higher than last year’s 10 that forced that matchup. Taking care of business at home, where Purdue, America East favorite Vermont, and Georgia are the most prominent visitors, will be necessary, considering the potential of the four games away from Milwaukee. The Maui Invitational field could be a mixed bag of results for the Golden Eagles, thanks to tournament favorite Wichita State’s presence in the top half of the bracket. Meanwhile, Marquette’s only true road non-conference game features a Wisconsin team that’s allegedly rebuilding (I’ll believe that when I see it).

One simple change makes this Marquette schedule superior to last year’s—the presence of just one game against a team ranked in the bottom 50 nationally (Chicago State) as opposed to the three on 2016-17’s slate.

51. Butler Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Phil Knight Invitational Motion Bracket

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (1)
Kennesaw State (305) None Texas (39)* Portland State (257) Maryland (30)^
Princeton (76) Duke (9) (or Duke)*
Furman (196)* (or Portland State)*
Saint Louis (239) Gonzaga (4) or
Utah (24) Florida (17) or
Youngstown State (278) Ohio State (46) or
Morehead State (162) Stanford (74)*
Western Illinois (300) Purdue (19)
(Conseco Fieldhouse)

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

LaVall Jordan, last seen taking a terrible Milwaukee team to the edge of NCAA Tournament qualification, is the latest coach charged with keeping the Butler Way going. And the former Bulldog guard will have a challenge on his hands in his first season, thanks to this schedule and some roster turnover after a 25-win campaign. At first glance, Butler’s three games in the Phil Knight Invitational are the highlight, especially a potential semifinal against Duke, provided the Bulldogs defeat Texas on Thanksgiving Day. (Then there’s the possibility of meeting Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State squad on day three, but it will probably be a disappointing tournament for Butler if that happens.) But while the only true road game—at Maryland—isn’t without its charms, the top three home contests and the biennial Crossroads Classic meeting with Purdue push this schedule over the top. Yes, Utah is the only top 25 team in the four-year rankings that will visit Hinkle Fieldhouse during this non-conference slate, but defending Ivy champ Princeton and potential A 10 contender Saint Louis might just similarly test the hosts.

52. Villanova Wildcats

*Exempt Event: Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (4) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (4) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (4) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (3)
Columbia (167) Lehigh (163) WKU (190)* Hofstra (132) Saint Joseph's (107)
Nicholls State (329)* (Allentown, Pa.) Purdue (19) or (Uniondale, N.Y.) Temple (94)
Penn (230) Tennessee (62)* UConn (55)
La Salle (159) Arizona (7) or
SMU (15) or
UNI (82) or
North Carolina State (67)*
Gonzaga (4)
(New York City)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 5 wins (@Purdue, @Penn, Saint Joseph’s, La Salle (N), Temple) and 0 losses

The Wildcats won “only” 29 games in 2013-14, a fact that prevents Jay Wright’s squad from claiming a four-year streak of 30-victory seasons. But even with a limited home slate this year, thanks to renovations to the Pavilion, Nova should put itself in position to continue its run at the top of the rankings—KenPom and otherwise. That’s not to say things will be easy, as Nova will play in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis and face Gonzaga in the Jimmy V Classic, while visiting a pair of improved Big 5 squads in Saint Joseph’s and Temple and former Big East rival UConn. Then there’s a game on Long Island against Hofstra, which should be a special moment for Wright, as he’ll pay a visit to the program that launched his career.

57. Seton Hall Pirates

*Exempt Event: NIT Season Tip-Off (Hosts’ Bracket)

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
Fairleigh Dickinson (296)* Rhode Island (56)* None None Louisville (8)
Monmouth (108)* Virginia (2) or Rutgers (199)
Indiana (31)^ Vanderbilt (37)*
NJIT (249) Texas Tech (58)
VCU (35) (Madison Square Garden)
Saint Peter's (164)
Wagner (244)
Manhattan (233)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Fairleigh Dickinson, Rutgers) and 0 losses

In their quest for a third consecutive NCAA bid, the Pirates will only need to leave the tri-state area once—for a suddenly winnable game at Louisville (thanks to the turmoil surrounding that program). However, unlike Rutgers, who Kevin Willard’s squad happens to meet in Piscataway, the Hall’s geographically-friendly slate should feature plenty of real competition. Indiana visits the Prudential Center for the Gavitt Games, while VCU will do the same in December for the Never Forget Tribute event. And all three of the Pirates’ games in New York City itself feature teams that could be factors on Selection Sunday—Rhode Island and then either Virginia or Vanderbilt in the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn and Texas Tech in the Under Armour event at MSG.

68. Creighton Bluejays

*Exempt Event: CBE Hall Of Fame Classic (Hosts’ Bracket)

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
Yale (96)* None UCLA (28)* None Northwestern (61)^
Alcorn State (328)* Wisconsin (12) or Gonzaga (4)
SIU Edwardsville (313) Baylor (13)*
North Dakota (223)
Nebraska (88)
Maryland Eastern Shore (315)
UT Arlington (109)
USC Upstate (250)
Bemidji State (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Wisconsin, @Nebraska) and 0 losses

We’ll have a pretty good idea of whether the Bluejays can reach a second straight NCAA Tournament fairly early on, as few teams in the country have quite as difficult of an opening month. Greg McDermott’s team tips off against Ivy contender Yale, with a Gavitt trip to Northwestern on tap after a relative breather against Alcorn State in its second CBE Classic home game. Not long after visiting Rosemont, the Jays face UCLA in the semifinals in Kansas City, then either Baylor or Wisconsin on night two. After another likely home win, this time over SIU Edwardsville, Creighton travels to Spokane to take on Gonzaga.

It’s probably a good thing that the level of competition decreases over the final few weeks before Big East play begins—local rival Nebraska and Sun Belt favorite UT Arlington are by far the best two teams that visit Omaha in December.

171. DePaul Blue Demons

*Exempt Event: Phil Knight Invitational Victory Bracket

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-3) Semi-Road Games (0-2) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1-3) Semi-Road Games (0-2) True Road Games (2)
Notre Dame (21) None Michigan State (16)* Oregon (18) Illinois (71)^
Delaware State (338) UConn (55) (or UConn) UIC (302)
Youngstown State (278) (or Oregon)* Portland (215)
Central Connecticut State (346) North Carolina (6) or (or North Carolina,
Alabama A&M (344) Oklahoma (23) or Oklahoma, or
Northwestern (61) Arkansas (42) Arkansas)*
Miami (Ohio) (253) (or Portland)*

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Northwestern, UIC)

Five of the Blue Demons seven home games weigh down a schedule that features a fair number of challenges for a team that’s rooted to the bottom of the Big East but hopeful of a bright future in a new home—the Wintrust Arena in downtown Chicago. Having attended the arena’s first concert on Friday night, starring Bob Dylan and local legend Mavis Staples, I simply cannot wait to see a basketball game at DePaul’s new (and convenient, at least to me) home. To that end, the opener with Notre Dame and a December visit from the team temporarily occupying the Blue Demons’ old home, Northwestern, will be the toughest tickets.

Dave Leitao’s team might need the five relatively easy home opponents, however, after you look at what’s awaiting them away from home. Thanks to some late shuffling, the Blue Demons found themselves in the Phil Knight Invitational—facing Michigan State in the quarterfinals—instead of in a far more forgiving Wooden Legacy field. Then add in-state road trips to Illinois and crosstown rival UIC, who defeated DePaul in Rosemont last season, and the nine-win Blue Demons might not equal 2016’s non-league win total of seven.

194. Providence Friars

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

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2)
Houston Baptist (282)* Houston (72) Washington (103)* None Rhode Island (56)
Belmont (111)* (Uncasville, Conn.) Virginia Tech (75) or UMass (130)
Minnesota (64)^ Saint Louis (239)*
Boston College (160)
Rider (212)
Brown (266)
Stony Brook (142)
Sacred Heart (304)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Rhode Island, Brown, UMass) and 1 loss (@Boston College)

Despite that loss to Boston College, Ed Cooley’s Friars won 20 and advanced to the NCAAs for the fourth straight season. And with the overwhelming majority of last year’s squad back, expectations are that those streaks will reach five. That’s thanks in no small part to a non-league schedule that might be even more manageable than 2016-17’s. Even though Belmont will test Providence in their second on-campus game, the Friars should be favored to win the 2K Classic in New York. And while PC plays at A 10 favorite Rhode Island in Kingston, the other difficult opponent on the slate, Minnesota, visits the Dunk.

225. St. John’s Red Storm

*Exempt Event: AdvoCare Invitational

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (4-5) Semi-Road Games (1-2) True Road Games (0)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (4-5) Semi-Road Games (1-2) True Road Games (0)
New Orleans (273) None Oregon State (135)* UCF (136) None
Central Connecticut State (346) Missouri (150) or (or West Virginia,
Nebraska (88)#* Long Beach State (156)* Nebraska, Marist)*
Molloy (Non-D1) West Virginia (11) or Grand Canyon (172)
Sacred Heart (304) Nebraska (88) or (Talking Stick Resort Arena)
Iona (98) Marist (312)
Duke (9) (or UCF)*
Arizona State (85)
(Los Angeles)
Saint Joseph's (107)
(Uncasville, Conn.)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: none

Chris Mullin’s third non-conference schedule features no returnees from the second. And while it also fails to feature a single true road game, the Red Storm will meet WAC favorite Grand Canyon in Phoenix, Arizona State in L.A., Saint Joseph’s at the Mohegan Sun, and (breath) potentially UCF on day three of the AdvoCare Invitational in the Knights’ home market.

Four of the home games knock some prestige points off this slate—even with Iona and Duke taking on St. John’s in New York. Curiously, the Red Storm’s game with Nebraska is both a Gavitt Game and a non-bracketed AdvoCare matchup. That’s the first time a game has pulled such special event double duty in all the years I’ve been tracking such info.

350. Georgetown Hoyas

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (10) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (10) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (1)
Jacksonville (306) None None None Richmond (80)
Mount St. Mary's (236)
Maryland Eastern Shore (315)
Maine (343)
Coppin State (339)
Howard (333)
North Carolina A&T (348)
Syracuse (38)
North Texas (303)
Alabama A&M (344)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Howard, Coppin State, @Syracuse) and 0 losses

The Hoyas’ withdrawal from the Phil Knight Invitational left a crater in their 2017-18 non-conference slate, which they managed to fill with some of Division I’s worst teams. Yes, Syracuse visits Capital One Arena as part of the pair’s long-term rivalry and Georgetown takes a trip to A 10 sleeper Richmond, but the remaining nine games are simply awful. Of that group, only defending NEC champ Mount St. Mary’s ranks outside of the bottom 50 nationally!

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