clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

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

Of the conference’s three best known names, Gonzaga did the best job in building its November and December schedule—with Saint Mary’s and BYU failing to match the Bulldogs.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina
Gonzaga has the only WCC non-conference schedule that ranks in the top 100. That’s bad news for Saint Mary’s and BYU and their bid prospects.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

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

Ranking The Teams

Given the positions of Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, and BYU in the four-year table, the WCC is not your average mid-major league. But while no league member ranks in the bottom 120 nationally, the conference would be helped by the emergence of the middle tier. Getting a fourth or fifth team into the top 100 nationally on a consistent basis would do wonders for the WCC’s at-large hopes, particularly for teams outside of the top three.

WCC Team Score Rankings

Team Team Score National Rank
Team Team Score National Rank
Gonzaga 13.422295 4
Saint Mary's 9.359355 22
BYU 6.467436 51
San Francisco 1.276931 129
Santa Clara -0.5174305 175
Pepperdine -1.228003 192
Loyola Marymount -1.60941406 205
Portland -1.8360715 215
San Diego -2.2529035 221
Pacific -2.65945 231
Average 2.042274444 144.5
Conference Rank 10th of 32

Ranking The Schedules

The average WCC schedule ranks at the very bottom of Division I in two categories and right near it in the other two. But when just one team, Gonzaga, consistently ranks among the top 100, and the other nine find themselves outside of the top 200 almost unanimously across the board, that shouldn’t be a surprise. The only two teams that join the Bulldogs in the top 200 in any of the four categories—Saint Mary’s and Portland in the Maximum Strength table, due to the quality present at the top of their respective bracketed tournaments.

*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

WCC 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
Gonzaga* 4.787639542 41 3.684685226 69 5.791516152 24 3.495965268 74
Portland* 1.454601999 206 -0.0375338352 278 2.063026659 175 0.6235456154 237
Saint Mary's* 1.17748691 219 0.9410455432 219 1.84345376 194 0.482494575 245
Pepperdine* 1.031096546 230 1.223947405 207 1.095653038 237 0.9665400542 216
BYU 0.8792137519 234 0.8792137519 224 0.8792137519 250 0.8792137519 222
Pacific 0.1111245115 276 0.1111245115 270 0.1111245115 287 0.1111245115 264
San Diego 0.0305967917 279 0.0305967917 272 0.0305967917 291 0.0305967917 271
Loyola Marymount -0.2332080245 296 -0.2332080245 289 -0.2332080245 303 -0.2332080245 286
San Francisco -0.4619303087 304 -0.4619303087 297 -0.4619303087 313 -0.4619303087 293
Santa Clara* -1.181698161 334 -1.43668824 331 -0.9422917625 329 -1.38787745 333
Average 0.7594923557 241.9 0.470125282 245.6 1.017715457 240.3 0.4506464784 244.1
Conference Rank 31st of 32 32nd of 32 30th of 32 31st of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

With so many weak non-conference slates, it also shouldn’t be a shock that the WCC ranks near the bottom of D1 in terms of scheduling gaps. Somehow, Portland, the only over-scheduler of the bunch—while owning the lowest gap of all 10—despite the Pilots’ participation in the Phil Knight Invitational. But all that discrepancy really tells you about is the awfulness of the remainder of UP’s non-league slate. Surprisingly, Gonzaga under-scheduled by the lowest amount—as the fourth-ranked team in the four-year standings lined up the 41st-best average schedule, again with an assist from the PK80.

However, BYU and Saint Mary’s, the WCC’s other at-large threats, under-scheduled themselves by 180-plus spots. That’s not ideal.

WCC 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
27 Portland 215 206 9
95 Gonzaga 4 41 -37
97 Pepperdine 192 230 -38
111 Pacific 231 276 -45
138 San Diego 221 279 -58
199 Loyola Marymount 205 296 -91
283 Santa Clara 175 334 -159
292 San Francisco 129 304 -175
297 BYU 51 234 -183
306 Saint Mary's 22 219 -197
184.5 Average (26/32 conf.) 144.5 241.9 -97.4

WCC 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
72 2 (+2 semi-home games +1 possible semi-home in MTEs) 12 9 (+1 possible in Great Alaska Shootout)

The resumption of the BYU-Utah series after a one-year hiatus means the Cougars join Gonzaga, who hosts Creighton, in welcoming a Power 7 team to campus this season. However, Portland will play North Carolina in its backyard as part of the Phil Knight Invitational, and that event provides the Pilots with the prospect of further power league games at the Rose Quarter.

While the 10 WCC teams average seven home games each (good for the fifth-highest total of the 25 mid-major leagues), there’s an uneven distribution of those contests that roughly mirrors the team rankings at the top of the page.

WCC Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Big West 18 3
Big Sky 16 3
MW 16 1
Pac-12 11 3
Non-D1 9 1
WAC 6 0
SWAC 5 0
Southland 4 1
Sun Belt 4 0
A 10 3 1
NEC 3 0
Big East 2 2
Big South 2 0
Ivy 2 0
MAAC 2 0
MEAC 2 0
MVC 2 0
SEC 2 3
ACC 1 1
America East 1 0
Big 12 1 2
Big Ten 1 1
C-USA 1 0
Horizon 1 0
OVC 1 0
American Athletic 0 1
Atlantic Sun 0 0
CAA 0 1
MAC 0 1
Patriot 0 0
SoCon 0 0
Summit 0 1

WCC Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Big West 18 3
Big Sky 16 3
MW 16 1
Pac-12 11 3
Non-D1 9 1
WAC 6 0
SWAC 5 0
Southland 4 1
Sun Belt 4 0
A 10 3 1
NEC 3 0
Big East 2 2
Big South 2 0
Ivy 2 0
MAAC 2 0
MEAC 2 0
MVC 2 0
SEC 2 3
ACC 1 1
America East 1 0
Big 12 1 2
Big Ten 1 1
C-USA 1 0
Horizon 1 0
OVC 1 0
American Athletic 0 1
Atlantic Sun 0 0
CAA 0 1
MAC 0 1
Patriot 0 0
SoCon 0 0
Summit 0 1

Of the 115 known non-conference games on WCC dockets for 2017-18, 66 will come against the West’s five other Division I conferences. There’s a fairly good national mix among the rest, even if seven leagues are all but absent. A total of nine games against non-D1 opponents is an impressive feat for a Western league, but again these are distributed unevenly with the conference’s have-nots needing to schedule these matchups to fill their home slates.

WCC 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 1 0 2 3 0.3 5
26-50 3 4 1 8 0.8 4
51-75 2 4 1 7 0.7 3
76-100 2 6 0 8 0.8 0
101-150 5 7 3 15 1.5 3
151-200 6 2 2 10 1 5
201-250 10 4 1 15 1.5 2
251-300 21 7 1 29 2.9 3
301-351 12 0 0 12 1.2 0
Non-D1 9 0 0 9 0.9 1
Total 71 34 11 116
Average 7.1 3.4 1.1 11.6
Percentage 0.6120689655 0.2931034483 0.09482758621
Conference Rank (of 32) 9th 24th 16th

The WCC’s home/away split resembles that of a Power 7 conference, particularly when you look at the 42 home games scheduled against teams from outside of the top 200 of the four-year ranking. However, the number of road games scheduled against teams from that same group illustrates how difficult it is to avoid those contests while attempting to build a more regional schedule. Sometimes you just have to hit the road to take on a Big Sky or Big West team when you’re situated on the Left Coast.

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.

41. Gonzaga Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Phil Knight Invitational Motion Bracket

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2-3)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2-3)
Texas Southern (206) None Ohio State (46)* None Portland State (257)
Howard (333) Florida (17) or (or Duke, Butler,
Utah State (125)* Stanford (74)* or Texas)*
Incarnate Word (271) Duke (9) or Washington (103)
Creighton (34) Butler (26) or San Diego State (50)
North Dakota (223) Texas (39)
IUPUI (241) (or Portland State)*
Villanova (1)
(New York City)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (San Diego State, Florida (N), Washington) and 0 losses

Even with Creighton visiting Spokane, most of Gonzaga’s 2017 home schedule looks like, well, that of power conference team. And that’s appropriate for the squad that topped KenPom’s table last year—but the Bulldogs will be reloading after that historic season. Mark Few’s squad will face many challenges away from home, but the pair of true road games against an improved San Diego State squad and a Washington outfit going through a coaching transition likely won’t be the most difficult. Nope. Instead, four neutral-site contests provide the bulk of the heft on the Zags’ schedule—thanks to the Phil Knight Invitational and its potential games with Florida or Stanford, then likely one of Duke, Butler, or Texas, and and a Jimmy V Classic clash with 2016 National Champ Villanova.

206. Portland Pilots

*Exempt Event: Phil Knight Invitational Victory Bracket

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (2-3) True Neutral-Site Games (0-1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (2-3) True Neutral-Site Games (0-1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
Portland State (257) North Carolina (6)* Oregon (18) Sacramento State (275) Boise State (77)
Walla Walla (Non-D1) Oklahoma (23) or (or Michigan State, (Golden 1 Center) Seattle (281)
Oregon Tech (Non-D1)* Arkansas (42)* UConn, or
Multnomah (Non-D1) Michigan State (16) or DePaul)*
Cal State Fullerton (272) UConn (55) or
San Jose State (287) DePaul (171)
Hartford (324) (or Oregon)*

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 1 win (@San José State) and 2 losses (Portland State, @Cal State Fullerton)

Three games against Power 7 foes in the Phil Knight Invitational is probably not what Terry Porter wanted after an 11-win season. However, the Pilots are left with no choice but to attempt to take flight against the likes of North Carolina, Michigan State, and local rivals Oregon. Combine the seven true home games, all against beatable opponents, with those three PK80 showdowns and Portland will only be left making flight plans for three contests. With all that considered, the Pilots should again log seven non-league wins before encountering the turbulence of WCC play.

219. Saint Mary’s Gaels

*Exempt Event: Wooden Legacy

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2-3)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (2-3)
St. Francis (Pa.) (279) None Harvard (106)* None San Jose State (287)
New Mexico State (86) Saint Joseph's (107) or Cal State Fullerton (272)
Cal State Fullerton (272) Washington State (183)* (or San Diego State,
Sacramento State (275)* San Diego State (50) or Georgia, Sacramento
Seattle (281) Georgia (54) or State)*
UC Irvine (100) Sacramento State (275) California (49)
Dayton (40) (or Cal State Fullerton)*
UNC Asheville (143)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (@Dayton, San José State, UC Irvine) and 0 losses

After last season’s 29-win campaign, Randy Bennett’s Gaels are poised to challenge reloading Gonzaga for the WCC title. And this collection of 12 games is not too bad for a team that national powers are reluctant to schedule. And while there’s one Power 7 road game, a trip to East Bay rival California won’t intimidate Saint Mary’s, particularly after the Golden Bears’ tumultuous coaching change. Several potential mid-major league champs visit Moraga, while the Wooden Legacy’s field includes no fewer than four potential NCAA teams. The Gaels’ quarterfinal matchup with Ivy favorite Harvard looms particularly large for the potential NCAA seeding hopes of both.

230. Pepperdine Waves

*Exempt Event: Legends Classic (Visitors’ Bracket)

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)
Cal Lutheran (Non-D1) None None None Oklahoma State (32)*
Northern Colorado (295) Texas A&M (44)*
UC Santa Barbara (201)* Cal Poly (243)
Montana (166) or Belmont (111)
Oral Roberts (216)* Weber State (177)
Southern Utah (340)
UC Riverside (274)
Long Beach State (156)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Cal Poly, Weber State) and 3 loss (Belmont, @Long Beach State, @Montana)

Marty Wilson’s Waves crashed to a total of nine wins last season—a gnarly wipeout after a pair of 18-victory campaigns. it didn’t help that Pepperdine won just four non-league games last fall, with none of those coming after November 22nd. While two of the Waves’ victims return to this year’s schedule, Pepperdine plays both Cal Poly and Weber State on the road—along with OVC power Belmont and a pair of power conference foes as part of the Legends Classic. On the plus side, Firestone Fieldhouse will host that event’s subregional, and if the Waves can win that title, they might put themselves on course to crest again.

234. BYU Cougars

*Exempt Event: Barclays Center Classic (Hosts’ Bracket)

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (3)
Mississippi Valley State (347) None Alabama (59)* None Princeton (76)
UT Arlington (109)* UMass (130)* Utah Valley (254)
Niagara (297)* Weber State (177) Utah State (125)
Illinois State (70) (Salt Lake City)
Utah (24)
Texas Southern (206)
Idaho State (320)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 4 wins (Princeton, Utah State (N), Weber State, Idaho State) and 2 losses (Utah Valley, UT Arlington)

Not only is Utah back on the Cougars’ schedule, but there are plenty of matchups with potential 2018 NCAA teams, both of the major conference (the Utes, Alabama) and mid-major (UT Arlington, Illinois State, Texas Southern, Princeton, Weber State) varieties. Plus, you can bet Dave Rose’s team will be traveling to Orem with revenge on their minds after losing to Utah Valley for the first time last season.

276. Pacific Tigers

*Exempt Event: Men Against Breast Cancer Showcase

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)
UC Davis (218) None None None Stanford (74)
Nevada (112) Air Force (234)*
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (345)* UC Riverside (274)
Texas State (208)* UC Davis (218)
Canisius (185)* Wyoming (131)
Arkansas-Fort Smith (Non-D1) Arizona State (85)
UNLV (154)

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

The Tigers won just 11 games in Damon Stoudamire’s first season, with six of those victories coming outside of WCC play. Improving upon that non-conference victory total is going to be difficult, even with seven home games, as Mountain West favorite Nevada and an likely-improved UNLV squad visit Stockton, while road trips at potential NCAA squads Stanford and Arizona State await, as does an always tricky trip to Wyoming‘s altitude and a home-and-home with Big West Tournament champion UC Davis.

I’m fairly certain that with three games scheduled against UC campuses, two featuring Arkansas-hyphen-location, and the visit from UNLV that Pacific leads the nation in non-conference games against city-modified schools.

279. San Diego Toreros

*Exempt Event: Grand Canyon 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)
Robert Morris (262)* None None None San Jose State (287)
Norfolk State (261)* Grand Canyon (172)*
Little Rock (165)* UC Santa Barbara (201)
San Diego State (50) New Mexico State (86)
Northern Arizona (319) Colorado (60)
North Texas (303)
Life Pacific (Non-D1)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (@Northern Arizona, UC Santa Barbara, @North Texas) and 2 losses (@San Diego State, New Mexico State)

The Toreros bumped their overall win total up by four games (from nine to 13) in Lamont Smith’s second season with a two-win improvement coming before WCC play tipped off. It’s possible this season’s non-league win total improves upon the seven victories of a year ago, even if USD has to visit Grand Canyon (as part of an exempt event), New Mexico State, and Colorado. Six of the seven home games are definitely winnable, while SDSU lost on its last trip to Jenny Craig Pavilion.

296. Loyola Marymount Lions

Exempt Event: None

True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (3) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (0) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (6)
UC Riverside (274) None None None UT Arlington (109)
McNeese State (321) Incarnate Word (271)
Cal State Fullerton (272) Boise State (77)
Oregon State (135)
Cal State Northridge (265)
Washington (103)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 3 wins (Portland State, @Cal State Northridge, Incarnate Word) and 2 losses (Boise State, UT Arlington)

Now that I’ve discussed the three WCC teams with NCAA hopes, it’s time to look at one of the teams that struggles in their collective shadow. The days of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble are long gone, even if they’ll never be forgotten, at LMU. Last season’s win total of 15—the highest for the Lions since a 21-win 2012-13 campaign—illustrates that Mike Dunlap still has a long way to go in terms of bringing the glory days of the late 80s back to Westchester. Now one of this league’s have-nots, the Lions struggled to build a five-game home slate. Plus, they’ll play a pair of Pac-12 road games and visit dangerous UT Arlington and Boise State squads before jumping into WCC play in late December.

But with three Cal State schools, two UC campuses, and UT Arlington on its slate, LMU at least managed to make Pacific’s run at the city-modified matchups title a real race, earning a share of the crown.

304. San Francisco Dons

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

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
Long Beach State (156) None Duquesne (195)* Nevada (112)* Arizona State (85)
St. Francis (Pa.) (279) Stanford (74)
Sacramento State (275)
Sonoma State (Non-D1)
UC Santa Barbara (201)
Central Arkansas (336)
Eastern Washington (181)
UC Davis (218)*
Radford (255)*

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (@UC Santa Barbara, Sacramento State (N)) and 1 loss (@Eastern Washington)

The Dons would love to become fixtures in the WCC’s first division following a 20-win campaign and CBI quarterfinal berth in Kyle Smith’s first season. And USF started that campaign well, winning 10 of its 13 non-conference games, including a runner-up finish at the Diamond Head Classic. And with nine home games and a meeting with A 10 bottom-feeder Duquesne at the Las Vegas Classic on tap this season, San Francisco should hit that total again. However, picking up an 11th win will be difficult, considering it will have to come against either Nevada, Arizona State, or Stanford away from War Memorial.

334. Santa Clara Broncos

*Exempt Event: GCI Great Alaska Shootout

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (1-2)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (0) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (0) True Road Games (1-2)
La Verne (Non-D1) None Idaho (229)* None Alaska Anchorage (Non-D1)
Nevada (112) Cal State Bakersfield (139) (or Cal State Bakersfield)*
Cal Poly (243)* (or Alaska Anchorage)* USC (65)
Northern Arizona (319) College of Charleston (133) or
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (345) Central Michigan (179) or
Portland State (257) Sam Houston State (193) or
Valparaiso (68) Cal Poly (243)*
San Jose State (287)

Record against returning opponents from 2016-17: 2 wins (Northern Arizona, @Valparaiso) and 1 loss (@San José State)

Herb Sendek’s Broncos also aim to contend after a 17-16 season ended with SCU pushing Gonzaga in the WCC semifinals. And Santa Clara should be able to at least improve upon last fall’s 6-7 non-league mark, thanks to eight home games and a trip to the mid-major heavy Great Alaska Shootout. While a road game at possible Final Four contender USC is the biggest hurdle on the Broncos’ slate, home games with Nevada and Valparaiso and a potential meeting with CAA heavy College of Charleston in Alaska might also keep SCU from heading into WCC play with a winning record.

Be sure to follow @ChrisDobbertean on Twitter and to like Blogging the Bracket on Facebook .