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Ranking Conference USA’s Non-Conference Schedules for 2018-19

Even with a new head coach, Middle Tennessee once again leads the way when it comes to C-USA scheduling, but both 2018 NCAA rep Marshall and Western Kentucky, an NIT semifinalist a season ago, built slates that could help push them into the at-large picture in 2019.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-West Virginia vs Marshall Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

For all of the posts in this series, visit the 2018-19 Non-Conference Scheduling Hub.

Warning: Graphics and tables may not appear optimally when viewing on a mobile device.

Ranking The Teams

Conference USA is yet another league hit hard by realignment when it comes to NCAA Tournament selection and seeding. Just 10 seasons ago, Memphis earned a No. 2 seed—the last of four consecutive 1 or 2 seeds for John Calipari’s squads. In the decade since, the now-departed Tigers also own the highest seed earned, a 6 in 2013, the school’s final season in the conference. The league has also earned multiple bids just three times since 2009—in 2010, 2011, and 2012—and Memphis and Southern Miss. only ended up as an 8 and 9, respectively, in the final season of that run.

Otherwise, it’s been double-digit seeds for C-USA’s representatives—a number that’s been limited to just one for the past six NCAA Tournaments. And with the league champ assigned a 12, 13 (twice), 14, and 15 in the last five events, Conference USA’s members decided to try something different this season. So, the league adopted a flex scheduling proposal from college basketball analyst Mark Adams that will use the conference standings to determine who meets who over the final four contests of the 18-game slate.

Several Conference USA members made significant jumps in the four-year ranking over just the past season—with Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky, 2018 NCAA rep Marshall, and UTSA standing out in particular. So, giving C-USA’s best teams more opportunities to meet each other late might indeed be the key to getting the conference’s regular season champ an at-large—something denied to Middle Tennessee a season ago—or at the very least, a shot at a better seed. Not that a double-digit seed has hurt the conference’s NCAA entrant, which has advanced to the Round of 32 in three consecutive seasons.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Middle Tennessee 5.4145885 62 81
Old Dominion 3.9061555 83 110
Louisiana Tech 1.8093247 123 97
WKU 1.596464 127 190
UAB 1.37593 135 147
Marshall 1.014528 145 178
UTEP -2.0451945 209 168
UTSA -3.2901008 245 301
Rice -3.45011175 250 224
FIU -3.694759 262 259
Charlotte -3.862798 266 203
North Texas -4.13943 271 303
FAU -4.564078 278 291
Southern Miss -5.390376 297 308
Average -1.094275525 196.6428571 204.2857143
Conference Rank 16th of 32 (17th in 2017-18)

KenPom Gaps for 2018-19

Rank Team 2018-19 Four-Year Ranking 2018-19 KP Preseason Rank Gap
Rank Team 2018-19 Four-Year Ranking 2018-19 KP Preseason Rank Gap
2 Southern Miss 297 165 132
3 North Texas 271 164 107
13 UTSA 245 166 79
42 Marshall 145 95 50
43 WKU 127 79 48
52 FIU 262 221 41
178 Old Dominion 83 86 -3
214 Louisiana Tech 123 133 -10
268 FAU 278 303 -25
273 UAB 135 162 -27
281 Charlotte 266 295 -29
313 Rice 250 297 -47
334 UTEP 209 275 -66
344 Middle Tennessee 62 154 -92

While KenPom projects that Middle Tennessee will underperform by 92 places (when compared to the four-year ranking) in its first Kermit Davis-less season, Marshall and WKU are expected to be substantially better coming off fruitful postseason appearances and four lower-tier squads are expected to make big jumps toward respectability.

Ranking The Schedules

A season ago, C-USA found itself in the bottom third of Division I when it came to non-conference scheduling, thanks in no small part to the consistent presence of nine slates in the bottom half of the nation across all four categories. That number has been reduced to seven this year, with just four teams outside of the top 200—compared to seven such teams a season ago. Combine those changes with the fact Middle Tennessee and WKU both own schedules that rank among the best in the country, it’s no surprise the league’s standing has jumped considerably.

Note: The number of asterisks (*) represent the number of pending games on a team’s schedule.

Schedule Rankings

Super Avg. Rank Team Known Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Average Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Maximum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Minimum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank
Super Avg. Rank Team Known Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Average Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Maximum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank Minimum Schedule Strength Natl. Rank
10 Middle Tennessee** 5.647655441 12 6.468180323 11 7.011730373 8 5.762942215 11
50 WKU** 4.071071646 59 4.477478033 44 5.380025239 36 3.530848778 74
63 Southern Miss* 4.683509793 34 4.083779768 64 4.199891164 74 3.967668373 57
77 Marshall 3.881163742 69 3.881163742 76 3.881163742 90 3.881163742 60
89 UTEP* 3.63377155 82 3.516323795 89 3.591721773 100 3.440925818 81
120 UTSA** 2.988644177 109 2.892307457 120 3.260704035 117 2.549249056 125
124 Charlotte** 2.308928804 143 2.657548528 129 3.317110211 112 2.200333149 139
178 Old Dominion** 1.96892946 162 1.917090201 178 2.876344995 136 1.124973784 209
183 FAU** 2.404933609 135 1.905341949 181 2.33728466 165 1.455026977 193
195 UAB** 0.6310995 249 1.615735394 195 2.750608108 147 0.7609615183 240
212 Rice 1.316203145 203 1.316203145 212 1.316203145 222 1.316203145 201
227 Louisiana Tech 0.9651628423 224 0.9651628423 228 0.9651628423 237 0.9651628423 217
284 FIU 0.07743095962 274 0.07743095962 283 0.07743095962 286 0.07743095962 272
307 North Texas -0.6385991327 302 -0.6385991327 308 -0.6385991327 312 -0.6385991327 302
151.36 Average 2.424278967 146.93 2.509653357 151.29 2.880484437 145.86 2.171020802 155.79
9/32 Conference Rank 7 of 32 8 of 32 8 of 32 7 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

However, Conference USA’s improvement came at a cost, as the majority of the league’s 14 members over-scheduled relative to their recent performances. These decisions could pay off for contenders like Marshall and WKU, however.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
60 FIU 262 283 -21
88 North Texas 271 306 -35
99 Rice 250 211 39
122 Middle Tennessee 62 10 52
140 UAB 135 194 -59
157 Marshall 145 77 68
180 WKU 127 50 77
214 Old Dominion 83 177 -94
220 FAU 278 182 96
233 Louisiana Tech 123 226 -103
252 UTEP 209 89 120
258 UTSA 245 120 125
279 Charlotte 266 124 142
333 Southern Miss 297 63 234
188.2142857 Average (23/32 conf.) 196.6428571 150.8571429 45.78571429

Home, Power 7 Road, And 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
86 6 24 28

Conference USA schedules were remarkably consistent on these four fronts when compared to last season:

  • League members scheduled one fewer home game than in 2017-18, with just one more home non-D1 contest on the 14 slates overall. (North Texas is playing D2 Humboldt State in Honolulu as part of the Rainbow Classic.)
  • With Charlotte hosting three Power 7 teams, Wisconsin visiting WKU, Oklahoma making a trip to former Lon Kruger assistant Steve Henson at UTSA, and FIU hosting South Florida, the conference will collectively play one more power conference home game than it did a season ago.
  • C-USA teams have 24 guaranteed Power 7 road games on their schedules for the second season in succession.

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
American Athletic 10 3
Southland 10 1
Sun Belt 10 1
SEC 8 3
A 10 7 3
CAA 7 2
OVC 7 2
Big 12 6 4
Atlantic Sun 6 2
ACC 6 1
SWAC 6 0
MVC 5 2
MAC 5 0
MEAC 5 0
Big West 4 2
SoCon 4 2
Pac-12 3 2
Big Ten 3 1
WCC 3 1
WAC 3 0
MAAC 2 2
MW 2 2
Summit 2 2
Ivy 2 1
Big South 2 0
Horizon 2 0
Big East 1 2
Patriot 1 1
America East 1 0
NEC 1 0
Big Sky 0 1

Even though the average C-USA team has two non-D1 games on its schedule, the total of 28 is enough to lead the table of scheduled “conferences” for the second season in a row. UTSA and FIU’s four such opponents and Southern Miss., North Texas, and FAU’s three apiece more than make up for the absence of non-D1 opponents from the schedules of contenders Marshall, ODU, and WKU. To me, the reliance on non-D1 games, particularly among teams from the second division, is one thing holding the league back. Again, it might not be a bad idea for C-USA to work with the Sun Belt and Southland, two conferences with similar scheduling issues, to reduce this reliance on opponents who don’t count.

There’s good variety in the Division I opponents Conference USA members scheduled—the Big Sky is the only loop that doesn’t have a scheduled game against one of the league’s 14 schools, while Arkansas, Troy, and Wichita State are the only three Division I opponents who will play a trio of C-USA members in the fall.

Non-Conference Games By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 3 23 4 30 2.142857143 9
Quad 2 3 16 3 22 1.571428571 10
Quad 3 9 15 5 29 2.071428571 20
Quad 4 43 7 3 53 3.785714286 7
Non-D1 27 0 1 28 2 0
Total 86 61 16 162
Average 6.142857143 4.357142857 1.142857143 11.57142857
Percentage 0.5308641975 0.3765432099 0.0987654321
Q1 1-30 1-75 1-50
Q2 31-75 76-135 51-100
Q3 76-160 136-240 101-200
Q4 161-353 241-353 201-353

Of the seven top 100 non-conference home games (based on the four-year ranking) C-USA members have scheduled, three fall under Quad 1 and another three under Quad 2. Of course, the three Quad 1 home games—UTSA’s against Oklahoma and WKU’s two against Wisconsin and Saint Mary’s—all feature teams who might not rank that highly when all is said and done this season. Still, there will be plenty of Quad 1 and 2 win opportunities for league members in November and December, particularly for WKU, UAB, and Middle Tennessee in their competitive exempt tournaments.

Team-By-Team Breakdown

Teams are listed in order of their Super Average Schedule Ranking. The number in front of an opponent name is its Four-Year Ranking. Logos via SportsLogos.net.

10. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

*Exempt Event: Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (4)
(Non-D1) Lees-McRae 75. Ole Miss # 2. Virginia* 91. Belmont
(Non-D1) Milligan # - Nashville 21. Butler or 47. Vanderbilt
286. Charleston Southern* 77. Dayton* 114. Toledo
193. Lipscomb 16. Florida/ 48. Rhode Island
103. Murray State 22. Wisconsin/
27. Oklahoma/
79. Stanford*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (@Murray State, @Vanderbilt, Ole Miss) and 1 loss (Belmont)

Former UNC Asheville coach Nick McDevitt replaces Kermit Davis on the Blue Raiders’ bench, with Middle’s former coach taking over for Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss. Davis will look to snap the Rebels’ two-game losing streak to Middle Tennessee—the pair meet for the third season in a row, this time in Nashville. The Blue Raiders look to be rebuilding this year, which is a shame, because thanks to a road trip to what should be an improved Vanderbilt squad (last season’s road win didn’t do much for Middle’s at-large chances) and the Battle 4 Atlantis, along with matchups against local powers Belmont and Lipscomb, there are several quality win opportunities to be had here.

50. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

*Exempt Event: Myrtle Beach Invitational

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
254. UT Martin* 90. Valparaiso* 100. Washington
197. Tennessee State 9. West Virginia/ 164. Indiana State
191. Troy 120. Monmouth* 160. Missouri State
19. Saint Mary's 69. Wake Forest/ 40. Arkansas
22. Wisconsin 111. Saint Joseph's/ 91. Belmont
115. UCF/
225. Cal State Fullerton*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Indiana State) and 3 losses (Missouri State, @Wisconsin, Belmont)

Rick Stansbury’s second Hilltopper squad made national noise early—by beating both Purdue and SMU in the Battle 4 Atlantis—and late—by reaching the NIT semifinals. In between, WKU didn’t do quite enough to earn the at-large it needed after falling to Marshall in the C-USA final. The ‘Toppers will get another shot in 2018-19, starting with a trip to rising Washington, followed by three games at the Myrtle Beach Invitational, where perennial Big 12 power West Virginia could await on day 2. Later in non-conference play, WKU will host Saint Mary’s and Wisconsin and visit Arkansas and Belmont; however, the Hilltoppers might need each of those teams to exceed preseason expectations for those potential wins to help an at-large case.

63. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

*Exempt Event: Cancun Challenge (Mayan Division)

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Southeastern Baptist 241. North Florida* 24. SMU*
(Non-D1) William Carey 195. Jacksonville State or 191. Troy
249. South Alabama 296. Western Carolina* 12. Wichita State
(Non-D1) Rust 39. Kansas State
(Non-D1) Millsaps 124. South Dakota

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Rust, Troy, William Carey) and 2 losses (South Dakota (N), @South Alabama)

After failing to win more than nine games in each of his first three seasons in charge, Doc Sadler’s fourth Golden Eagle squad finished 16-18, though their final victory, in the C-USA semifinals, ended up costing Middle Tennessee an NCAA bid. Southern Miss. should get off to a flying start in 2018, thanks to four non-D1 home games and a pair of winnable games in Mexico at the Cancun Challenge. Still, with the quality of the road lineup, don’t expect the Golden Eagles to enter league play with more than seven wins. This is another schedule where the number of non-D1 games really has the potential to affect the conference’s NET rankings when February and March arrive. The quality of the road games on this slate somewhat artificially boosts this slate’s overall strength.

77. Marshall Thundering Herd

*Exempt Event: Maryland MTE

True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
141. Hofstra* 264. Eastern Kentucky
238. Mount St. Mary's* 32. Maryland*
342. N.C. A&T* 159. Ohio
132. William & Mary 199. Duquesne
114. Toledo 157. Akron
213. Morehead State 34. Texas A&M
2. Virginia

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 4 wins (Akron, @Toledo, Ohio, Eastern Kentucky) and 2 losses (@Morehead State, @William & Mary)

Dan D’Antoni’s Herd are another C-USA squad that started with nine non-conference wins a season ago. And after last season’s NCAA Tournament success, Marshall has scheduled like a team that’s hungry for more. The Thundering Herd will get an early chance to make national headlines when they visit Maryland for the showcase game of the Terps’ exempt round-robin, while they’ll visit both Texas A&M and Virginia right before C-USA play begins. As for the home slate, Hofstra, Toledo, and William & Mary should all test Marshall at the Henderson Center.

89. UTEP Miners

No Exempt Event

True Home Games (7) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (7) True Road Games (4)
(Non-D1) UT Permian Basin 71. New Mexico State
(Non-D1) Eastern New Mexico 13. Arizona
71. New Mexico State 106. New Mexico
332. Northwestern State 53. Marquette
281. UC Riverside
294. Norfolk State #
95. ETSU or
129. Wyoming #
# - Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (New Mexico) and 2 losses (@New Mexico State, New Mexico State)

Rodney Terry departed Fresno State for West Texas looking to restore the UTEP program to former glories. With Tim Floyd retiring early in the season, Phil Johnson managed to coach the Miners to an 11-20 mark, highlighted by home wins over New Mexico and Washington State. But it wasn’t enough for the administration to remove the interim tag. With this schedule, Terry will have his work cut out for him in his first season. Not only is there the traditional home-and-home with I-10 neighbors New Mexico State and the Sun Bowl Invitational, but trips to Marquette and a pair of Southwestern powers—Arizona and New Mexico—mean the Miners will likely take plenty of lumps early in the new season.

120. UTSA Roadrunners

*Exempt Event: Gulf Coast Showcase

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (1-2) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) Semi-Road Games (1-2) True Road Games (3)
(Non-D1) St. Edward's* 119. UC Irvine* 138. FGCU 38. Oklahoma State
27. Oklahoma 94. South Dakota State or (or Louisiana/ 305. Houston Baptist
203. Texas State 194. Tulane* Toledo/ 246. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
(Non-D1) Mid-American Christian 96. Louisiana/ Colorado State)*
(Non-D1) Bethany (Kan.) 114. Toledo/ 40. Arkansas #
(Non-D1) Southeastern Okla. St. 146. Colorado State # - North Little Rock, Ark.
(or FGCU)*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 4 wins (@Texas State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Houston Baptist, Bethany (Kan.) and 1 loss (@Oklahoma)

After recording a nine-win improvement in his first season in charge in San Antonio, former Oklahoma assistant Steve Henson got the Roadrunners to the 20-win plateau and a postseason berth in his second. UTSA should be able to show the rest of C-USA that it’s ready to contend for a league crown with this slate, even with the four non-D1 home games. That’s because Henson’s former boss, Lon Kruger, and his Sooners will visit the Alamo City this year, a game the Roadrunners could win with OU rebuilding. A true road game against Oklahoma State and contest in North Little Rock against Arkansas will give UTSA another pair of chances at claiming a power conference win, while plenty of quality mid-major programs share the Gulf Coast Showcase field with Henson’s squad.

124. Charlotte 49ers

*Exempt Event: Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) True Road Games (3-4)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (2-3) True Road Games (3-4)
187. Chattanooga 45. TCU* 117. College of Charleston
38. Oklahoma State 48. Rhode Island or 60. Davidson
192. James Madison 108. Bucknell* 69. Wake Forest
343. Longwood 76. Colorado/ 179. Hawai'i
285. USF 143. UNLV/ (or Colorado/UNLV/
242. East Carolina 164. Indiana State Indiana State)
(or Hawai'i)*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (@East Carolina) and 7 losses (@Oklahoma State, College of Charleston, Davidson, @James Madison, Wake Forest, @Chattanooga, @USF)

Ron Sanchez arrives in Charlotte from Tony Bennett’s Virginia staff, and he’ll have his work cut out for him in rebuilding after the failed Mark Price experiment. Four of the 49ers six 2017-18 wins came in non-conference play, with American Athletic whipping boys East Carolina the most noteworthy victim. The Pirates visit Halton Arena this season, one of three Power 7 teams to do so, though Oklahoma State is likely the only NCAA threat among the trio (sorry, South Florida). This schedule also features three short road trips to complement one of the longest ones you can make—the Niners will close non-league play by traveling to Hawai’i for the Diamond Head Classic.

178. Old Dominion Monarchs

*Exempt Event: U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (3)
227. Navy 125. Oregon State* 111. Saint Joseph's
99. UNI* 98. Missouri/ 46. Syracuse
67. VCU 300. Kennesaw State* 113. Richmond
192. James Madison 39. Kansas State/
132. William & Mary 264. Eastern Kentucky/
215. Fairfield 99. UNI/
327. Morgan State 178. Penn*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (@James Madison, Richmond, @Fairfield) and 2 losses (@William & Mary, @VCU)

Last season, Jeff Jones’ squad finished 25-7 and didn’t participate in a postseason tournament. The Monarchs will look for a happier ending this season, with their coach’s continuing battle with prostate cancer adding to their motivation. ODU should be able to get itself off to a strong start, thanks to their regionally-focused schedule, with A 10 contender Saint Joseph’s and 2018 Sweet 16 squad Syracuse serving as the biggest road games. The longest trip the Monarchs will make, however, is to the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam. Note that Old Dominion has won five of the six games its played in the event all-time, as the Monarchs finished second in 2005 and defeated Xavier for the 2010 title. Quarterfinal opponent Oregon State and potential foes Missouri and Kansas State should keep that history in mind.

183. Florida Atlantic Owls

*Exempt Event: Islands of the Bahamas Showcase

True Home Games (4) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (4) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (6)
(Non-D1) Florida Tech 162. Georgia Southern* 115. UCF
(Non-D1) Palm Beach Atlantic* 152. Towson or 328. Bethune-Cookman
138. FGCU 235. Pepperdine* 154. Mercer
(Non-D1) Florida College 118. Montana/ 234. Arkansas State
161. North Dakota State/ 23. Miami (Fla.)
237. Miami (Ohio)/ 81. Illinois
324. Incarnate Word*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Bethune-Cookman, @FGCU) and 2 losses (Towson (N), Arkansas State)

The Owls, now under the tutelage of former Florida assistant Dusty May, couldn’t build upon a 6-6 start in Michael Curry’s final season, as they finished 12-19. Fully half of FAU’s non-league wins came against visiting non-D1 opponents—and such teams will comprise 75% of the Owls’ 2018-19 non-conference home schedule. Three Power 7 road trips—with the short excursions to Miami and UCF the most dangerous—and short flight east for the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase—which has a similar field to last season’s Gulf Coast Showcase (where the Owls went 1-2)—are the most noteworthy matchups on this 13-game lineup.

195. UAB Blazers

*Exempt Event: AdvoCare Invitational

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
154. Mercer 64. Auburn $ 80. LSU or 26. Florida State* 351. Alabama A&M
269. New Orleans $ - Legacy Arena 117. College of Charleston* 104. Memphis
(Non-D1) West Alabama* 1. Villanova/
(Transitional) North Alabama 38. Oklahoma State/
333. Alcorn State 104. Memphis/
191. Troy 165. Canisius*
(Non-D1) Arkansas-Monticello

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 4 wins (Memphis, @Troy, Alabama A&M, New Orleans) and 1 loss (@Auburn)

Rob Eshan’s Blazers managed to win 20 games, including nine in non-conference play, despite going 0-3 at the Cayman Islands Classic before Thanksgiving. And with a quarterfinal against Elite Eight qualifier Florida State and a second day matchup against either 2018 CAA champ College of Charleston or at-large contender LSU (and I haven’t even mentioned who could await on day three in Orlando), a similar result is possible for UAB at this November’s exempt event—the Advocare Invitational.

But with seven true home games, a pair of winnable road contests, and Auburn visiting Birmingham this time around, UAB could once again find itself with nine or 10 wins heading into league play, even if Thanksgiving weekend turns into one to forget for the Blazers.

212. Rice Owls

*Exempt Event: Men Against Breast Cancer Cup

True Home Games (7) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (7) True Road Games (6)
(Non-D1) St. Leo 178. Penn
351. Alabama A&M* 41. Houston*
332. Northwestern State* 58. BYU*
258. Lamar 12. Wichita State
(Non-D1) St. Edward's 203. Texas State
181. UC Santa Barbara 318. UT Rio Grande Valley
217. Omaha

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (@Northwestern State, St. Edward’s) and 2 losses (UTRGV, Texas State)

The Owls won just seven games in Scott Pera’s first season at Tudor Fieldhouse, a 16-game decline from Mike Rhoades’ final season in charge before his departure for VCU. Rice won just three non-league games last fall, with only a November 17th win at Northwestern State coming against D1 opposition. While the home schedule alone dictates that Rice should head into C-USA play with more wins than they owned a season ago, the biggest news here is on the road side of the schedule. As part of an exempt tournament and three-game, multi-year series, crosstown rival Houston is back on the Owls’ slate for the first time since December 2014.

227. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Delaware Invitational

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (5)
204. Sam Houston State 134. UNCG* # 12. Wichita State
(Non-D1) Harding* # - Newark, Del. 80. LSU
(Non-D1) Tougaloo* 280. Delaware*
305. Houston Baptist 107. Stephen F. Austin
311. Prairie View A&M 96. Louisiana
349. Mississippi Valley State
246. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 2 losses (Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana)

Eric Konkol’s squad won 17 games a season ago, which has to be considered a disappointment, since the Bulldogs won nine non-conference games and claimed two tournament trophies (Cancun Challenge and New Orleans Shootout) last fall. Louisiana Tech should be able to match last season’s start, thanks to seven home games and two winnable contests at Delaware‘s exempt event. But four losses look baked in, as the other road games are all against truly quality opponents.

284. FIU Panthers

*Exempt Event: John Bach Classic

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (4)
(Non-D1) Webber Int'l 308. Youngstown State* 200. Columbia* 232. Fordham*
(Non-D1) Johnson & Wales (Fla.) 138. FGCU
201. Milwaukee 40. Arkansas
(Non-D1) Ave Maria* 159. Ohio
241. North Florida
285. USF
(Non-D1) Florida Memorial

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Florida Memorial, @USF, FGCU) and 2 losses (@Milwaukee, @North Florida)

Like their rivals from Boca Raton, the Panthers will be led by a new coach this season, with former VCU assistant Jeremy Ballard taking over from Anthony Evans after a lackluster 14-18 2017-18. Also like FAU, FIU claimed six non-league wins, with three of those coming against non-D1 opponents. Four such games appear on the Panthers’ seven-game home slate (at least FIU is giving its fans a little more reason to turn out for than their neighbors). On the flip side, the Panthers will play just one Power 7 road game (Arkansas), though they’ll also play three games in the Bronx as part of Fordham’s round-robin exempt tournament.

307. North Texas Mean Green

*Exempt Event: Wolfpack Classic

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (4)
(Non-D1) Angelo State (Non-D1) Humboldt State ! 179. Hawai'i
(Non-D1) Texas A&M-Commerce 251. Portland ! 27. Oklahoma
339. Maryland Eastern Shore* ! - Honolulu, Hawai'i 164. Indiana State
340. Maine* 106. New Mexico
183. Saint Peter's*
102. UT Arlington
344. Arkansas Pine Bluff

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Indiana State) and 2 losses (@Oklahoma, @UT Arlington)

Grant McCasland’s first Mean Green squad won 20 games and claimed the CBI title, a fine result for a team that finished the regular season 15-17. Expectations are higher in Denton—and this schedule should do little to reduce them. The Mean Green will spend the first weekend of the season in Hawai’i for the Rainbow Classic and not long after their return they’ll play a trio of winnable home games by serving as the subhost for N.C. State‘s MTE. (Note that UNT will not travel to Raleigh.) Besides the trip to Honolulu, road games at Oklahoma and New Mexico will be tests, as will a December visit from Metroplex rival UT Arlington.

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