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Ranking the Summit League’s Non-Conference Schedules for 2018-19

While South Dakota State is chasing a third consecutive NCAA bid, the Jackrabbits might struggle to match last season’s 12 seed, thanks to a weak non-conference schedule.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-South Dakota State vs Ohio State Kyle Terada-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

In 2017, South Dakota State, who won the Summit championship as a No. 4 seed who finished at .500 in the league and 18-16 overall, earned a 16 seed in the NCAA—the lowest seed the conference tournament champ earned since 2006. One season later, the Jackrabbits, Summit double champion, secured a 12, the league’s third in the past 10 seasons and the Jackrabbits’ second in three seasons. Just twice in the past decade—2017’s 16 seed and a 15 in 2015—has the Summit champ not earned a seed somewhere between the 12 and 14 lines.

Nationally, the Summit still seems to have reputation as a conference that’s not totally stable. But with North Dakota moving over from the Big Sky—a move that reunited the Fighting Hawks with its three closest rivals—the conference has a defined, stable core that runs from the Dakotas down to Oklahoma. Remember that Oral Roberts actually moved back to the Summit for the 2014-15 season after and ill-fated two years in the Southland. And while the Summit’s biggest geographic outlier—the newly-christened Purdue Fort Wayne—is always going to hear its name come up in expansion discussions, particularly concerning the Horizon League, the remaining eight teams are all in position to stick around and continue to earn respectable seeds.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
South Dakota State 3.1725935 94 119
South Dakota 1.7847465 124 191
Fort Wayne 0.7605125 149 141
North Dakota State 0.26464327 161 134
Denver -1.520996 196 187
Omaha -2.2867423 217 176
North Dakota -2.32887375 218 223
Oral Roberts -2.4123892 223 216
Western Illinois -5.476386 298 300
Average -0.8936546089 186.6666667 183
Conference Rank 15th of 32 (14th 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
38 Western Illinois 298 244 54
116 South Dakota State 94 80 14
155 Omaha 217 215 2
215 Purdue Fort Wayne 149 159 -10
226 Oral Roberts 223 237 -14
237 South Dakota 124 141 -17
244 North Dakota 218 238 -20
253 Denver 196 218 -22
317 North Dakota State 161 211 -50

While KenPom projects that just three Summit members will outperform their four-year rankings, one of those teams is conveniently South Dakota State. Disappointingly, North Dakota State is the squad expected to underperform its recent history by the largest margin.

Ranking The Schedules

A season ago, the Summit consistently ranked in the top 10 of all four scheduling categories, with three teams building top 75 schedules and no team ranking in the bottom 75 in most groupings. But in 2018-19, the league only finds itself in the top 10 in the Known category, with the variable schedules pushing the Summit’s super average to 12th out of the 32 conferences. While five teams are in the top 150, with Oral Roberts in the top 25, four teams’ presence outside of the top 200, with Western Illinois dropping outside of the top 300, hurts the league’s average 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
22 Oral Roberts 5.432495843 18 5.432495843 22 5.432495843 32 5.432495843 18
70 North Dakota State** 4.870376073 28 4.007545999 70 4.455353125 62 3.54849617 71
117 Omaha 3.00721349 107 3.00721349 117 3.00721349 131 3.00721349 106
130 North Dakota 2.65884226 123 2.65884226 128 2.65884226 152 2.65884226 115
138 South Dakota 2.491069115 132 2.491069115 139 2.491069115 159 2.491069115 127
226 Denver 0.988755625 221 0.988755625 227 0.988755625 236 0.988755625 215
232 Purdue Fort Wayne 0.9391574667 226 0.9391574667 231 0.9391574667 239 0.9391574667 222
281 South Dakota State** -0.08136219442 281 0.1388301521 280 0.4434283482 275 -0.1438082918 281
303 Western Illinois -0.5698865 296 -0.5698865 303 -0.5698865 307 -0.5698865 298
168.7777778 Average 2.192962353 159.1111111 2.121558161 168.5555556 2.205158753 177 2.039148353 161.4444444
12/32 Conference Rank 9 of 32 11 of 32 12 of 32 11 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

While a slight majority of Summit teams over-scheduled this season, South Dakota State’s under-scheduling by 186 spots might give the Jackrabbits some trouble in the seeding department, should they reach the NCAAs for a third consecutive time. Note that the league did a far better job of scheduling relative to recent performances in 2017-18, when the Summit’s average scheduling gap ranked fourth among the conferences, compared to 20th this season.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
17 Western Illinois 298 302 -4
43 South Dakota 124 138 -14
76 Denver 196 225 -29
190 Purdue Fort Wayne 149 231 -82
202 North Dakota 218 130 88
208 North Dakota State 161 70 91
231 Omaha 217 117 100
311 South Dakota State 94 280 -186
323 Oral Roberts 223 22 201
177.8888889 Average (20/32 conf.) 186.6666667 168.3333333 18.33333333

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
51 1 21 18

With North Dakota joining for this season, the Summit schedule increased from 14 games to 16, largely negating the increase in non-conference games expected with the Fighting Hawks arrival. In three of the four categories above, the Summit’s raw totals declined from a season ago—disappointingly so in the True Home Games category. The lone home game against a Power 7 opponent is Oral Roberts’ annual crosstown matchup with Tulsa.

Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 18 0
WAC 13 0
Big Sky 12 1
OVC 7 0
Big 12 6 0
Horizon 6 0
MAC 5 1
MW 5 1
American Athletic 5 0
MVC 5 0
Pac-12 5 0
Atlantic Sun 3 1
Big West 3 1
WCC 3 1
Big Ten 3 0
MEAC 3 0
C-USA 2 2
A 10 2 0
America East 2 0
Big East 2 0
Big South 2 0
SEC 2 0
SoCon 2 0
SWAC 2 0
CAA 1 1
Southland 1 1
MAAC 1 0
Sun Belt 0 2
ACC 0 0
Ivy 0 0
NEC 0 0
Patriot 0 0

This season, the Summit is participating in a pair of challenge series, both of which impacted the table above. While non-D1 opponents top the standings for the second season in a row, the WAC soared up to second, as Summit members have scheduled 11 more games against the conference—including a full challenge series—than a season ago. Meanwhile, the Big Sky, second a season ago, drops to third. Note that the Big Sky/Summit Challenge only includes a quartet of schools from each conference, with each participant playing a home and road matchup. Five conferences are completely missing from the set portion of Summit schedules this season, a drop of one from 2017-18. The ACC is the lone Power 7 conference falling in that group, a change from a season ago.

Not surprisingly, teams from the Big Sky (Montana State) and WAC (UMKC) appear three times on Summit schedules, as does Eastern Illinois from the OVC, thanks to their annual home-and-home series with Western Illinois. The Leathernecks have five OVC games on their slate alone, while North Dakota has four non-D1 games lined up.

Non-Conference Games By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 0 21 0 21 2.333333333 0
Quad 2 0 13 1 14 1.555555556 1
Quad 3 7 11 2 20 2.222222222 7
Quad 4 26 14 8 48 5.333333333 4
Non-D1 18 0 0 18 2 0
Total 51 59 11 121
Average 5.666666667 6.555555556 1.222222222 13.44444444
Percentage 0.4214876033 0.4876033058 0.09090909091
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

Not only is Oral Roberts’ visit from Tulsa the Summit’s only Power 7 home game, it’s also the league’s lone top 100 home game, at least according to the four-year ranking. A whopping 44 of 51 scheduled home non-conference games feature Summit members playing teams falling under Quad 4 in the four-year table or non-D1 opposition. On the other hand, 28 Summit non-league road games will come against teams in the top 100.

Both North Dakota State and South Dakota State will play in eight-team bracketed tournaments with a mid-major focus, limiting the pair’s (and league’s) chances at picking up marquee wins on neutral floors.

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.

22. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

*Exempt Event: Men Against Breast Cancer Oakland Hoops Challenge

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (8)
(Non-D1) Southwestern 212. Northern Illinois* 160. Missouri State
(Transitional) Cal Baptist ! 192. James Madison* 45. TCU
(Non-D1) Ecclesia* 58. BYU
138. FGCU 131. Oakland*
97. Tulsa 24. SMU
! - WAC Challenge 98. Missouri
113. Richmond
12. Wichita State

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Missouri State, @FGCU) and 2 losses (@Tulsa, Oakland)

Paul Mills’ first season in charge in Tulsa ended with just 11 wins, but there were some bright spots along the way—particularly a mid-December stretch that saw the Golden Eagles defeat a pair of teams that return to this rather difficult schedule, Missouri State and FGCU. Although Tulsa heads to the Mabee Center this year, ORU will have to travel to its four other Power 7 games, along with WCC at-large threat BYU and Oakland, who will host the Golden Eagles and two other mid-majors for a Thanksgiving round-robin.

70. North Dakota State Bison

*Exempt Event: Islands of the Bahamas Showcase

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (5)
181. UC Santa Barbara 237. Miami (Ohio)* 71. New Mexico State!
158. Eastern Washington^ 118. Montana or 95. ETSU
160. Missouri State 324. Incarnate Word* 3. Gonzaga
(Non-D1) Northland 152. Towson/ 33. Iowa State
(Non-D1) Dickinson State 162. Georgia Southern/ 118. Montana^
^ - Big Sky Challenge 235. Pepperdine/ ! - WAC Challenge
278. FAU* ^ - Big Sky Challenge
219. Drake #
# - Minneapolis

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (@Missouri State) and 2 losses (@UC Santa Barbara, Missouri State)

In 2017-18, the Bison recorded their first losing record in Dave Richman’s four seasons, with their 15-17 mark a disappointment after an 8-6 start. North Dakota State might struggle a bit more in the early stages of this season. For starters, there’s hefty road schedule, including games at Gonzaga, Iowa State, and New Mexico State (to open the season and the WAC Challenge). Then, the Bison drew two of the most difficult opponents in the Big Sky event—Montana on the road and Eastern Washington at home. Plus, NDSU could play the Grizzlies a few weeks before their scheduled meeting, as both are on the same half of the bracket in the Bahamas. And then there’s a winnable game against Drake, which will be played in Minneapolis at US Bank Stadium—venue for this season’s Final Four. That final matchup is a feather in the cap for one of the most consistent programs in the mid-major ranks.

117. Omaha Mavericks

No Exempt Event

True Home Games (4) True Road Games (9)
True Home Games (4) True Road Games (9)
(Non-D1) Buena Vista 84. Minnesota
329. Northern Arizona 76. Colorado
274. Montana State^ 328. Bethune-Cookman
181. UC Santa Barbara 33. Iowa State
^ - Big Sky Challenge 70. Arizona State
256. Seattle !
25. Oregon
182. Idaho^
250. Rice
! - WAC Challenge
^ - Big Sky Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Montana State) and 2 losses (Montana State (N), @UC Santa Barbara)

After consecutive 18-14 seasons, Derrin Hansen’s Mavericks slipped to 9-22 in 2017-18, claiming just five non-Summit wins in 16 tries. This time around, Omaha will play three fewer non-league games, with nine of their 13 contests away from home. That total includes a half-dozen Power 7 road games, capped by a trip to Pac-12 favorite Oregon.

130. North Dakota Fighting Hawks

*Exempt Event: Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase

True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Northland 201. Milwaukee
(Non-D1) Minnesota-Morris* 7. Kentucky*
(Non-D1) Concordia (Neb.)* 174. Utah Valley
182. Idaho^ 274. Montana State^
201. Milwaukee 318. UT Rio Grande Valley !
(Non-D1) Mayville State 53. Marquette
^ - Big Sky Challenge 99. UNI
^ - Big Sky Challenge
! - WAC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Northland, Montana State, Montana State (N)) and 4 losses (Utah Valley, Idaho, @Idaho, @Montana State)

The Fighting Hawks followed up their 22-win Big Sky title campaign with a 10-win decline in their final season in that conference. Brian Jones’ squad will begin its rebuild and Summit tenure by encountering some familiar faces—North Dakota will participate in the challenge series with its former league, hosting Idaho and visiting Montana State. There are also trips to Marquette and Kentucky, with the excursion to Lexington part of the Wildcats’ weird exempt tournament. Why is it weird? Well, the Hawks won’t meet any of the other mid-majors who will likely lose to UK at Rupp Arena. Instead, they’ll play a pair of local non-D1 squads to complete their participation.

138. South Dakota Coyotes

*Exempt Event: Bimini Jam

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (4)
(Non-D1) York 221. High Point* 15. Baylor
329. Northern Arizona 257. UMBC* 76. Colorado
168. Cal State Bakersfield^ 231. Air Force* 146. Colorado State
268. UMKC 6. Kansas
(Non-D1) Bellevue
297. Southern Miss
^ - WAC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: (USD) 3 wins (Southern Miss. (N), @UMKC, @Northern Arizona) and 0 losses

Utah State hired away Craig Smith after he guided the Coyotes to steady improvement over four seasons, capped by 48 total wins in his final two years in charge. Former Kentucky Wesleyan head coach and Grand Canyon assistant Todd Lee returns to his alma mater with the aim of continuing building upon the strong foundation Smith laid down. And this 13-game slate should get South Dakota ready to challenge their archrivals from Brookings for the the conference crown, thanks to a pair of Big 12 road games (Baylor and Kansas), a contest at Colorado, and three games in the Bahamas for the Bimini Jam, including one against UMBC, the first 16 to defeat a 1 in NCAA Men’s Tournament history.

226. Denver Pioneers

*Exempt Event: Elgin Baylor Classic

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (7)
340. Maine 343. Longwood* 39. Kansas State
309. Abilene Christian 215. Fairfield* 256. Seattle*
214. Northern Colorado 174. Utah Valley !
(Non-D1) Western State 231. Air Force
274. Montana State 129. Wyoming
119. UC Irvine
3. Gonzaga
! - WAC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (UC Irvine, Air Force) and 2 losses (@Northern Colorado, @Montana State)

Rodney Billups’ first two Pioneer teams have almost been the very definition of average, as DU followed up 2016-17’s 16-14 finish with a 15-15 one. Denver started 6-8 a season ago and with nine non-conference games away from Magness Arena this season—including trips to Kansas State and Gonzaga and three games at Seattle‘s round-robin event—the Pioneers will be hard pressed to improve upon that record.

232. Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons

*Exempt Event: Buckeye Basketball Classic

True Home Games (8) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (8) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Earlham 31. UCLA
(Non-D1) Manchester 35. Ohio State*
338. South Carolina State* 77. Dayton
243. Samford* 276. Cleveland State*
268. UMKC ! 260. Eastern Illinois
157. Akron 237. Miami (Ohio)
259. IUPUI 247. Austin Peay
(Non-D1) Siena Heights
! - WAC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Akron, @Miami (Ohio)

Thanks to some administrative changes, the former Indiana and Purdue joint campus in Fort Wayne is now under the latter’s sole management, which means the Mastodons’ color scheme now features the old gold and black of the sibling Boilermakers. While Purdue doesn’t feature on this season’s schedule, another school connected to coaching legend John Wooden—UCLA—does. That early trip to Westwood is one of two Power 7 games on Purdue Fort Wayne’s 2018 slate, the other is a trip to Ohio State that’s part of the Buckeyes’ exempt event. With those games and a contest at Dayton likely to be the only three the Mastodons will play against top 100 foes, Jon Coffman’s squad should get off to a strong start, which would position them to improve upon 2017-18’s 18-15 finish.

281. South Dakota State Jackrabbits

*Exempt Event: Gulf Coast Showcase

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (4)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (4)
140. Grand Canyon ! 194. Tulane* 138. FGCU 138. FGCU*
337. Alabama State 119. UC Irvine or (or Louisiana/ 104. Memphis
(Non-D1) Bemidji State 245. UTSA* Toledo/ 61. Nevada
268. UMKC 96. Louisiana/ Colorado State)* 158. Eastern Washington^
313. Southern 114. Toledo/ ^ - Big Sky Challenge
326. Savannah State 146. Colorado State
118. Montana^ (or FGCU)*
! - WAC Challenge 99. UNI #
^ - Big Sky Challenge # - Minneapolis

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (UC Irvine, Alabama State, @UMKC) and 0 losses

T.J. Otzelberger’s Jackrabbits have a third consecutive NCAA bid in their sights. But the Jackrabbits will need to do some serious damage against this opposition to match last season’s 12 seed, even if they sweep this season’s Summit titles. While South Dakota State drew the two toughest opponents in the Big Sky Challenge (Eastern Washington and Montana), and Grand Canyon isn’t an easy matchup in the WAC series, the presence of three home games against sub-300 squads weighs this slate down. But there’s hope for some over-performance, as the Jackrabbits visit Mountain West favorite Nevada and will get to challenge UNI in US Bank Stadium’s Final Four dress rehearsal. Plus, there are the four games in Southwest Florida that comprise SDSU’s participation in the Gulf Coast Showcase, an event the Jackrabbits will be favored to win.

303. Western Illinois Leathernecks

No Exempt Event

True Home Games (5) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (5) True Road Games (8)
(Non-D1) North Park 28. Creighton
(Non-D1) Dominican (Ill.) 260. Eastern Illinois
317. SIU Edwardsville 254. UT Martin
260. Eastern Illinois 72. Nebraska
346. Chicago State ! 284. Southeast Missouri State
! - WAC Challenge 319. Stetson
259. IUPUI
212. Northern Illinois

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: (WIU) 3 wins (Eastern Illinois, @SIU Edwardsville, IUPUI) and 1 loss (@Eastern Illinois)

The Leathernecks won 12 of their 28 games last season, the high-water mark for Billy Wright’s four seasons in charge, with nine of those victories coming in non-conference play. However, with eight road games and two fewer non-D1 contests on this slate, don’t expect WIU to have such a successful November and December, even against the weakest non-league slate in the Summit. And that caution is provided even while noting that Western Illinois only plays a pair of Power 7 road games, against Creighton and Nebraska.

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