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Ranking the SoCon’s Non-Conference Schedules for 2018-19

The defending champion UNCG Greensboro Spartans and 2017 champ ETSU Buccaneers both had trouble building quality non-conference slates this season, largely thanks to their recent successes.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-UNCG vs Gonzaga Brian Losness-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

Over the last four seasons, the SoCon champion has found itself on either line 12 (2014, 2015) or 13 (2016. 2017) come Selection Sunday, a result which has been fairly common over the past 10 seasons. Just twice in the last decade has the conference’s lone NCAA representative found itself lower than a 14 seed. And with ETSU, Furman, and UNCG all making great strides in the four-year ranking over the past season, possibilities for another 12 or 13 are certainly out there for 2019.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
ETSU 3.171224 95 121
Furman 1.6020792 126 196
UNCG 1.3778855 134 210
Wofford 0.6199075 151 145
Mercer 0.466499 154 151
Chattanooga -1.072003965 187 124
Samford -3.2627461 243 225
Western Carolina -5.208783 296 268
The Citadel -6.633885 316 323
VMI -7.78704 331 318
Average -1.672686287 203.3 208.1
Conference Rank 18th of 32 (19th 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
29 The Citadel 316 260 56
47 UNCG 139 93 46
75 Wofford 151 121 30
86 VMI 331 305 26
245 Furman 126 147 -21
270 Western Carolina 296 322 -26
335 ETSU 95 163 -68
339 Samford 243 320 -77
345 Mercer 154 248 -94
351 Chattanooga 187 314 -127

Indeed, 2018 double champion UNCG is expected to outperform its four-year ranking according to KenPom—by a whopping 46 places. Wofford, another traditional SoCon power, is projected to be 30 spots better, which is good for the top of the league, while The Citadel’s 56-place bump is good for the whole conference. On the other hand, Furman and ETSU are expected to take significant steps back, as is Chattanooga, which already finished last in its first season after Matt McCall’s departure for UMass.

Ranking The Schedules

Last season, the SoCon ranked in the top 12 in all scheduling categories and in the top 10 in the majority of them. But for 2018-19, the conference as a whole has taken a step back, even with Wofford ranking in the top 20 of the national average ranking. While no one ranks outside of the top 300, it’s a bit disappointing that just three teams are in the top 150 consistently. UNCG’s schedule, sitting at 238 in the super average, is particularly disappointing for a conference favorite.

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

Schedule Ranking

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
18 Wofford 5.603361415 14 5.603361415 19 5.603361415 26 5.603361415 14
112 Western Carolina* 3.725873095 76 3.191345617 110 3.254406993 118 3.128284241 95
114 Furman 3.068011031 103 3.068011031 114 3.068011031 127 3.068011031 101
156 Mercer 2.235874844 148 2.235874844 157 2.235874844 172 2.235874844 136
206 VMI 1.486377625 194 1.486377625 206 1.486377625 215 1.486377625 191
224 Chattanooga 1.006267525 216 1.006267525 225 1.006267525 233 1.006267525 213
230 ETSU** 1.746162652 177 0.9185053063 233 1.253931071 224 0.88046109 230
238 UNCG 0.8683525246 236 0.8683525246 238 0.8683525246 245 0.8683525246 233
243 The Citadel 0.7921338864 241 0.7921338864 243 0.7921338864 251 0.7921338864 237
276 Samford 0.1979688577 268 0.1979688577 275 0.1979688577 281 0.1979688577 268
181.7 Average 2.073038346 167.3 1.936819863 182 1.976668577 189.2 1.926709304 171.8
13/32 Conference Rank 11 of 32 14 of 32 16 of 32 13 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

The SoCon split right down the middle in terms of teams that over- and under-scheduled, though only Mercer and Furman kept built slates that were relatively close to their recent histories. UNCG under-scheduled by almost 100 places, which again, is not a great idea for a conference favorite, at least in terms of March seeding.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
7 Mercer 154 156 -2
37 Furman 126 114 12
80 Samford 243 275 -32
91 Chattanooga 187 223 -36
172 The Citadel 316 242 74
226 UNCG 139 237 -98
263 VMI 331 205 126
271 Wofford 151 18 133
272 ETSU 95 229 -134
307 Western Carolina 296 112 184
172.6 Average (16/32 conf.) 203.8 181.1 22.7

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
58 1 27 24

SoCon teams are playing exactly the same number of Power 7 road games as they did a season ago, while Wofford’s visit from North Carolina is the only such home game league members will get this season—half of last season’s total. One more non-D1 foe is on the league’s collective slate in 2018, while three fewer home games were lined up.

Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 23 0
Big South 16 0
OVC 11 0
CAA 9 0
SEC 9 0
Atlantic Sun 7 1
ACC 7 0
Sun Belt 6 0
MEAC 5 1
C-USA 4 2
Big Ten 4 0
Big 12 3 0
Horizon 3 0
SWAC 2 1
American Athletic 2 0
Big East 2 0
Summit 2 0
Southland 1 1
Ivy 1 0
MAC 1 0
MW 1 0
Pac-12 1 0
Patriot 1 0
WAC 1 0
MAAC 0 0
A 10 0 0
America East 0 0
Big Sky 0 0
Big West 0 0
MVC 0 0
NEC 0 0
WCC 0 0

For the second season in a row, non-D1 teams and Big South opponents top the “opponent by conference” standings. The CAA and SEC return to the top five, while the OVC replaces the ACC. That Power 7 league scheduled five fewer SoCon matchups this season, while the OVC added a half-dozen. A full one-quarter of Division I leagues are completely absent from SoCon slates, compared to just five in 2017. The Atlantic 10 is the biggest surprise among the absentees, as the conference played six games against SoCon teams in 2017-18.

A handful of squads (non-D1 Hiwassee, Georgia State, High Point, UNC Asheville, UNCW, UT Martin) appear on three SoCon schedules. On the other hand, Furman has four Big South contests lined up all by itself.

Non-Conference Games By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 1 21 0 22 2.2 0
Quad 2 0 10 0 10 1 0
Quad 3 5 13 4 22 2.2 1
Quad 4 29 14 2 45 4.5 5
Non-D1 23 0 0 23 2.3 0
Total 58 58 6 122
Average 5.8 5.8 0.6 12.2
Percentage 0.4754098361 0.4754098361 0.04918032787
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

While UNC’s visit to Richardson Indoor Stadium is the lone Quad 1 or 2 home game SoCon teams will get this season, they’ll play 21 top 75 games on the road alone (according to the four-year ranking anyway). Just a paltry six of the conference’s 58 home games feature teams from outside Quad 4 or a non-D1 opponent. And thanks to the lack of league participation in quality off-campus exempt tournaments, there aren’t many decent neutral-site wins to be had either.

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, except for The Citadel (Wikipedia).

18. Wofford Terriers

*Exempt Event: Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis (Mainland)

True Home Games (7) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (7) True Road Games (6)
5. North Carolina 221. High Point
(Non-D1) Carver 79. Stanford*
347. Coppin State* 27. Oklahoma*
(Non-D1) Mars Hill* 51. South Carolina
(Non-D1) Kentucky Christian 6. Kansas
190. Coastal Carolina 73. Mississippi State
155. UNC Asheville

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (@Coastal Carolina, High Point (N), @North Carolina) and 2 losses (South Carolina, @UNC Asheville)

The Terriers won 21 games a season ago and reached the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, but none of those victories meant more than the December 20th one at North Carolina, a team that happens to visit Spartanburg this season. And that win over the Tar Heels wasn’t their only Power 7 victory of the season, as Wofford also defeated Georgia Tech on the Yellow Jackets’ visit to Upstate South Carolina. While there are three non-D1 teams on this slate and 347th-ranked Coppin State visits for the Battle 4 Atlantis subregional, this schedule gets a significant boost from the Tar Heels’ visit and five Power 7 road games.

112. Western Carolina Catamounts

*Exempt Event: Cancun Challenge (Mayan Bracket)

True Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (8)
117. College of Charleston 195. Jacksonville State* 156. Wright State*
(Non-D1) Hiwassee 241. North Florida or 24. SMU*
310. Jacksonville 297. Southern Miss* 59. N.C. State
69. Wake Forest
155. UNC Asheville
221. High Point
56. Iowa
228. Bowling Green

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Hiwassee, UNC Asheville (N)) and 2 losses (@College of Charleston, High Point)

Scott Prosser, son of late Xavier and Wake Forest coach Skip, is the Catamounts’ new coach, replacing Larry Hunter, who passed away just two months after retiring from the job. Western Carolina might struggle to rebound from last season’s 13-19 mark while playing in Hunter’s memory, as this schedule is fairly daunting, with just three games scheduled for Cullowhee.

114. Furman Paladins

*Exempt Event: AdvoCare Invitational (Campus Only)

True Home Games (6) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (6) True Road Games (6)
(Non-D1) Bob Jones 82. Loyola Chicago
229. Gardner-Webb 1. Villanova*
(Non-D1) North Greenville* 155. UNC Asheville
(Non-D1) Southern Wesleyan* 198. Elon
286. Charleston Southern 314. USC Upstate
139. UNCW 80. LSU

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 4 wins (Bob Jones, Elon, UNC Asheville, @UNCW) and 0 losses

The Paladins, 23-10 a season ago in Bon Richey’s maiden season, are one of two SoCon poster children for how the current exempt tournament rules might need some tightening up. Furman is visiting defending National Champion Villanova as the Wildcats’ fourth AdvoCare Invitational contest. But with the Paladins excluded from the eight-team bracket, they’re playing a pair of home games against non-D1 opponents as part of their tournament participation. Nova isn’t even the only Final Four team Furman will play in the season’s opening days, as they’ll visit Loyola Chicago too. But those two contests and a trip to LSU are the biggest challenges on a slate that looks weaker than it does upon first glance.

156. Mercer Bears

*Exempt Event: Wolfpack Classic

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Piedmont* 130. Harvard # 135. UAB
254. UT Martin # - Atlanta 110. Georgia State
339. Maryland Eastern Shore* 59. N.C. State*
(Non-D1) Brewton-Parker 278. FAU
162. Georgia Southern 16. Florida
139. UNCW

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: N/A

After posting a losing record for the first time in six seasons in 2016-17, Bob Hoffman’s Bears rebounded to 19-15 last time around. The biggest challenges on Mercer’s non-conference slate are matchups with a pair of Sun Belt contenders and in-state rivals Georgia Southern (in Macon) and Georgia State (in Atlanta), a second trip to Georgia’s capital to play Ivy favorite Harvard at the Hawks’ arena, and power conference trips to N.C. State and Florida.

206. VMI Keydets

*Exempt Event: Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase

True Home Games (6) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (6) True Road Games (6)
(Non-D1) Washington College 109. Pittsburgh
(Non-D1) Goucher* 7. Kentucky
314. USC Upstate 319. Stetson
(Non-D1) Kentucky Christian* 343. Longwood
320. American 49. Virginia Tech
(Transitional) North Alabama 345. Presbyterian

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Presbyterian, Longwood) and 1 loss (@American)

The Keydets, who last won more than 10 games in 2014-15, are another team in an exempt event of questionable value this season. While VMI and a handful of other mid-majors will travel to Kentucky as part of the Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase, they’re not meeting each other, as has been typical for UK’s events in recent seasons. Instead, VMI will play a pair of non-D1 home games as part of its participation. And with three such contests overall, a pair of games against bottom 50 squads, and another with transitional ASUN member North Alabama, the Keydets could be able to surpass last season’s non-conference win total of five. And that’s without winning a one of their half-dozen road games.

224. Chattanooga Mocs

*Exempt Event: Goldie and Herman Ungar Classic

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (6)
264. Eastern Kentucky 284. Southeast Missouri State* 266. Charlotte
(Non-D1) Cumberland (Tenn.)* 310. Jacksonville* 249. South Alabama*
(Non-D1) Hiwassee 17. Michigan
230. Tennessee Tech 110. Georgia State
(Non-D1) Bryan 75. Ole Miss
254. UT Martin

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Hiwassee, UT Martin, Charlotte) and 2 losses (@Tennesse Tech, Georgia State)

The Mocs, the SoCon’s NCAA rep in 2016, collapsed to just 10 wins a season ago, with six of those victories coming before conference play. Lamont Paris’ 2018-19 club might struggle to equal that total, even with five home games (including three against non-D1 opposition) on the schedule. That’s thanks to the eight contests set to be played away from McKenzie Arena—highlighted by trips to Michigan and Ole Miss and three-games at the exempt event South Alabama is hosting in Mobile.

230. ETSU Buccaneers

*Exempt Event: Cayman Islands Classic (Mainland)

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) True Road Games (5-6)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) True Road Games (5-6)
(Non-D1) Hiwassee 129. Wyoming # 110. Georgia State*
346. Chicago State* 294. Norfolk State 28. Creighton*
204. Sam Houston State or (or UTEP) # 148. Winthrop
330. Jackson State* # - El Paso, Texas 162. Georgia Southern
161. North Dakota State 81. Illinois
(Non-D1) Reinhardt 209. UTEP
254. UT Martin (or Norfolk State)

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Hiwassee, Georgia Southern) and 0 losses

In his three seasons in charge, Steve Forbes has won no fewer than 24 games in each, reaching the NCAAs in 2017. That means the Bucs are the type of team that going to have trouble building a strong non-conference slate, which is why they’re joining Mark Adams’ brainchild, the Alliance, next season. As for this season, road games at Georgia State, Creighton (as part of the Cayman Islands Classic), and Illinois are the heavy hitters. Meanwhile, ETSU will participate in a pair of bracketed events, the Cayman Islands subregional, where Sam Houston State will be the host Bucs’ main threat for the crown, and the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational at UTEP, where ETSU will take on Wyoming in the semifinals.

238. UNCG Spartans

*Exempt Event: Delaware Invitational

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (6)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (6)
(Non-D1) Johnson & Wales (N.C.)* 123. Louisiana Tech* 342. N.C. A&T
311. Prairie View A&M 80. LSU
(Non-D1) Greensboro* 139. UNCW
347. Coppin State 280. Delaware*
(Transitional) North Alabama 7. Kentucky
220. Radford 198. Elon

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Delaware, Elon, UNCW) and 0 losses

Like ETSU, 2018 SoCon champ UNCG also didn’t have the best luck in building its slate, particularly after putting up a total of 52 wins over the last two seasons. While Wes Miller’s Spartans will play at both LSU and Kentucky, they should roll through the rest of their games. That includes an exempt event at Delaware, with the Blue Hens returning the UNCG-hosted event of a season ago.

243. The Citadel Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational (On-Campus Only)

True Home Games (6) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (6) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Mid-Atlantic Christian* 29. Clemson
(Non-D1) Johnson (Fla.)* 43. Texas*
221. High Point 192. James Madison
(Non-D1) Johnson & Wales (N.C.) 285. USF
284. Southeast Missouri State 283. Campbell
343. Longwood

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (@High Point, James Madison) and 1 loss (@Campbell)

Duggar Baucom has the Bulldogs winning 10 or more games consistently at this point, but the Citadel has yet to make the leap into SoCon contention. After posting a 5-6 non-league mark a season ago, the Citadel is poised to reverse those numbers, thanks to a half-dozen winnable home contests and just two truly difficult road games—against 2018 NCAA teams Clemson and Texas.

276. Samford Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Buckeye Basketball Classic

True Home Games (8) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (8) True Road Games (5)
(Transitional) North Alabama 276. Cleveland State*
195. Jacksonville State 35. Ohio State*
300. Kennesaw State 149. Purdue Fort Wayne*
(Non-D1) Miles 351. Alabama A&M
338. South Carolina State* 42. Tennessee
91. Belmont
213. Morehead State
305. Houston Baptist

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Alabama A&M) and 2 losses (@Jacksonville State, @Kennesaw State)

After getting the Bulldogs to the 20-win plateau in 2017, Scott Padgett saw his team slide down to the 10-victory mark a season ago, with Samford claiming just four non-league wins in 13 tries. This schedule aims to improve upon both totals, even with OVC power Belmont visiting Birmingham and the Bulldogs traveling to Ohio State and Tennessee. There are plenty of victories to be had beyond those three matchups.

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