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

While Mike Davis departed for Detroit Mercy this offseason, Texas Southern continues to follow his scheduling philosophy. And that means the Tigers lead both the SWAC and the nation for the new season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Xavier vs Texas Southern Jim Brown-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

Even though the SWAC has two of the nation’s three worst teams in the four-year ranking—and three of the bottom 10—the conference still jumped the MEAC to escape the Division I basement. While the MEAC has two top 300 teams when compared to the SWAC’s one, Texas Southern’s position of 224th is 24 spots higher than MEAC leader N.C. Central‘s. Plus, of the MEAC’s 13 current members, four rank among the bottom 10.

Still, these team scores reflect the SWAC’s struggles as a whole. Texas Southern’s 15 seed in 2015 is the only time the conference’s NCAA Tournament representative escaped the 16 line over the past 10 seasons. That Tiger team was also one of just three SWAC champs to avoid Dayton in the last decade, joining 2017’s TSU squad and Southern’s 2014 club.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Texas Southern -2.4186995 224 206
Prairie View A&M -6.353193 311 326
Southern -6.4661365 313 284
Jackson State -7.761795 330 310
Alcorn State -8.157415 333 328
Grambling State -8.80055 336 350
Alabama State -8.8274185 337 327
Arkansas Pine Bluff -10.00504 344 345
Mississippi Valley State -11.46634 349 347
Alabama A&M -12.548425 351 344
Average -8.28050125 322.8 316.7
Conference Rank 31st of 32 (32nd 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
77 Grambling State 336 306 30
113 Alabama State 337 321 16
127 Prairie View A&M 311 301 10
138 Arkansas Pine Bluff 344 338 6
157 Mississippi Valley State 349 347 2
165 Alabama A&M 351 351 0
206 Alcorn State 333 341 -8
243 Jackson State 330 349 -19
283 Southern 313 342 -29
318 Texas Southern 224 277 -53

This preseason’s KenPom projections paint a bleak picture for the SWAC’s national prospects. While half of the league is projected to improve upon its four-year ranking, every one of those teams is still forecast to finish outside of the top 300. Making matters worse, SWAC standard bearer Texas Southern’s projected ranking is more than 50 spots lower than its four-year performance, while Jackson State and Southern are forecast to slip down to the very depths of Division I.

Ranking The Schedules

Last season, the SWAC ranked at the top nationally in each scheduling category. But in 2018-19, the conference has taken a very small step back, dropping down to third in two categories and in the final national average ranking. In 2017, the conference had five schedules that were consistently in the top 50, with three in the top 10. Both of those numbers have dropped to just two—Texas Southern and Southern—this time around.

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
1 Texas Southern 10.13483736 1 10.13483736 1 10.13483736 1 10.13483736 1
8 Southern* 7.596337705 3 6.770734718 8 6.814587593 11 6.726881843 7
76 Alabama State* 4.567452855 38 3.877427891 77 3.92239905 87 3.832456732 61
84 Arkansas Pine Bluff* 4.32235919 49 3.690914598 84 3.89801781 89 3.483811387 77
98 Mississippi Valley State 3.269187957 92 3.269187957 97 3.269187957 115 3.269187957 88
119 Prairie View A&M 2.972014877 110 2.972014877 118 2.972014877 132 2.972014877 107
155 Jackson State* 2.54695225 130 2.29113575 153 2.838913462 139 1.743358038 171
158 Grambling State* 2.729578058 121 2.206422334 159 2.314682477 167 2.09816219 144
186 Alcorn State 1.819440625 171 1.819440625 186 1.819440625 194 1.819440625 166
259 Alabama A&M* 0.6177143788 250 0.5653689688 256 0.6359322982 263 0.4948056393 259
114.4 Average 4.057587526 96.5 3.759748508 113.9 3.862001351 119.8 3.657495665 108.1
3/32 Conference Rank 1 of 32 3 of 32 3 of 32 1 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Every single SWAC team over-scheduled this season, as you’d expect with the number of road games against quality opponents and the teams’ collectively poor four-year rankings. Alabama A&M was seven spots away from condemning each team to a gap of 100 spots or more. Half the league over-scheduled by a minimum of 200 spots. That’s a formula for long Novembers and Decembers and a brutal March matchup.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
212 Alabama A&M 351 258 93
285 Alcorn State 333 185 148
300 Jackson State 330 155 175
306 Grambling State 336 158 178
316 Prairie View A&M 311 119 192
331 Texas Southern 224 1 223
336 Mississippi Valley State 349 98 251
338 Arkansas Pine Bluff 344 84 260
339 Alabama State 337 76 261
349 Southern 313 8 305
311.2 Average (32/32 conf.) 322.8 114.2 208.6

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
25 0 33 17

While the SWAC’s total number of non-conference home games rose by seven when compared to last season’s paltry total of 18, that’s due to a complementary jump in the total of non-D1 opponents—which jumped from 10 to 17. On the flip side, SWAC teams are playing fewer Power 7 buy games, as that total dropped by an average of one per team when compared to last season.

Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 17 0
MW 9 0
WCC 9 0
American Athletic 8 1
Southland 8 1
Big 12 8 0
Sun Belt 6 1
WAC 6 1
C-USA 6 0
SEC 6 0
OVC 5 1
A 10 5 0
Big Ten 4 0
MAC 4 0
MVC 4 0
Big West 3 0
Pac-12 3 0
Big South 2 1
SoCon 2 1
ACC 2 0
Atlantic Sun 2 0
Summit 2 0
MEAC 1 2
NEC 1 1
Big East 1 0
MAAC 1 0
CAA 0 1
Horizon 0 1
America East 0 0
Big Sky 0 0
Ivy 0 0
Patriot 0 0

Last season, non-D1 opponents edged the American Athletic Conference to top this table, 10 to 9. But with those added seven non-D1 games, that collective now blows the 32 Division I conferences out of the water. Last season, SWAC members scheduled games against 27 leagues—a number that’s been reduced by one in 2018-19.

Baylor, D1 newcomer Cal Baptist, Iowa State, San Diego State, and Santa Clara all scheduled three SWAC opponents, while non-D1 Champion Christian will visit three conference arenas this fall.

Non-Conference Games By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 0 31 0 31 3.1 0
Quad 2 0 20 0 20 2 1
Quad 3 1 25 2 28 2.8 2
Quad 4 7 16 4 27 2.7 9
Non-D1 17 0 0 17 1.7 0
Total 25 92 6 123
Average 2.5 9.2 0.6 12.3
Percentage 0.2032520325 0.7479674797 0.0487804878
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

This table starkly illustrates the SWAC’s scheduling difficulties. Just one of the SWAC’s eight home Division I non-conference games even qualifies for Quad 3 according to the four-year rankings, while league members will play a whopping 51 Quad 1 and 2 road games during November and December. That’s a formula for a lot of losing and a very low seed during March Madness.

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.

1. Texas Southern Tigers

*Exempt Event: Maui Jim Maui Invitational (On-Campus Only)

True Home Games (2) True Road Games (11)
True Home Games (2) True Road Games (11)
(Non-D1) Huston-Tillotson 15. Baylor
(Non-D1) Concordia (Texas) 3. Gonzaga*
33. Iowa State*
54. San Diego State*
122. Evansville*
25. Oregon
70. Arizona State
57. Georgia
194. Tulane
258. Lamar
34. Texas A&M

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 3 losses (@Gonzaga, @Oregon, @Baylor)

After playing 51 straight non-conference games away from home, the Tigers will welcome Huston-Tillotson to the HP&E Center on November 29th for their first home non-league game in four years and one day—November 28, 2014’s win over Lamar. But with 11 true road games, including seven against Power 7 opponents and another against Gonzaga, who is at that level for all intents and purposes, former LSU coach Johnny Jones will try to navigate Texas Southern through a non-conference schedule the man he replaces, Mike Davis, would surely approve of.

8. Southern Jaguars

*Exempt Event: Emerald Coast Classic (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (8)
(Non-D1) Wiley 170. Western Michigan* 55. Alabama
(Transitional) Cal Baptist 248. N.C. Central or 15. Baylor*
287. Nicholls State* 14. Louisville
332. Northwestern State # 185. George Mason*
# - Shreveport, La. 96. Louisiana
94. South Dakota State
33. Iowa State
53. Marquette

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Wiley) and 1 loss (@Baylor)

Interim coach Morris Scott left the Jaguars after a single 15-18 season, with former Morehead State coach and Kentucky Unforgettable Sean Woods replacing him—a controversial choice given the player mistreatment allegations that forced him out of the Eagles’ job. Southern will be more than challenged by Woods’ first schedule, which not only sees them visit both Baylor and George Mason as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, but also Louisville as one of the Cardinals’ two NIT Season Tip-Off home games. But those won’t be the only challenges on this schedule, as the Jaguars open their non-conference slate with Alabama and close it at Marquette.

76. Alabama State Hornets

No Exempt Event

True Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) LaGrange 233. Liberty # 33. Iowa State
(Non-D1) Birmingham Southern 247. Austin Peay or 94. South Dakota State
283. Campbell # 56. Iowa
# - St. Petersburg, Fla. 157. Akron
66. Boise State
133. Utah State
204. Sam Houston State

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 3 losses (@Iowa, @South Dakota State, Liberty (N))

Lewis Jackson’s Hornets won eight a season ago—and like many SWAC teams, all of those wins came during league play. An 0-12 non-league record won’t be repeated this season, since Alabama State is skipping an exempt event and only playing 11 non-conference games. However, the Hornets will still play in a tournament, as they’ll face Liberty in the semifinals of the St. Pete Shootout in Florida in December—State lost to the Flames in the third-place game of the similar New Orleans Shootout last year.

Curiously, Alabama State will make two separate trips to Iowa in November to play Iowa State and Iowa.

84. Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions

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

True Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) True Road Games (10-11)
True Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) True Road Games (10-11)
(Non-D1) Champion Christian (Transitional) Cal Baptist 54. San Diego State
335. Howard 146. Colorado State
(or Little Rock)* 150. Southern Illinois*
175. UMass*
222. Little Rock
(or Howard)*
11. Cincinnati
30. Texas Tech
181. UC Santa Barbara
271. North Texas
160. Missouri State
191. Troy

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 2 losses (Troy (N), @Cincinnati)

While the Golden Lions will play just one home non-conference game, they will also at least get to stay close to home for their exempt event, as the Las Vegas Holiday Invitational’s visitors’ bracket is set for Little Rock, just about an hour north of campus. Pine Bluff also has the SWAC Player of the Year, Martaveous McKnight, which could be all the difference when conference play begins. Before that, however, UAPB may take its lumps. But with a non-D1 home game and Holiday Invitational semifinal against D1 newcomer Cal Baptist (or possible second day matchup with Howard at the Stephens Center), the Golden Lions should find the win column before conference season starts—something that didn’t happen last year.

98. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils

*Exempt Event: Hall of Fame Classic (On-Campus Only)

True Home Games (3) True Road Games (11)
True Home Games (3) True Road Games (11)
252. Southeastern Louisiana* 72. Nebraska*
(Non-D1) Rust 30. Texas Tech*
284. Southeast Missouri State 133. Utah State
36. Utah
272. Robert Morris*
81. Illinois
(Transitional) Cal Baptist
123. Louisiana Tech
216. Santa Clara
179. Hawai'i
140. Grand Canyon

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 4 losses (@Utah, @Utah State, Southeastern Louisiana (N), @Grand Canyon)

In Andre Payne’s four seasons in charge in Itta Bena, the Delta Devils have yet to record a double-digit win total. They’ve also won just one non-conference game—a November 29, 2015 win over North Carolina A&T played in Corpus Christi, Texas. With MVSU playing a non-D1 home game against Rust, what’s currently a 46-game non-conference losing streak should end, possibly at 53 games. A November 20th home contest against Southeastern Louisiana, part of the Hall of Fame Classic, will be an early chance at stopping the skid.

With a second consecutive Utah swing and a December Santa Clara-Hawai’i-Grand Canyon trip, Mississippi Valley State is yet another SWAC squad that will rack up the air miles.

119. Prairie View A&M Panthers

*Exempt Event: Deep South Showcase

True Home Games (1) True Road Games (12)
True Home Games (1) True Road Games (12)
(Non-D1) Huston-Tillotson 216. Santa Clara
15. Baylor
318. UT Rio Grande Valley*
258. Lamar*
134. UNCG
242. East Carolina*
85. Georgia Tech*
103. Murray State
123. Louisiana Tech
96. Louisiana
256. Seattle
148. Winthrop

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

Byron Smith’s Panthers, winners of 16 a season ago, turned over their entire non-conference schedule from a season ago. But Prairie View will struggle to match last season’s three non-SWAC wins. Why? The Panthers won both of their games in the MGM Resorts Main Event Middleweight Bracket to claim the trophy in Las Vegas, and they swap that event out for Georgia Tech’s round-robin MTE. And while that field is remarkably weak for an exempt tournament, the Panthers must play all four of their games on the road.

155. Jackson State Tigers

*Exempt Event: Cayman Islands Classic (Mainland)

True Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) True Road Games (8-9)
True Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (1-2) True Road Games (8-9)
207. ULM 204. Sam Houston State* 74. St. Bonaventure*
(Non-D1) Fisk 346. Chicago State 66. Boise State*
(Non-D1) Millsaps (or ETSU)* 95. ETSU
(or Chicago State)*
186. San Diego
54. San Diego State
216. Santa Clara
235. Pepperdine
103. Murray State
171. Central Michigan

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Millsaps, Fisk) and 3 losses (@St. Bonaventure, @ULM, @Central Michigan)

The Tigers, who went 9-9 in SWAC play last season, could match last season’s non-conference win total of three, thanks to a pair of non-D1 home games and a likely matchup with WAC struggler Chicago State on the second day of the Cayman Islands Classic subregional at ETSU. Otherwise, Wayne Brent’s squad had better get used to the Pacific Time Zone, as Jackson State will play four games in California in late November and early December.

158. Grambling State Tigers

*Exempt Event: Fort Myers Tip-Off (Visitors’ Bracket)

True Home Games (4) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (8)
True Home Games (4) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (8)
(Non-D1) Jarvis Christian 259. IUPUI or 129. Wyoming*
(Non-D1) Champion Christian 325. St. Francis-Brooklyn* 82. Loyola Chicago*
(Non-D1) Centenary (La.) 267. Niagara*
252. Southeastern Louisiana 80. LSU
115. UCF
207. ULM
251. Portland
22. Wisconsin

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: (GSU) 1 win (@Southeastern Louisiana) and 1 loss (@ULM)

The Tigers went 17-14 in Donte Jackson’s first season, winning the SWAC regular season title, though APR sanctions kept them out of the postseason. Grambling State picked up four non-conference wins along the way, including a pair over teams that finished in KenPom’s top 200—Southeastern Louisiana and Georgia Tech (in the Yellow Jackets’ exempt event). With the Lions and three non-D1 opponents visiting the Assembly Center, a team pegged by some as the SWAC favorite (in a year when they can actually make it to March Madness) could equal last season’s non-conference win total. But eight road games, including doozies against Wyoming, Loyola Chicago (both part of the Fort Myers Tip-Off), LSU, UCF, and Wisconsin, mean Grambling will probably need to win its second game in the Tip-Off subregional at Niagara to get to five.

186. Alcorn State Braves

*Exempt Event: Commodore Classic

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Blue Mountain 326. Savannah State* # 97. Tulsa
(Non-D1) Rust # - Lynchburg, Va. 47. Vanderbilt*
(Non-D1) Champion Christian 176. Kent State*
(Non-D1) Fisk 233. Liberty*
73. Mississippi State
135. UAB
285. USF

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: (Alc) 3 wins (Rust, Fisk, Blue Mountain) and 1 loss (@Vanderbilt)

The Braves won four non-conference games last season, but didn’t record a Division I win until they won at Mississippi Valley State five games into SWAC play. With four non-D1 home games and four Power 7 road games, including trips to Vanderbilt (as part of the Commodores’ exempt event) and Mississippi State, it could be a similar story for Alcorn in the opening weeks of Montez Robinson’s fourth season at the helm.

259. Alabama A&M Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Men Against Breast Cancer Cup

True Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (9)
True Home Games (3) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (9)
135. UAB 152. Towson or 166. La Salle # 285. USF
247. Austin Peay 194. Tulane # # - Atlantic City 41. Houston*
243. Samford # - Atlantic City 250. Rice*
58. BYU*
332. Northwestern State*
232. Fordham
249. South Alabama
179. Hawai'i
235. Pepperdine

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: (AA&M) 0 wins and 3 losses (@Samford, @Austin Peay, @UAB)

After one season and just three wins, all in conference play, Donnie Marsh is out, replaced by former Bulldog assistant Dylan Howard. While Alabama A&M’s schedule accounts for three of the SWAC’s eight Division I non-conference home games, the Bulldogs will still hit the road for 11 matchups (A&M will play an extra game, as permitted due to the trip to Hawai’i, including away games against Houston and BYU as part of an exempt event and a pair of games in Atlantic City as part of a December tournament.

Note that Alabama A&M will be the only team ineligible for the NCAA Tournament this season due to Academic Progress Rate penalties.

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