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

Gonzaga built a non-conference schedule worthy of a national title contender, but as for the other nine teams, improvement is needed in the majority of cases.

NCAA Basketball: St. Mary’s at San Diego 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

As usual, it’s a case of “Gonzaga, then Saint Mary’s, then BYU, then two or three teams in the top 200, then everyone else” in the WCC. And while the Bulldogs are able to overcome the bottom of the conference thanks to both their quality non-league scheduling and sheer ability to impose their will on their overmatched opponents when WCC play begins, things aren’t so simple for the Gaels and Cougars. This is particularly true for Randy Bennett’s team, which has been left out of two of the last three NCAAs thanks to its November and December scheduling. Now, if the bottom of the league were better, this probably wouldn’t be an issue. But if you look at these numbers, you’ll see that’s asking a lot.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Gonzaga 13.27736 3 4
Saint Mary's 9.50909 19 22
BYU 5.878957 58 51
San Francisco 1.03807 142 129
San Diego -1.062254 186 221
Pacific -1.7932661 202 231
Loyola Marymount -2.015191045 208 205
Santa Clara -2.2580985 216 175
Pepperdine -2.928548 235 192
Portland -3.4513195 251 215
Average 1.619479986 152 144.5
Conference Rank 10th of 32 (10th 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
18 Loyola Marymount 208 140 68
25 Pacific 202 143 59
40 San Diego 186 135 51
50 Portland 251 209 42
92 Santa Clara 216 193 23
129 Pepperdine 235 226 9
148 San Francisco 142 138 4
154 BYU 58 56 2
197 Gonzaga 3 9 -6
319 Saint Mary's 19 74 -55

While the Gaels made an effort to improve their non-conference scheduling (more on this shortly), KenPom’s preseason projections aren’t all that rosy for Saint Mary’s— a top 20 team in the four-year ranking that barely cracks the top 75 heading into the new season. While Gonzaga is also projected to underperform its recent history, at least the Bulldogs are still a top 10 team.

Everyone else in the conference is projected to surpass their recent performances, and in the cases of LMU, Pacific, and San Diego, those bumps, should they occur, might provide the WCC with a needed boost heading into March.

Ranking The Schedules

Unfortunately, the WCC’s non-conference schedules will not, by and large, help the league improve its national standing. While Gonzaga’s slate is among the toughest in the entire country, no other league member has a top 100 schedule and two conference members, Portland and Pepperdine, have lineups that rank among the bottom five nationally in the average ranking. Even Saint Mary’s improved slate can’t manage to crack the top 200.

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
13 Gonzaga** 4.91091415 26 6.078693184 13 6.691165597 15 5.586279397 16
145 San Diego* 2.357650372 137 2.378115993 146 2.672991681 150 2.083240306 145
157 BYU 2.21479473 149 2.21479473 158 2.21479473 173 2.21479473 137
217 Saint Mary's* 0.7915743571 242 1.202112853 218 1.213070033 226 1.191155673 206
265 Pacific 0.5027563033 257 0.5027563033 262 0.5027563033 270 0.5027563033 257
285 Loyola Marymount -0.01832263214 278 -0.01832263214 285 -0.01832263214 289 -0.01832263214 276
302 San Francisco* -0.6766185179 304 -0.5017078417 300 -0.2862395667 300 -0.7171761167 306
334 Santa Clara -1.268207799 331 -1.268207799 334 -1.268207799 336 -1.268207799 332
349 Portland -2.813694341 348 -2.813694341 349 -2.813694341 350 -2.813694341 348
350 Pepperdine** -3.393249563 349 -3.105219198 350 -2.692886834 349 -3.534611518 350
241.7 Average 0.2607597059 242.1 0.4669321251 241.5 0.6215427171 245.8 0.3226214002 237.3
31/32 Conference Rank 31 of 32 31 of 32 31 of 32 31 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Of the WCC’s 10 members, nine under-scheduled, with only Gonzaga’s 10-point deficit looking respectable. The exception was San Diego, a team projected by KenPom to be 51 spots higher than its four-year ranking. The Toreros, scheduling with this in mind, have a slate that ranks 41 places above its team score.

Last season, nine out of 10 teams under-scheduled, with only Portland, a participant in the Phil Knight Invitational, overloading its slate. Considering the Pilots went 10-22, that wasn’t the wisest decision in hindsight.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
30 Gonzaga 3 13 -10
102 San Diego 186 145 41
145 Pacific 202 264 -62
176 Loyola Marymount 208 284 -76
219 Portland 251 347 -96
228 BYU 58 157 -99
243 Pepperdine 235 348 -113
247 Santa Clara 216 332 -116
291 San Francisco 142 301 -159
320 Saint Mary's 19 216 -197
200.1 Average (26/32 conf.) 152 240.7 -88.7

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
83 8 11 10

WCC teams improved in three of the four categories above this season, as each will play one more home game (on average) than in 2017-18 with the league as a whole adding a half-dozen scheduled contests against Power 7 visitors. Otherwise, the number of power conference road games declined by one when compared to last season, while the number of set contests against non-D1 outfits rose by the same amount. Note that these increases come with a caveat—the WCC cut its league slate to 16 games from 18—going against a national trend. That means everyone had to fill two more dates for this November and December on their own.

Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Big West 24 0
Pac-12 17 2
Big Sky 17 1
MW 16 1
Non-D1 10 0
SWAC 9 0
WAC 6 1
SEC 5 2
Southland 5 1
C-USA 3 1
Summit 3 1
Ivy 3 0
MEAC 3 0
Big East 2 1
Sun Belt 2 1
Big Ten 2 0
CAA 2 0
NEC 2 0
MAC 1 2
ACC 1 1
MVC 1 1
America East 1 0
American Athletic 1 0
Atlantic Sun 1 0
Big South 1 0
OVC 1 0
Patriot 1 0
Big 12 0 1
Horizon 0 1
A 10 0 0
MAAC 0 0
SoCon 0 0

The same four Western conferences that topped this table last season are back, just in a different order. While the Big West remains at the top—expanding its lead thanks to an additional six games—the Pac-12 joins the Big Sky in a tie for second, replacing the Mountain West, which dropped to fourth. Just five conferences don’t have any set matchups with the WCC, most notably the Big 12 and A 10, and that’s a change from the seven leagues missing a season ago.

A whopping five WCC squads will play Cal State Northridge this season, while Cal State Fullerton and Idaho State Bengals appear on four schedules apiece.

Loyola Marymount, Portland, and former conference member Pacific are all auditioning for Big West associate membership by scheduling for games apiece against that conference, while BYU has four games lined up against its former Mountain West mates. That’s one shy of the five Pacific has slated.

Both San Diego and Santa Clara will challenge themselves by playing four Pac-12 members.

Non-Conference Games By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 0 11 2 13 1.3 4
Quad 2 5 8 5 18 1.8 6
Quad 3 13 13 7 33 3.3 3
Quad 4 54 8 1 63 6.3 5
Non-D1 10 0 0 10 1 0
Total 82 40 15 137
Average 8.2 4 1.5 13.7
Percentage 0.598540146 0.2919708029 0.1094890511
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

WCC members will likely play more home games against Quad 1 teams during conference play, thanks to Gonzaga, than in November and December. In fact, there are only five top 75 home games according to the four-year ranking, compared to 11 road contests. In fact, only 18 of the 82 home games scheduled qualify for Quad 2 or 3 status.

Of the potential quality wins on offer, the lion’s share go to Gonzaga because of the Bulldogs’ participation in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. Saint Mary’s two opportunities in Las Vegas at the MGM Resorts Main Event will come against teams looking to outperform their four-year ranking, Arizona State and Mississippi State.

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.

13. Gonzaga Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Maui Jim Maui Invitational

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
299. Idaho State 81. Illinois* 28. Creighton
224. Texas Southern* 13. Arizona or 5. North Carolina
34. Texas A&M 33. Iowa State*
161. North Dakota State 4. Duke/
100. Washington 18. Xavier/
102. UT Arlington 54. San Diego State/
196. Denver 64. Auburn*
(Transitional) North Alabama 42. Tennessee #
168. Cal State Bakersfield # - Phoenix

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Texas Southern, Creighton, Washington) and 1 loss (Texas Southern)

Last season, the Bulldogs earned the 4 seed in the West Regional and ended up falling to Florida State in the Sweet Sixteen. With this schedule, featuring a loaded Maui Invitational field, trips to North Carolina and Creighton, a contest in Phoenix against SEC title threat Tennessee, and home games against Texas A&M Aggies and Washington, Mark Few’s team might just be able to claim the West’s No. 1 seed and Salt Lake City-to-Anaheim path to Minneapolis.

145. San Diego Toreros

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
163. Weber State 194. Washington State* 169. UC Davis
(Non-D1) San Diego Christian 71. New Mexico State or 100. Washington
76. Colorado 219. Drake* 75. Ole Miss
330. Jackson State 54. San Diego State
173. Long Beach State 25. Oregon
303. Cal State Northridge*
214. Northern Colorado*
140. Grand Canyon

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (@Grand Canyon, @New Mexico State, @Colorado) and 1 loss (San Diego State)

Sam Scholl, an assistant under Lamont Smith before his dismissal, had the interim tag removed from his title, and he will aim to build on last season’s 20-win season that ended in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinals. Scholl’s first full season will begin with a non-WCC schedule that’s better than its ranking would indicate, and that’s not just because both Colorado and Grand Canyon visit Jenny Craig Pavilion. The road schedule, in particular, is a challenging one, as both Oregon and Washington will challenge for the Pac-12 crown and San Diego State and UC Davis should again be postseason threats. Plus, USD will have a chance to win its exempt event, as the Toreros should fancy their chances against Washington State in semifinals and they defeated a New Mexico State squad—a potential final opponent—in Las Cruces last season. That team won both WAC titles and earned a 12 seed in the NCAAs.

157. BYU Cougars

*Exempt Event: Men Against Breast Cancer Cup

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (5)
174. Utah Valley 36. Utah $ 143. UNLV # 61. Nevada
332. Northwestern State* $ - Vivint Smart Home Arena # - T-Mobile Arena 87. Illinois State
223. Oral Roberts 163. Weber State
351. Alabama A&M* 54. San Diego State
250. Rice* 73. Mississippi State
41. Houston*
133. Utah State
211. Portland State

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 5 wins (@Utah Valley, @Utah State, Illinois State, Weber State, Utah) and 0 losses

The Cougars, expected to finish second behind Gonzaga in the WCC standings, could have done a little more to get themselves in position to build an at-large-worthy profile. I say “a little” because this is yet another slate where the four-year ranking isn’t really being fair to some of the opposition. For example, four of the five road opponents (five of six if you count UNLV) should all be considerably better than the numbers listed by their names, especially Mississippi State and Nevada, a potential top-five team. The same goes for Utah, who BYU will play in the Utah Jazz’s home arena, and Houston, the showcase opponent for the Cougars’ exempt round-robin.

217. Saint Mary’s Gaels

*Exempt Event: MGM Resorts Main Event

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
315. McNeese State* 133. Utah State* 71. New Mexico State
174. Utah Valley* 70. Arizona State or 127. WKU
130. Harvard 73. Mississippi State*
119. UC Irvine 106. New Mexico #
328. Bethune-Cookman 80. LSU $
101. California # - Los Angeles
225. Cal State Fullerton $ - Las Vegas
108. Bucknell

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 6 wins (New Mexico State, Cal State Fullerton, @San Jose State, Harvard (N), @California, UC Irvine) and 0 losses

Yes, Randy Bennett’s Gaels really did improve their non-conference schedule, even if the four-year ranking doesn’t necessarily agree with that assertion. Although no team ranked higher than 70th in the four-year rankings (Arizona State) appears here, the Sun Devils are among a crop of teams that either figure to outperform their most recent seasons (LSU, Mississippi State, New Mexico) or are threats to win their conference titles (Bucknell, Harvard, New Mexico State, UC Irvine, Western Kentucky). Unfortunately for Saint Mary’s this change in philosophy might have come in a rebuilding year.

265. Pacific Tigers

*Exempt Event: Pacific Classic

True Home Games (8) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (8) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Stanislaus State* 317. SIU Edwardsville
281. UC Riverside* 61. Nevada
309. Abilene Christian* 299. Idaho State
198. Elon* 143. UNLV
231. Air Force 88. Fresno State
(Non-D1) UT Permian Basin 303. Cal State Northridge
173. Long Beach State 66. Boise State
119. UC Irvine

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (@Air Force, @UC Riverside) and 1 loss (UNLV)

Damon Stoudamire enters his third season on the sidelines in Stockton looking to build upon last season’s jump from 11 wins to 14. And this schedule, featuring eight home games, including a round-robin exempt tournament over Thanksgiving weekend, should allow the Tigers to improve upon last season’s 5-8 non-league mark. While no Power 7 teams appear on Pacific’s slate, the Tigers will visit Nevada in their second game.

285. Loyola Marymount Lions

*Exempt Event: Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Westcliff 68. Georgetown* 143. UNLV
303. Cal State Northridge 159. Ohio* 31. UCLA
341. Central Connecticut* 225. Cal State Fullerton
350. Florida A&M* 211. Portland State
(Non-D1) Bethesda 281. UC Riverside
66. Boise State
169. UC Davis

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (UC Riverside, @Cal State Northridge) and 3 losses (@Boise State, Portland State, Cal State Fullerton)

Mike Dunlap’s 2017-18 squad struggled, posting a four-win decline from 2016-17’s 15-15 mark. As in the case of Pacific, a poor non-conference start of 5-6 didn’t help Loyola Marymount in what was ultimately a rebuilding season. LMU should be able to equal its non-league win total of last year, thanks to a pair of non-D1 games and three contests against teams ranked outside of the top 300. But with both Boise State and UC Davis headed for Gersten Pavilion, road contests against UCLA and UNLV, and a pair of tricky contests at the Jamaica Classic, entering WCC play with a better winning percentage is going to be a more difficult task.

302. San Francisco Dons

*Exempt Event: Belfast Basketball Classic (Goliath Bracket)

True Home Games (10) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (10) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (3)
340. Maine 107. Stephen F. Austin* 169. UC Davis
(Non-D1) Sonoma State 89. Buffalo or 101. California
70. Arizona State 201. Milwaukee* 181. UC Santa Barbara
275. LIU Brooklyn*
130. Harvard
290. Dartmouth*
158. Eastern Washington
225. Cal State Fullerton
329. Northern Arizona
79. Stanford

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Sonoma State, Eastern Washington, UC Davis) and 3 losses (UC Santa Barbara, @Arizona State, @Stanford)

The Dons will host more Pac-12 teams (Arizona State and Stanford) than they’ll visit (California) this season. And those games will give more regional, if not national attention, to a San Francisco squad that went 22-17 a season ago, losing the CBI final to North Texas two games to one. Even though the Dons will play 13 of their 15 non-conference games in the state of California (only having to go to the southern half of the state for one), they’ll have to travel a long way for the other two. USF will play a pair of games across the Atlantic in Northern Ireland over the week after Thanksgiving, with a potential showdown with MAC favorite Buffalo tantalizing hanging out there—provided the Dons get past Southland heavyweight Stephen F. Austin first.

334. Santa Clara Broncos

*Exempt Event: Vancouver Showcase

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
311. Prairie View A&M 100. Washington* 194. Washington State # 292. San Jose State
119. UC Irvine* 84. Minnesota* # - Spokane, Wash. 101. California
330. Jackson State
329. Northern Arizona
299. Idaho State
(Non-D1) Sonoma State
349. Mississippi Valley State
52. USC
182. Idaho

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Northern Arizona) and 2 losses (@USC, San Jose State)

Herb Sendek’s squad is another one that took a step back in 2017-18, winning six fewer games than it did in the coach’s first season in charge. A miserable 3-9 non-league mark wasn’t the start the Broncos needed and they remained off track for the rest of the season. But with six teams on this schedule ranked 292nd or worse, SCU should be able to pad its win total heading into 2019 and WCC play. As for the biggest challenges, USC visits Silicon Valley this December, while the Broncos will play a pair of games in Vancouver in the rearranged Showcase there, drawing two possible NCAA squads in Washington and Minnesota.

349. Portland Pilots

*Exempt Event: Portland Classic

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Multnomah 271. North Texas # 179. Hawai'i #
(Non-D1) Lewis & Clark* # - Rainbow Classic 303. Cal State Northridge
314. USC Upstate* 76. Colorado
295. Cal Poly* 211. Portland State
203. Texas State* 225. Cal State Fullerton
289. Sacramento State # - Rainbow Classic
336. Grambling State
256. Seattle
350. Florida A&M

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Portland State, Multnomah, Sacramento State (N)) and 2 losses (Cal State Fullerton, @Seattle)

Last season, the Pilots lost games to North Carolina, Oklahoma, and DePaul during their participation in the Phil Knight Invitational in their backyard. In 2018, Portland will again play in a local exempt event, but Cal Poly, Texas State, and USC Upstate isn’t quite as intimidating of a lineup. Neither is the selection of teams Terry Porter’s club will play in Honolulu during the Diamond Head Classic—host Hawai’i and North Texas. A total of 13 opponents on this slate rank outside of the top 200 (or come from outside Division I entirely), which means Portland should be able to get off to a far better start than last season’s 6-7 non-conference slog.

350. Pepperdine Waves

*Exempt Event: Islands of the Bahamas Showcase

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Cal State Dominguez Hills 152. Towson* 214. Northern Colorado
303. Cal State Northridge 162. Georgia Southern or 281. UC Riverside
299. Idaho State 278. FAU* 323. Southern Utah
309. Abilene Christian 118. Montana/ 125. Oregon State
330. Jackson State 161. North Dakota State/ 173. Long Beach State
351. Alabama A&M 237. Miami (Ohio)/
324. Incarnate Word*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (UC Riverside) and 3 losses (Northern Colorado, Southern Utah, Long Beach State)

A very familiar face replaced Marty Wilson following the Waves’ 6-26 2017-18 campaign, Lorenzo Romar, who’s returned to Malibu for his second tour of duty on the Pepperdine bench. The former Washington boss should be able to get his team to more than three non-WCC wins based on this schedule alone, as none of the five D1 squads that visit Firestone rank better than 299th in the four-year ranking and there are winnable road trips to Southern Utah and UC Riverside on the slate. As for the Bahamas event, the Waves had better hope they knock off FAU or Incarnate Word to avoid an 0-3 trip.

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