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Ranking the Pac-12’s Non-Conference Schedules for 2018-19

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After exiting last March’s festivities, the conference is largely setting itself up for more disappointment this spring based on some of these schedules.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington State James Snook-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

While the Pac-12 sent three teams to the NCAAs and another five to the NIT, it was not a vintage season for the conference—with the contrast particularly stark after successful 2016 and 2017 campaigns. No Pac-12 team managed to win an NCAA game, with both Arizona State and UCLA losing in the First Four, while USC was snubbed on Selection Sunday. And last season’s struggles are evident in the four-year ranking, where only USC, ASU, Washington, and Oregon State saw their standing improve when compared to a season ago.

Four-Year Ranking

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Arizona 11.08807 13 7
Oregon 8.623355 25 18
UCLA 8.136525 31 28
Utah 7.742865 36 24
USC 6.452679 52 65
Arizona State 4.742673 70 85
Colorado 4.415801 76 60
Stanford 4.123497 79 74
Washington 2.86142318 100 103
California 2.7746615 101 49
Oregon State 1.681429 125 135
Washington State -0.848846 184 183
Average 5.149511057 74.33333333 69.25
Conference Rank 6th of 32 (6th 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
36 Washington 100 46 54
64 Oregon State 125 90 35
106 Arizona State 70 53 17
134 Washington State 184 178 6
172 Oregon 25 27 -2
195 Colorado 76 81 -5
207 USC 52 61 -9
232 UCLA 31 47 -16
269 Stanford 79 105 -26
296 Utah 36 73 -37
320 California 101 157 -56
330 Arizona 13 76 -63

KenPom projects that fully two-thirds of the Pac-12 will under-perform their four-year rankings this season, most notably preseason favorites Oregon and UCLA and perennial power Arizona—note that the Wildcats are forecast to be 63 spots worse than their recent history. On the plus side, Washington, an at-large contender for much of last season, should improve by more than 50 places, while Arizona State could threaten the top 50.

Ranking The Schedules

Overall, the Pac-12’s non-conference schedules improved when compared to those of a season ago, even if there are fewer top 50 schedules out there (two in most categories, contrasting with the three of a season ago). One of the most noteworthy jumps is courtesy of Oregon, in the top 100 this year after being in the bottom 50 in 2017-18. Half of the league has a super average ranking in the top 100, with USC joining these teams in the top 150.

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
9 Stanford** 5.395276936 19 6.601561517 9 7.4452926 7 6.023191327 10
38 UCLA* 3.744717571 74 4.640894489 41 4.97964872 43 4.302140258 40
56 Arizona** 2.667839005 122 4.250464913 54 5.319674158 40 3.31978485 86
67 Arizona State* 3.6622856 79 4.00952591 69 4.477774015 59 3.541277804 72
72 Washington 4.021306952 63 4.021306952 68 4.021306952 84 4.021306952 54
82 Oregon* 3.293152292 91 3.741805242 81 3.99237 85 3.491240485 75
143 USC* 2.291546083 145 2.396380577 145 2.644552577 153 2.148208577 140
182 Utah** 0.9748793375 223 1.911007135 180 2.864341385 137 0.9455996354 220
192 California* 1.28649965 205 1.693692831 193 1.778725869 198 1.608659792 177
270 Oregon State** -0.128069725 284 0.165270941 277 1.204463635 227 -0.6928551771 304
290 Colorado** -0.6559262825 303 -0.06533294635 287 0.4663758271 272 -0.8798976417 311
346 Washington State* -2.399416336 346 -2.00987395 347 -1.669632772 344 -2.350115128 346
145.5833333 Average 2.012840924 162.8333333 2.613058634 145.9166667 3.127074414 137.4166667 2.123211811 152.9166667
7/32 Conference Rank 13 of 32 7 of 32 6 of 32 10 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Just three Pac-12 teams over-scheduled this season, with at-large contenders Arizona State and Washington the two most notable. However, the Sun Devils’ slate barely qualifies, as its just three slots better than their four-year ranking, Colorado and Utah are the two most disappointing under-schedulers, though the Utes typically fall within this category.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
9 Arizona State 70 67 3
25 UCLA 31 38 -7
72 Washington 100 72 28
109 Arizona 13 56 -43
132 Oregon 25 82 -57
162 Stanford 79 9 70
203 California 101 191 -90
206 USC 52 143 -91
281 Oregon State 125 269 -144
282 Utah 36 181 -145
292 Washington State 184 344 -160
326 Colorado 76 289 -213
174.9166667 Average (18/32 conf.) 74.33333333 145.0833333 -70.75

Road and Non-D1 Games

True Road Games Scheduled Road Games Scheduled Against Non-Power 7 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
True Road Games Scheduled Road Games Scheduled Against Non-Power 7 Teams Non-D1 Opponents Scheduled
26 14 0

This season, the Pac-12 will play more true road games and non-Power 7 road games than any other power league—a jump of nine contests in the former category and three in the latter. In fact, just a little more than half of the Pac-12’s non-conference road games will feature opposition from mid-major conferences.

Non-Conference Games by League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
WCC 17 2
Big West 17 1
MW 13 4
Big Sky 11 0
SEC 9 3
Big 12 8 4
WAC 7 2
Big Ten 6 3
Summit 5 0
American Athletic 4 2
ACC 3 5
MVC 3 3
C-USA 3 2
Horizon 3 0
MEAC 3 0
NEC 3 0
Southland 3 0
SWAC 3 0
Atlantic Sun 2 1
Ivy 2 1
OVC 2 1
Big South 2 0
A 10 1 4
Big East 1 3
America East 1 0
CAA 1 0
MAAC 1 0
MAC 1 0
SoCon 1 0
Sun Belt 1 0
Patriot 0 1
Non-D1 0 0

Three of those mid-major leagues feature at the top of the table above, with the WCC joining last season’s leader, the Big West, in a tie at the top. The Big Sky, in second place a season ago, drops to fourth, with the Mountain West remaining in third. For the second year in a row, the SEC rounds out the top five—somewhat surprisingly, considering how rarely the two league meet on the gridiron. The Patriot League is the only Division I conference that doesn’t have a set game with a Pac-12 squad, though Bucknell could meet Colorado for a Bison-Buffaloes matchup in the Diamond Head Classic.

USC will face three Big 12 teams during November and December, while both Cal and Colorado have a trio of Mountain West squad on their schedules. Arizona State, meanwhile, plays three SEC clubs, and both the Golden Bears and Washington take on the same number of WCC outfits. In terms of single opponents, Long Beach State appears on five Pac-12 schedules, with both San Diego and Santa Clara popping up four times.

Non-Conference Games by Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 3 14 10 27 2.25 16
Quad 2 5 4 7 16 1.333333333 14
Quad 3 15 8 4 27 2.25 8
Quad 4 63 0 4 67 5.583333333 4
Non-D1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 86 26 25 137
Average 7.166666667 2.166666667 2.083333333 11.41666667
Percentage 0.6277372263 0.1897810219 0.1824817518
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

To rack up quality wins during this non-conference season, Pac-12 teams are going to have to do real work away from home. The four-year ranking suggests that just eight Pac-12 non-league home games will feature top 75 opponents, while 28 such matchups are set for either road or neutral environments, with a further 23 possibilities floating around in exempt events.

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.

9. Stanford Cardinal

*Exempt Event: Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

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)
256. Seattle 22. Wisconsin* 139. UNCW
151. Wofford* 16. Florida or 5. North Carolina
211. Portland State 27. Oklahoma* 6. Kansas
158. Eastern Washington 2. Virginia/ 142. San Francisco
292. San Jose State 21. Butler/
173. Long Beach State 62. Middle Tennessee/
77. Dayton*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (San Francisco) and 6 losses (Eastern Washington, North Carolina, Florida (N), Portland State (N), @Long Beach State, Kansas (N))

Had the Cardinal not struggled to a 6-7 non-conference mark a season ago, including an 0-3 record in the Phil Knight Invitational, their NIT bid might have turned into an NCAA one. And for the third season in a row under Jerod Haase, Stanford will be challenged early and often, particularly away from Maples Pavilion. Sure, the Cardinal will play a pair of mid-majors (UNCW and San Francisco) on the road, but they’ll also face national title contenders Kansas and North Carolina in their buildings. Plus, Stanford’s exempt tournament, the Battle 4 Atlantis, will provide a trio of challenges over Thanksgiving week. Winning the quarterfinal against Wisconsin could be quite important for the Cardinal’s March hopes.

38. UCLA Bruins

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
149. Purdue Fort Wayne 10. Michigan State* 11. Cincinnati
173. Long Beach State 5. North Carolina or
253. St. Francis (Pa.)* 43. Texas*
345. Presbyterian* 35. Ohio State #
179. Hawai'i # - Chicago
208. Loyola Marymount
20. Notre Dame
91. Belmont
233. Liberty

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 1 loss (Cincinnati)

After the Bruins followed up 2017’s Pac-12 title challenge and NCAA 3 seed with a First Four loss to St. Bonaventure, the heat’s been (again) turned up on Steve Alford heading into his sixth year in charge in Westwood. And even though UCLA’s non-conference slate is rather home-heavy, there are some serious potential trouble spots lurking. For starters, the Bruins look like the fourth-best team lined up for the Las Vegas Invitational. And while Notre Dame might not be at their strongest when they visit Pauley Pavilion, Ohio State will provide a stern challenge at the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago and Cincinnati will have a second straight victory over the Bruins’ in their sights when Alford’s club heads to the renovated Fifth Third Arena.

56. Arizona Wildcats

*Exempt Event: Maui Jim Maui Invitational

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (2)
305. Houston Baptist* 33. Iowa State* 55. Alabama
295. Cal Poly 3. Gonzaga or 92. UConn
209. UTEP 81. Illinois*
162. Georgia Southern 4. Duke/
174. Utah Valley 18. Xavier/
15. Baylor 54. San Diego State/
118. Montana 64. Auburn*
169. UC Davis

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Alabama, UConn) and 0 losses

Not only are the Wildcats coming off a tumultuous season that ended with a First Round loss to Buffalo, but Sean Miller’s squad definitely qualifies for the “rebuilding” category heading into 2018-19. While the early home schedule is forgiving, the final four games, highlighted by a visit from Baylor, could give Arizona real trouble. But that’s nothing compared to what awaits in Lahaina, where the Cats will have to deal with perhaps the most-loaded Maui Invitational field ever. As for the two road games, both Alabama and UConn could be capable of avenging last season’s defeats at McKale.

67. Arizona State Sun Devils

*Exempt Event: MGM Resorts Main Event

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)
225. Cal State Fullerton 73. Mississippi State* 142. San Francisco
315. McNeese State* 19. Saint Mary's or 57. Georgia
173. Long Beach State* 133. Utah State* 47. Vanderbilt
217. Omaha 61. Nevada #
224. Texas Southern # - Los Angeles
6. Kansas
105. Princeton

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (San Francisco, @Kansas, Vanderbilt)

This schedule provides Bobby Hurley’s club with the ability to build a safety net for NCAA selection, should the Sun Devils collapse late for the second consecutive season. Vanderbilt should improve enough to rate as Arizona State’s most difficult road opponent, while Mississippi State looks like the best team the Sun Devils will meet in Vegas at the Main Event. Facing Nevada in Los Angeles looks like a very difficult matchup, while Kansas’ trip to Tempe could see the Jayhawks ranked at the top of the polls.

72. Washington Huskies

*Exempt Event: Vancouver Showcase

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
127. WKU 216. Santa Clara* 64. Auburn
186. San Diego* 34. Texas A&M* 3. Gonzaga
158. Eastern Washington 84. Minnesota*
181. UC Santa Barbara 49. Virginia Tech #
256. Seattle # - Atlantic City, N.J.
289. Sacramento State
225. Cal State Fullerton

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Eastern Washington, Seattle) and 2 losses (Virginia Tech (N), Gonzaga)

Mike Hopkins’ first season in Seattle was an unreserved success, with the Huskies earning at-large consideration, 21 wins, and an NIT bid. But if Washington is going to make the jump to earning an NCAA bid, it’s going to have to win away from Seattle early in the season (the opener against WKU excepted). That’s because the Huskies will encounter a pair of 2018 teams (Auburn and Gonzaga) in true road games and another, a Virginia Tech squad that topped UW in New York last November, in Atlantic City. Plus, there’s the re-arranged Vancouver Showcase, which presents the Dawgs with three games in British Columbia, with the middle contest against Texas A&M shaping up to be the most difficult.

82. Oregon Ducks

*Exempt Event: 2K Empire Classic Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (3)
211. Portland State 56. Iowa* 46. Syracuse or 41. Houston
158. Eastern Washington* 92. UConn* 15. Baylor
189. Green Bay* 66. Boise State
224. Texas Southern
217. Omaha
186. San Diego
66. Boise State
350. Florida A&M

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Texas Southern, Portland State) and 1 loss (Boise State)

As is the theme in the Pac-12 this season, the league favorite Ducks, an NIT qualifier a season ago, will face their most non-conference significant challenges away from campus. For starters, Oregon will hope to play Iowa and Syracuse in the 2K event in New York, with UConn very much a question mark, while Dana Altman’s team will start a series with Baylor in Waco. That matchup with the Bears isn’t the only road challenge the Ducks will encounter either, as they’ll visit 2018 NCAA squad Houston and Boise State, though the latter matchup is part of a rare in-season home-and-home series.

143. USC Trojans

*Exempt Event: Hall of Fame Classic

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
272. Robert Morris* 45. TCU # 30. Texas Tech* 27. Oklahoma $ 216. Santa Clara
47. Vanderbilt # - Staples Center 72. Nebraska or $ - Tulsa
319. Stetson* 160. Missouri State*
168. Cal State Bakersfield
173. Long Beach State
61. Nevada
169. UC Davis
323. Southern Utah

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Santa Clara) and 2 losses (@Vanderbilt, Oklahoma (N))

In 2018, Andy Enfield’s Trojans just missed qualifying for their third straight NCAA Tournament, due in no small part to four non-conference losses, three of which came during a late November/early December swoon. Even though USC plays just one true road game (against Santa Clara of all teams), this slate has some real potential. The two best home games, against Vanderbilt and Nevada, feature at-large contenders, while TCU will challenge the Trojans at Staples Center. And while USC’s return match against Oklahoma in Tulsa is a question mark, the semifinal against Texas Tech in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City will be vital for the Trojans’ hopes. Enfield would surely prefer a win and likely final matchup with Nebraska than a meeting with Missouri State.

182. Utah Utes

*Exempt Event: Wooden Legacy

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
340. Maine 179. Hawai'i* 84. Minnesota
349. Mississippi Valley State 37. Seton Hall or 7. Kentucky
97. Tulsa 140. Grand Canyon*
350. Florida A&M 23. Miami (Fla.)/
329. Northern Arizona 63. Northwestern/
61. Nevada 88. Fresno State/
166. La Salle*
58. BYU #
# - Vivint Smart Home Arena

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Mississippi Valley State, Hawai’i) and 1 loss (@BYU)

Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes will look to build upon last season’s appearance in the NIT final, but this is yet another Pac-12 schedule where the bulk of the quality is on the road. Although Utah will entertain Nevada (and Tulsa) at the Huntsman Center, the other four visitors all rank among the worst in Division I, with two of the three worst returning teams in the four-year ranking on the slate. As for the off-campus games, while no one expects the Utes to win at Kentucky, they should be able to at least reach the final of the Wooden Legacy. Meanwhile, the game at Minnesota and Beehive Classic showdown with BYU should both have real March implications.

192. California Golden Bears

*Exempt Event: GotPrint.com Legends Classic

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
279. Hampton* 136. Yale^ 93. St. John's* 19. Saint Mary's
288. Detroit Mercy* 67. VCU or 88. Fresno State
216. Santa Clara 86. Temple*
142. San Francisco ^ - Shanghai, China
54. San Diego State
295. Cal Poly
292. San Jose State
256. Seattle

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (@San Diego State) and 3 losses (VCU (N), Saint Mary’s, @Seattle)

The Golden Bears won just eight times in Wyking Jones’ first season—with six of those victories coming before Pac-12 play tipped off. And with this schedule, Cal fans had better hope their team sweeps the six sub-200 teams visiting Haas Pavilion this November and December because wins will be hard to come by otherwise. And that’s with Saint Mary’s reloading and Fresno State playing its first season under a new coach.

270. Oregon State Beavers

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

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (2)
281. UC Riverside 34. Texas A&M # 83. Old Dominion* 173. Long Beach State
129. Wyoming # - Portland, Ore. 98. Missouri or 210. Saint Louis
160. Missouri State 300. Kennesaw State*
235. Pepperdine 39. Kansas State/
176. Kent State 264. Eastern Kentucky/
341. Central Connecticut 99. UNI/
178. Penn*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Long Beach State, Eastern Kentucky, Saint Louis (N)) and 3 losses (Wyoming, Long Beach State (N), @Kent State)

While the Beavers rebounded from 2016-17’s five-win campaign to finish right at .500 a season ago, Wayne Tinkle and his son Tres will hope for better this year. Improving upon last season’s 8-4 non-conference mark, including OSU’s 1-2 finish at the AdvoCare Invitational is paramount. And if things break right, the Beavers should be able to win at least two games at this season’s exempt tourney, the Paradise Jam. Otherwise, the tests are few and far between on this schedule, outside of the contest against Texas A&M in Portland and road games against Saint Louis, the A 10 favorite, and Long Beach State, 2-1 against Oregon State over the past two seasons.

290. Colorado Buffaloes

*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)
219. Drake 164. Indiana State* 186. San Diego
217. Omaha 143. UNLV 231. Air Force
251. Portland (or Hawai'i)* 106. New Mexico
146. Colorado State 45. TCU/ 179. Hawai'i
124. South Dakota 48. Rhode Island/ (or UNLV)*
270. UIC 108. Bucknell/
266. Charlotte*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Drake (N), Air Force, New Mexico) and 2 losses (@Colorado State, San Diego)

Since 2016’s NCAA bid, Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes have gone 36-30 in the two subsequent seasons. A disappointing 8-4 start knocked Colorado to the edge of at-large contention early and even if they improve upon that mark this time, they’re going to have a hard time earning respect with this schedule. While it doesn’t include the copious contests against sub-300 teams found on Utah’s slate, just one team on this schedule ranks in the top 50 of the four-year ranking. And that’s TCU, who the Buffs could meet on the final day of the Diamond Head Classic.

346. Washington State Cougars

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (2) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
287. Nicholls State 274. Montana State # 186. San Diego* 256. Seattle ! 71. New Mexico State
295. Cal Poly 216. Santa Clara $ 71. New Mexico State or ! - Kent, Wash.
348. Delaware State # - Kennewick, Wash. 219. Drake*
303. Cal State Northridge $ - Spokane
182. Idaho
177. Rider*
317. SIU Edwardsville*

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

Not only has Ernie Kent failed to break even just once in his four seasons in Pullman, but the Cougars have yet to win more than 13 games during his tenure. This non-conference slate, featuring just one game against a top 100 opponent (two if Wazzu happens to meet New Mexico State for a second time in Las Vegas), and seven teams in the bottom 100 is clearly designed to get the Cougars some early wins. But it just might not prepare them all that well for Pac-12 play, even if the conference might go through a down season.

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