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

A combination of plenty of non-D1 home games and Power 7 road games mean this conference has several highly-rated schedules that could somehow be even better.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin Kevin Jairaj-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

If you’re the Southland’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament and your name isn’t Stephen F. Austin, there’s a good chance you’ll end up seeded 15th or 16th. The only exceptions in the past 10 seasons? Sam Houston State in 2010 and Northwestern State in 2013. The reason for this is simple—the Lumberjacks are the only league member ranking in the top 200 of the four-year rankings—and SFA fell out of the top 100 in the past season. And every other team ranks 200th or worse, which puts 12 league members solidly in the bottom half of Division I.

In other words, when just three conferences rank below yours out of 32, the odds of landing on seed lines 15 or 16 are almost a given unless a special team wins the auto bid.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Stephen F. Austin 2.433867 107 99
Sam Houston State -1.884088 204 193
Texas A&M Corpus Christi -3.331842 246 200
Southeastern Louisiana -3.453897 252 298
Lamar -3.545335 258 299
New Orleans -4.0564115 269 273
Nicholls State -4.942118 287 329
Central Arkansas -5.71332 301 336
Houston Baptist -5.910067 305 282
Abilene Christian -6.121507 309 332
McNeese State -6.608165 315 321
Incarnate Word -7.123344 324 271
Northwestern State -8.0111835 332 294
Average -4.482108538 269.9230769 271.3076923
Conference Rank 29th of 32 (29th 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
27 Abilene Christian 309 252 57
99 Houston Baptist 305 284 21
120 Central Arkansas 301 288 13
122 Lamar 258 246 12
204 Nicholls State 287 294 -7
205 Northwestern State 332 340 -8
219 Incarnate Word 324 335 -11
230 McNeese State 315 330 -15
254 Southeastern Louisiana 252 274 -22
272 Stephen F. Austin 107 134 -27
287 New Orleans 269 299 -30
332 Texas A&M Corpus Christi 246 311 -65
343 Sam Houston State 204 292 -88

KenPom projects that the overwhelming majority of the Southland’s 13 teams will underperform their four-year rankings, including the last two NCAA reps, Stephen F. Austin and New Orleans, and last seasons co-champs, Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana. Of the four teams projected to outperform their recent histories, three are outside of the four-year table’s top 300.

Ranking The Schedules

Once again, the Southland ranks highly in the non-conference scheduling department, thanks in no small part to the conference’s reliance on road games. Seven Southland clubs have schedule rankings within the top 100 in at least one category, while just three teams rank outside the top 200 in at least two categories. Just think how high these rankings would be if the league didn’t play so many non-D1 contests.

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
17 Houston Baptist 5.60686303 13 5.60686303 18 5.60686303 25 5.60686303 13
33 Central Arkansas 4.774964477 32 4.774964477 33 4.774964477 50 4.774964477 25
68 Northwestern State 4.066847072 60 4.066847072 66 4.066847072 82 4.066847072 52
69 New Orleans 4.044265091 61 4.044265091 67 4.044265091 83 4.044265091 53
73 Stephen F. Austin* 4.14010995 55 3.957354256 73 4.2266896 73 3.688018913 65
85 McNeese State 3.647299215 80 3.647299215 86 3.647299215 97 3.647299215 67
102 Nicholls State* 3.739868708 75 3.253328282 100 3.427516401 107 3.079140163 100
171 Southeastern Louisiana 1.995157677 161 1.995157677 173 1.995157677 181 1.995157677 151
179 Lamar 1.854015856 167 1.854015856 182 1.854015856 189 1.854015856 161
187 Texas A&M Corpus Christi 1.805712917 173 1.805712917 187 1.805712917 195 1.805712917 167
204 Incarnate Word** 2.001648461 159 1.532161814 204 1.791374095 197 1.260842006 204
214 Sam Houston State* 1.473586113 196 1.300336238 213 1.84811395 190 0.7525585269 241
287 Abilene Christian -0.1122980731 283 -0.1122980731 288 -0.1122980731 292 -0.1122980731 279
129.9230769 Average 3.002926192 116.5384615 2.902000604 130 2.998193947 135.4615385 2.804875913 121.3846154
5/32 Conference Rank 4 of 32 5 of 32 7 of 32 5 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

But with so many Southland teams ranked outside of the top 200 while simultaneous boasting strong, road-heavy schedules, it’s no surprise that there are some significant scheduling gaps in the conference. Sam Houston State was the only league member to under-schedule this season, with everyone else over-scheduling—with no fewer than five teams owning schedules that rank 200 or places higher than their four-year rankings.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
29 Sam Houston State 204 213 -9
67 Abilene Christian 309 286 23
83 Stephen F. Austin 107 73 34
141 Texas A&M Corpus Christi 246 186 60
186 Lamar 258 178 80
191 Southeastern Louisiana 252 170 82
253 Incarnate Word 324 203 121
310 Nicholls State 287 102 185
322 New Orleans 269 69 200
332 McNeese State 315 85 230
340 Northwestern State 332 68 264
341 Central Arkansas 301 33 268
348 Houston Baptist 305 17 288
226.3846154 Average (29/32 conf.) 269.9230769 129.4615385 140.4615385

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
69 1 42 45

As usual, non-Division I opposition dominates Southland home schedules—accounting for nearly two-thirds of league home games. This season, the number of non-D1 foes even outpaces the number of power conference road games.

But it’s not all bad. Not only is the Southland collectively playing six more home games than it did in 2017-18, it’s doing so while playing the same number of non-D1 games as it did a season ago. However, the number of Power 7 road games also rose by three when compared to last year.

Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Non-D1 45 0
Sun Belt 15 1
C-USA 10 1
SEC 10 0
ACC 9 0
Big 12 9 0
SWAC 8 1
WAC 8 1
American Athletic 8 0
WCC 5 1
Big Ten 4 0
Big Sky 3 0
MEAC 3 0
Pac-12 3 0
A 10 2 0
Big West 2 0
MW 2 0
OVC 2 0
MAC 1 3
CAA 1 1
Horizon 1 1
SoCon 1 1
Summit 1 1
Atlantic Sun 1 0
Big East 1 0
Big South 1 0
MAAC 1 0
MVC 1 0
Patriot 1 0
America East 0 0
Ivy 0 0
NEC 0 0
Southland 0 0

How comprehensively do non-D1 opponents dominate Southland schedules? Conference members have more non-D1 games scheduled than they do against the top four Division I conferences on this list combined. And all of those leagues cover territories that either overlap or are contiguous with the Southland’s. Three Eastern mid-major conferences, on the other hand, are completely missing from conference slates this season.

Texas Tech of the Big 12, Louisiana Tech from C-USA, non-D1 Arlington Baptist, and WAC’s UTRGV will each play a quartet of games against Southland opponents, with the Vaqueros playing a home-and-home series with South Texas rivals Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Naturally, non-D1 opponents dominate individual Southland schedules. Relative D1 newcomer Incarnate Word has five such opponents on its schedule, while Abilene Christian, Lamar, McNeese State, Nicholls State, SFA, and Texas A&M Corpus Christi all lined up four non-D1 contests. In terms of Division I conferences, Lamar will play three American Athletic squads, all on the road naturally.

Southland Opponents By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 0 33 0 33 2.538461538 0
Quad 2 1 13 1 15 1.153846154 2
Quad 3 4 20 4 28 2.153846154 4
Quad 4 20 14 4 38 2.923076923 6
Non-D1 44 0 1 45 3.461538462 0
Total 69 80 10 159
Average 5.307692308 6.153846154 0.7692307692 12.23076923
Percentage 0.4339622642 0.5031446541 0.06289308176
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

A trio of home games against Louisiana and SFA’s visit Alabama from are the only ones Southland squads will have against teams in the top 100 of the rankings. On the flip side, conference members will play 38 such road games! A whopping 63 Southland home games will feature either Division I team ranked outside of the top 200 or a non-D1 opponent.

These factors weigh down Southland non-conference schedules, which by and large ruin team metrics heading into league play. And with several conferences seeking to restrict the number of non-conference games members play against poorly-ranked teams, the vicious cycle the Southland is engulfed in looks set to continue.

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

17. Houston Baptist Huskies

No Exempt Event

True Home Games (4) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (4) True Road Games (7)
232. Fordham 13. Arizona
245. UTSA 22. Wisconsin
(Non-D1) Arlington Baptist 69. Wake Forest
(Non-D1) Dallas Christian 123. Louisiana Tech
203. Texas State
243. Samford
23. Miami (Fla.)

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Arlington Baptist, Dallas Christian, Texas State) and 1 loss (@UTSA)

Ron Cottrell’s Huskies saw their win total drop by an astounding 11 in 2017-18, with four of those victories coming in non-conference play. Unfortunately for HBU, they defeated just Division I non-conference opponent—Texas State. While the Huskies are skipping an exempt tournament this season, they’ll play a quartet of difficult Power 7 road games and welcome Fordham out of the Atlantic 10 to Sharp Gym.

33. Central Arkansas Bears

*Exempt Event: Barclays Center Classic

True Home Games (4) True Road Games (9)
True Home Games (4) True Road Games (9)
(Non-D1) Hendrix 98. Missouri
(Non-D1) Univ. of the Ozarks* 109. Pittsburgh*
222. Little Rock 191. Troy*
(Non-D1) Lyon 210. Saint Louis*
14. Louisville
222. Little Rock
106. New Mexico
44. Indiana
38. Oklahoma State

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (University of the Ozarks, Little Rock) and 1 loss (@Little Rock)

Russ Pennell is building something in Conway, as the Bears recorded a 10-win improvement from 2017 to 2018. But with nine true road games—five against Power 7 foes—on the 2018-19 non-conference slate, UCA will be hard-pressed to equal last season’s 6-7 start.

68. Northwestern State Demons

*Exempt Event: Men Against Breast Cancer Cup

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Centenary 313. Southern # 24. SMU
351. Alabama A&M* # - Shreveport, La. 58. BYU*
207. ULM 250. Rice*
(Non-D1) Louisiana College 41. Houston*
(Non-D1) Champion Christian 209. UTEP
34. Texas A&M
30. Texas Tech

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (@ULM, Louisiana College (N)) and 2 losses (@SMU, Rice)

Since 2014-15’s 19-win campaign, the Demons have won just 25 games total, including four a season ago. Just two of those victories came against Division I opposition, with just one—over ULM—coming in non-conference play. So there will definitely be pressure on Mike McConathy as the 2018-19 season tips off. As is a theme in this conference, this isn’t a schedule built to encourage early positive results, as trips to BYU, Houston, SMU, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech all appear on a rather daunting seven-game road slate.

69. New Orleans Privateers

No Exempt Event

True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Spring Hill (Non-D1) Williams Baptist # 63. Northwestern
(Non-D1) Pensacola Christian # - Westwego, La. 135. UAB
(Non-D1) Governor's State 97. Tulsa
96. Louisiana 109. Pittsburgh
249. South Alabama 15. Baylor

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Spring Hill and Williams Baptist) and 3 losses (@South Alabama, @Louisiana, @UAB)

The Privateers followed up their 2017 NCAA berth with a 16-17 season that ended in the CBI’s quarterfinals. Mark Slessinger’s team is another that will forego an exempt event this season. That decision and the presence of four non-D1 opponents on this slate mean New Orleans should better last season’s 3-8 non-league mark—even if games at Baylor, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, and Tulsa are also present.

73. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

*Exempt Event: Belfast Basketball Classic (Goliath Division)

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (3)
(Non-D1) Texas Wesleyan 142. San Francisco* 23. Miami (Fla.)
(Non-D1) Southwestern AG 89. Buffalo or 207. ULM
322. Marist* 201. Milwaukee* 15. Baylor
(Non-D1) St. Edward's*
123. Louisiana Tech
(Non-D1) Arlington Baptist
55. Alabama

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 4 wins (St. Edward’s, ULM, @Louisiana Tech, Arlington Baptist)

Kyle Keller’s second Lumberjack team recorded a 10-win improvement over his first, thanks in no small part to a red hot 11-2 start that included a win at LSU. The 2018-19 non-conference slate—a considerably tougher one thanks to road games against Baylor and Miami, a surprise visit from Alabama, and a trip to Northern Ireland that could feature a second day meeting with MAC favorite Buffalo—probably won’t result in 11 wins, but it should prepare SFA for Southland contention and March success.

85. McNeese State Cowboys

*Exempt Event: MGM Resorts Main Event (On-Campus Only)

True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Loyola (La.)* 19. Saint Mary's*
(Non-D1) Mobile* 70. Arizona State*
(Non-D1) Mississippi College 24. SMU
248. N.C. Central 248. N.C. Central
96. Louisiana 73. Mississippi State
(Non-D1) Campbellsville-Harrodsburg 268. UMKC
318. UT Rio Grande Valley

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Louisiana, @N.C. Central)

The Cowboys, 12-17 in Dave Simmons’ final season, welcome a new head coach in Heath Schroyer for the 2018-19 campaign. And that’s not the only change in Lake Charles this season, as the H&HP Complex replaces venerable Burton Coliseum as McNeese’s home. To celebrate, the Cowboys will play six home games, though only a visit from Louisiana and half of a home-and-home with N.C. Central will feature Division I opposition. Two of the non-D1 visitors will complete McNeese’s participation in the MGM Resorts Main Event, as they won’t be traveling to Las Vegas after visiting Saint Mary’s and Arizona State to open the season.

102. Nicholls State Colonels

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

True Home Games (4) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (4) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Mississippi College 248. N.C. Central* 14. Louisville
(Non-D1) Spring Hill 170. Western Michigan or 194. Washington State
(Non-D1) Mobile 313. Southern* 182. Idaho
(Non-D1) Campbellsville Harrodsburg 15. Baylor*
75. Ole Miss*
236. Boston University
207. ULM

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Spring Hill, Mobile) and 1 loss (Idaho)

After posting a 21-win season in his second season in Thibodaux, South Alabama hired Richie Riley away from Nicholls State. His replacement, Austin Claunch, should be able to keep the Colonels competitive in the Southland. However, thanks to a quartet of home non-D1 games and trips to Baylor, Louisville, Ole Miss, and a potentially tricky visitors’ bracket at the Emerald Coast Classic, Nicholls may not boast a decent record when league play begins.

171. Southeastern Louisiana Lions

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

True Home Games (5) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (5) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) William Carey 75. Ole Miss # 80. LSU
319. Stetson* # - Jackson, Miss. 72. Nebraska*
(Non-D1) Louisiana College 30. Texas Tech*
(Transitional) Cal Baptist 349. Mississippi Valley State*
96. Louisiana 194. Tulane
336. Grambling State
205. Bradley

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Mississippi Valley State (N)) and 3 losses (@Tulane, Grambling State, @Louisiana)

Jay Ladner’s Lions won the Southland regular season title last season, but finished with consecutive losses to Stephen F. Austin (in the conference final) and Saint Mary’s (in the NIT first round), so there’s some unfinished business in Hammond. SELA managed to post 22 wins despite putting up a 6-7 mark in November and December. That total was highlighted by a trio of wins in the Savannah Invitational, but this season’s exempt event—the Hall of Fame Classic—might not be as kind, thanks to road games against Nebraska and Texas Tech. A trip to LSU to open the season and December matchup with Ole Miss in Jackson are other potential opportunities for the Lions to make national noise.

179. Lamar Cardinals

*Exempt Event: Deep South Showcase

True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
True Home Games (6) True Road Games (7)
(Non-D1) Huston-Tillotson 85. Georgia Tech*
311. Prairie View A&M* 242. East Carolina*
(Non-D1) Arlington Baptist 318. UT Rio Grande Valley*
224. Texas Southern 24. SMU
(Non-D1) Howard Payne 250. Rice
(Non-D1) Champion Christian 41. Houston
168. Cal State Bakersfield

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Howard Payne) and 1 loss (Cal State Bakersfield)

Tic Price’s Cardinals won 19 for the second season in a row—a total they couldn’t build upon thanks to a first round loss in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. A half-dozen winnable home games and participation in Georgia Tech‘s weak round-robin event means Lamar should be able to get off to a strong start for a third season in a row. However, they’ll probably want to avoid a repeat of last December’s four-game skid before league play.

187. Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders

*Exempt Event: Hardwood Showcase

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Howard Payne 169. UC Davis* # 102. UT Arlington*
(Non-D1) Our Lady of the Lake* # - Arlington, Texas 318. UT Rio Grande Valley
318. UT Rio Grande Valley 42. Tennessee
(Non-D1) St. Mary's (Texas)* 123. Louisiana Tech
203. Texas State 38. Oklahoma State
(Non-D1) Huston Tillotson
245. UTSA

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: (TAMU-CC) 2 wins (Our Lady of the Lake, St. Mary’s (Texas) and 4 losses (UTRGV, @UTSA, @Texas State, @UTRGV)

In 2017-18, the Islanders lost more than they won for the first time since 2012-13. It didn’t help that Willis Wilson’s squad didn’t get off to a good start, as Corpus Christi won just three games in November and December—with none of those victories coming against D1 opposition. While four non-D1 games mean the Islanders should be able to better last season’s non-conference win total, the annual home-and-home with UTRGV might be their best shot at picking up a Division I victory before Southland play begins.

204. Incarnate Word Cardinals

*Exempt Event: Islands of the Bahamas Showcase

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) St. Francis (Ill.) 118. Montana* 30. Texas Tech
(Non-D1) UT Tyler 161. North Dakota State/ 317. SIU Edwardsville
(Non-D1) Texas Lutheran* 237. Miami (Ohio)* 80. LSU
214. Northern Colorado 152. Towson 270. UIC
(Non-D1) Trinity 162. Georgia Southern 144. DePaul
235. Pepperdine
278. FAU

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Trinity, Texas Lutheran)

The Cardinals won just seven games—five in non-league play—and suffered through a 17-game losing streak in their first official Division I season. So, Ken Burmeister was relieved of his duties, replaced by former Purdue player Carson Cunningham. With four non-D1 home games on the schedule, Incarnate Word could threaten its non-league win total of a season ago. However, with trips to LSU and Texas Tech on the slate, along with a likely trip to the consolation bracket in the Bahamas thanks to a quarterfinal against Big Sky champ Montana, don’t expect much more out of the Cardinals this fall.

214. Sam Houston State Bearkats

*Exempt Event: Cayman Islands Classic (Mainland)

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) St. Francis (Ill.) 118. Montana* 30. Texas Tech
(Non-D1) UT Tyler 161. North Dakota State/ 317. SIU Edwardsville
(Non-D1) Texas Lutheran* 237. Miami (Ohio)* 80. LSU
214. Northern Colorado 152. Towson 270. UIC
(Non-D1) Trinity 162. Georgia Southern 144. DePaul
235. Pepperdine
278. FAU

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: (SHSU) 1 win (Little Rock) and 2 losses (Central Michigan (N), Utah Valley)

The Bearcats won 20 for the second consecutive season and fourth time in the last five seasons, so Jason Hooten’s squad must once again be listed among those that can threaten SFA for the conference crown. Even though SHSU will visit both Clemson and Georgia as part of their participation in the Cayman Islands Classic mainland bracket, this schedule isn’t quite as scary as many of the others featured on this post. Note that the potential meeting with East Tennessee State in Johnson City in the mainland bracket final could be one of the more intriguing mid-major matchups of the entire season.

287. Abilene Christian Wildcats

*Exempt Event: Pacific Classic

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (5)
(Non-D1) Arlington Baptist 198. Elon* 196. Denver
234. Arkansas State 281. UC Riverside* 202. Pacific*
(Non-D1) Howard Payne 235. Pepperdine
283. Campbell 30. Texas Tech #
(Non-D1) Schreiner 284. Southeast Missouri State
(Non-D1) McMurry # - Lubbock Municipal Coliseum

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 4 wins (Howard Payne, @Campbell, Schreiner, Arlington Baptist) and 2 losses (@Arkansas State, @Texas Tech)

The Wildcats recorded a 16-16 record and earned a CollegeInsider.com Tournament bid in their first full Division I season. Joe Golding’s squad again has a shot at a winning non-conference record, as a trip to Pacific‘s round-robin tournament and spot opposing Texas Tech in the Red Raiders’ throwback home game are the highlights of a slate that features a quartet of non-D1 home games.

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