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Ranking the Big Ten’s Non-Conference Schedules for 2018-19

Stop the presses! The Big Ten didn’t do a horrible job of scheduling for November and December this season.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Penn State Rich Barnes-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 it felt like a down season for the Big Ten, thanks to the paltry total of four NCAA bids it earned, the conference was able to hold off the SEC in its attempt to jump into fourth place in the league rankings. The Big Ten was largely able to hold its place thanks to improvement by the conference’s top three teams in this season’s four-year ranking along with impressive jumps by traditional strugglers Penn State and Nebraska. Even moribund Rutgers saw its standing improve by 32 places.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Purdue 12.131135 8 19
Michigan State 11.526675 10 16
Michigan 9.964242 17 27
Wisconsin 8.769455 22 12
Maryland 8.040555 32 30
Ohio State 7.878475 35 46
Indiana 7.31754 44 31
Iowa 6.225485 56 33
Northwestern 5.340097 63 61
Penn State 5.222541 65 95
Nebraska 4.587087 72 88
Illinois 3.942195 81 71
Minnesota 3.887127 84 64
Rutgers -0.241321 167 199
Average 6.756520571 54 56.57142857
Conference Rank 4th of 32 (4th 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
67 Nebraska 72 38 34
70 Penn State 65 32 33
89 Minnesota 84 60 24
97 Iowa 56 35 21
105 Rutgers 167 149 18
109 Indiana 44 28 16
140 Northwestern 63 58 5
151 Wisconsin 22 20 2
153 Maryland 32 30 2
176 Michigan State 10 13 -3
189 Illinois 81 85 -4
198 Ohio State 35 41 -6
200 Michigan 17 24 -7
210 Purdue 8 18 -10

KenPom’s preseason statistics are a mixed bag for the conference with several of the top teams, including Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State, projected to underperform their recent histories, although not by all that much. Of the teams expected to improve, Nebraska and Penn State really need strong seasons and NCAA bids for their coaches’ sake, and they could move into position to get there. Meanwhile, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, and Wisconsin are all teams poised to shake off disappointing 2017-18 campaigns, with Northwestern potentially joining that group.

Ranking The Schedules

For as long as I’ve been writing these posts, I’ve been dragging the Big Ten for lackluster non-conference scheduling. So, credit when it’s due. A conference that last season ranked in the 20s in the majority of the scheduling strength categories ranks in the top five across the board this season, which is good enough for fourth among the nation’s 32 Division I conferences in the “Super Average.” Sure, teams haven’t totally gotten the memo, as three Big Ten slates rank outside of the top 200 (compared to the SEC’s one). But three league slate rank in the top 25 of the “Super Average” with Purdue just missing out and eight teams are in the top 100. That’s an impressive turnaround, particularly since Big Ten teams now have two fewer games to work with, thanks to the expansion to 20 conference contests this season.

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
4 Michigan State* 6.75391713 7 7.539471709 4 7.939817618 5 7.1391258 3
14 Illinois** 4.252830058 52 5.964907667 14 6.80009732 13 5.29343432 21
24 Maryland 5.388610347 20 5.388610347 23 5.388610347 35 5.388610347 20
26 Purdue** 4.378067661 47 5.231508415 26 6.010882836 18 4.320669282 39
48 Indiana 4.365885591 48 4.365885591 50 4.365885591 66 4.365885591 36
81 Wisconsin** 1.626343167 184 3.737212902 82 4.734349636 53 3.053684495 104
90 Michigan* 2.833876174 116 3.466420544 91 3.470181521 105 3.462659567 80
99 Ohio State 3.265452355 93 3.265452355 98 3.265452355 116 3.265452355 89
118 Nebraska* 2.14498065 151 2.945882284 119 3.061871386 129 2.829893182 109
162 Penn State* 1.81529812 172 2.172800672 160 2.826339609 140 1.519261734 189
211 Minnesota 1.326615422 202 1.326615422 211 1.326615422 221 1.326615422 200
213 Rutgers 1.26781015 206 1.26781015 214 1.26781015 223 1.26781015 203
277 Iowa* -0.7280391903 309 0.1677498861 276 0.4638718725 273 -0.1283721002 280
283 Northwestern** -1.3081451 334 0.07270850625 284 1.170132873 229 -1.122489184 324
117.86 Average 2.670250181 138.64 3.350931175 118 3.720851324 116.14 2.998731497 121.21
4/32 Conference Rank 5 of 32 4 of 32 4 of 32 4 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Last season, not only did every single Big Ten team under-schedule, nine teams did so by more than 100 places, including a Michigan State program known for difficult non-conference slates! In fact, the smallest schedule gap was Ohio State at minus-41!

But what a difference a year makes, as not only did three Big Ten teams over-schedule, including the Spartans, but just three teams managed to under-schedule by more than 100 spots (though Penn State was close). Four teams managed gaps of 20 or fewer places. That’s what I call real progress.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
14 Indiana 44 48 -4
19 Michigan State 10 4 6
27 Maryland 32 24 8
50 Purdue 8 26 -18
113 Rutgers 167 212 -45
115 Nebraska 72 118 -46
136 Wisconsin 22 81 -59
147 Ohio State 35 99 -64
153 Illinois 81 14 67
164 Michigan 17 90 -73
222 Penn State 65 162 -97
260 Minnesota 84 210 -126
328 Northwestern 63 282 -219
329 Iowa 56 276 -220
148.3571429 Average (8/32 conf.) 54 117.5714286 -63.57142857

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
22 4 1

The Big Ten increased its total numbers of true road games and non-power road games this season, by two and three respectively, despite the reduction in its non-conference schedule. Plus, the number of non-D1 games scheduled dropped from four to just one, with Nebraska the lone offender this time.

Non-Conference Games By League

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

As usual, the Big Ten’s two challenge partners, the ACC and Big East, lead the way here by a considerable margin. A third power conference, the Big 12, has jumped into the top five, though in a three-way tie with the Horizon and Patriot Leagues. And while the MEAC remains in the top group (in third), the SWAC—fifth a season ago—is now down in the middle of the table. Typically, the Big Ten’s non-conference slates feature at least one game against every other Division I conference, and that’s again the case this season.

Seton Hall is the only team scheduled to play three games against Big Ten opposition this season, while no Big Ten squad has more than two set games against teams from a rival conference on its schedule.

Non-Conference Games By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 5 16 10 31 2.214285714 19
Quad 2 10 2 7 19 1.357142857 9
Quad 3 17 4 3 24 1.714285714 5
Quad 4 63 0 2 65 4.642857143 1
Non-D1 1 0 0 1 0.07142857143 0
Total 96 22 22 140
Average 6.857142857 1.571428571 1.571428571 10
Percentage 0.6857142857 0.1571428571 0.1571428571
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

The Big Ten has piled on the Quadrant 1 and 2 games (at least based on the four-year ranking) this season, with 15 top 75 home contests and another 16 away from home. While there are just 10 top 50 neutral-site games set, another 19 possibilities loom in the later rounds of tournament play.

But there are still quite a few cupcakes visiting Big Ten arenas, as two-thirds of the league’s non-conference home games will feature either a Quad 4 or non-D1 opponent. However, the blame for many of those contests lies with the Big Ten teams who haven’t yet boarded the quality non-league scheduling train and those, as you’ll see in the team capsules below, who are only hanging on to its edge.

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.

4. Michigan State Spartans

*Exempt Event: Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (2)
138. FGCU 6. Kansas # 14. Louisville^
207. ULM* 31. UCLA* 16. Florida
230. Tennessee Tech* 5. North Carolina or ^ - ACC Challenge
189. Green Bay 43. Texas*
131. Oakland # - Indianapolis
212. Northern Illinois

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (North Carolina (N), Oakland (N))

The main reasons why the Big Ten regular-season champion Spartans’ didn’t end up on seed lines 1 or 2 last season were an unbalanced schedule in a down Big Ten and a complete lack of quality non-league wins outside of one over North Carolina in the Phil Knight Invitational Victory Bracket final. That shouldn’t be a problem this year, even with a lackluster home schedule (the exception there being the opener against FGCU, which will be visiting East Lansing with revenge on is mind from November 2016). Not only will Tom Izzo’s squad open the season against Kansas in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, they’ll also play in a loaded Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving, where UNC looms as a final opponent, again. Plus, Michigan State will play a pair of tough true road games, though the delayed Gainesville leg of a home-and-home series with Florida that started in 2016 will likely be a more difficult game than the ACC Challenge matchup with Chris Mack’s first Louisville team.

14. Illinois Fighting Illini

*Exempt Event: Maui Jim Maui Invitational

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (1)
122. Evansville* 3. Gonzaga* 20. Notre Dame #
68. Georgetown^ 13. Arizona or # - ACC Challenge
349. Mississippi Valley State 33. Iowa State*
143. UNLV 4. Duke/
95. ETSU 18. Xavier/
278. FAU 54. San Diego State/
^ - Gavitt Games 64. Auburn*
98. Missouri $
$ - St. Louis

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Missouri (N)) and 1 loss (UNLV (N))

Brad Underwood’s first campaign in Champaign didn’t go all that well, with the Illini finishing with only 14 wins. And even though Illinois won 10 non-conference games, losses to UNLV in Vegas and New Mexico State in Chicago didn’t sit well with fanbase. There could be more complaints in store this November and December, as there are plenty of challenges for a program in the midst of a full rebuild, the largest of which is the Maui Invitational, where Gonzaga won’t be the easiest quarterfinal opponent. And while both of the Fighting Illini’s challenge opponents, Georgetown and Notre Dame, are surrounded by questions this season, they’re both formidable tests for an 18-loss team. Throw in the Braggin’ Rights game against a quality Missouri squad and tricky home contests against UNLV and ETSU and Underwood will have his work cut out for him this fall.

24. Maryland Terrapins

*Exempt Event: Maryland MTE

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (1) True Road Games (1)
280. Delaware 82. Loyola Chicago # 227. Navy
342. N.C. A&T* # - Baltimore
141. Hofstra*
238. Mount St. Mary's*
145. Marshall*
2. Virginia^
304. Loyola (Md.)
37. Seton Hall
220. Radford
^ - ACC Challenge

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

Mark Turgeon’s Terps are another Big Ten team that’s aiming to rebound from a disappointing season, though their postseason-less 19-13 2017-18 wasn’t quite as awful as that of Illinois. And this schedule, which sees Maryland stay in-state for all 11 games isn’t as strong as the metrics would have you believe. In reality, it’s the Terps’ ACC Challenge assignment, Virginia, and another home game, against Seton Hall, driving the ranking, particularly as the lone road game, against Navy for the Midshipmen’s annual Veterans Classic showdown, isn’t all that daunting. However, there are two contests here that could boost Maryland’s strength of schedule when all is said and done, the exempt-event showcase game against C-USA champ Marshall and the Baltimore matchup against 2018 Final Four squad Loyola Chicago. And that one is a win the Ramblers will desperately need to have any hope of securing an at-large bid.

26. Purdue Boilermakers

*Exempt Event: Charleston Classic

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (2)
215. Fairfield 255. Appalachian State* 26. Florida State^
172. Ball State* 12. Wichita State or 43. Texas
272. Robert Morris 60. Davidson* ^ - ACC Challenge
159. Ohio 49. Virginia Tech/
91. Belmont 55. Alabama/
116. Northeastern/
172. Ball State*
20. Notre Dame #
# - Indianapolis

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Fairfield) and 0 losses

While Matt Painter’s Boilermakers should have little trouble with their home games, other than Belmont‘s visit, the six games Purdue will play away from West Lafayette are a completely different story. Sure, the Boilers should be able to get past Appalachian State and either Davidson or rebuilding Wichita State relatively easily during the Charleston Classic’s first two days, but a championship game matchup against Virginia Tech or Alabama might be a difficult early challenge for a reloading team. The two true road games, at Florida State for the ACC Challenge and a later matchup with what’s likely to be an improved Texas team, are scary, while Notre Dame will be a stiff test for Purdue as it attempts to win in the Crossroads Classic for a third straight season.

48. Indiana Hoosiers

*Exempt Event: Hardwood Showcase

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (2)
346. Chicago State 21. Butler # 40. Arkansas*
274. Montana State* # - Bankers Life Fieldhouse 4. Duke #
53. Marquette^ # - ACC Challenge
102. UT Arlington*
169. UC Davis*
14. Louisville
301. Central Arkansas
310. Jacksonville
^ - Gavitt Games

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 2 losses (Duke, @Louisville)

Archie Miller’s first season in Bloomington was a forgettable 16-15 slog. But despite the presence of three sub-300 teams, he has managed to build a second schedule that will test the Hoosiers frequently during the season’s first two months. Both of Indiana’s conference challenge games, Marquette in Bloomington and a return matchup against Duke, might be a bit much for the Hoosiers. And while rebuilding Arkansas and Louisville might not be at the level they’d like to be, they’ll still be good measuring sticks for an Indiana team that has a lot to prove. So will the matchup against Butler in the Crossroads Classic, a team IU has gone 1-2 against in the relatively short history of the event.

81. Wisconsin Badgers

*Exempt Event: Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (3)
347. Coppin State* 79. Stanford* 18. Xavier^
305. Houston Baptist 16. Florida or 53. Marquette
59. N.C. State # 27. Oklahoma* 127. WKU
326. Savannah State 2. Virginia/ ^ - Gavitt Games
336. Grambling State 21. Butler/
# - ACC Challenge 62. Middle Tennessee/
77. Dayton*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Xavier, WKU) an 2 losses (@Virginia, Marquette)

Had Greg Gard not scheduled four sub-300 coming off a 15-18 season, the Badgers’ schedule would have ranked far higher than 81st. That’s because the other seven games, three of which are true road contests, feature no filler. For the two challenge series, N.C. State visits for the ACC event, while Wisconsin returns a Gavitt Games matchup to Xavier. Plus, it’s Marquette’s turn to host the pair’s annual in-state matchup, while the Badgers will travel to Bowling Green, Ky. to take on C-USA favorite WKU. And if that weren’t enough, Bucky also heads to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, where a potential 2017 Sweet Sixteen rematch against Florida is a possibility, as is a final day meeting with a Virginia team that suffocated the Badgers last November.

90. Michigan Wolverines

*Exempt Event: Air Force Reserve Tip-Off (Naismith Bracket)

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (1)
294. Norfolk State* 128. George Washington* 1. Villanova^
277. Holy Cross* 50. Providence or ^ - Gavitt Games
187. Chattanooga 51. South Carolina*
5. North Carolina #
51. South Carolina
170. Western Michigan
231. Air Force
321. Binghamton
# - ACC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 2 losses (@North Carolina, Villanova (N))

A pair of rematches highlight the schedule of the two-time defending Big Ten Tournament champs and national runner-up, as John Beilein’s club will meet Villanova in a rematch of last season’s final game and host North Carolina in the return of last season’s ACC Challenge showdown in Chapel Hill. Otherwise, the biggest highlight here for the Wolverines is a pair of games in Connecticut for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, the second of which could be an early meeting with South Carolina, a team that will visit Ann Arbor in December.

99. Ohio State Buckeyes

*Exempt Event: Buckeye Basketball Classic

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (2)
149. Purdue Fort Wayne* 31. UCLA $ 11. Cincinnati
338. South Carolina State* $ - Chicago 28. Creighton^
243. Samford* ^ - Gavitt Games
276. Cleveland State* !
46. Syracuse #
108. Bucknell
308. Youngstown State
221. High Point
# - ACC Challenge
! - St. John Arena

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

Chris Holtmann’s first season in Columbus saw the Buckeyes win eight more games than in Thad Matta’s final campaign and return to the NCAA Tournament after two seasons away. And while Ohio State’s home schedule should offer little resistance outside of Syracuse‘s appearance for the ACC Challenge, there are three tricky games that will be played away from Columbus. For starters, the Buckeyes will serve as the guests of honor for Cincinnati as it reopens Fifth Third Arena following renovations, then after an exempt event home game against Purdue Fort Wayne, Ohio State travels to Creighton for the Gavitt Games. Then, for their penultimate non-conference test, Holtmann’s squad goes to Chicago, host of this season’s Big Ten Tournament, to meet Pac-12 contender UCLA.

118. Nebraska Cornhuskers

*Exempt Event: Hall of Fame Classic

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
349. Mississippi Valley State 160. Missouri State* 29. Clemson #
252. Southeastern Louisiana* 30. Texas Tech or # - ACC Challenge
37. Seton Hall^ 52. USC*
298. Western Illinois 38. Oklahoma State #
28. Creighton # - Sioux Falls, S.D.
225. Cal State Fullerton
(Non-D1) Southwest Minn. St.
^ - Gavitt Games

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

Last March, the Cornhuskers handed the Selection Committee a profile that featured 22 wins, but just one over an eventual NCAA team. The Committee’s response: a terse “no thanks.” That sent Tim Miles back to the drawing board. And while his 2018-19 non-conference slate features five home cupcakes, including the Big Ten’s only non-D1 game of the season, Nebraska will still have its chances to make amends to its fans and a case to the Committee. For starters, two Big East teams visit Lincoln—Seton Hall and in-state rival Creighton. The Huskers’ also got a much more fortuitous draw for the ACC event, a road game at Clemson. Then there’s the exempt event, the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. While the Huskers will want to avoid a semifinal loss to Missouri State, either second day opponent, Texas Tech or USC, would be acceptable, though the Red Raiders probably have better NCAA prospects. This slate also features an intriguing December game at the Sanford Pentagon against former Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, a team that’s looking to overachieve for the second straight year under Mike Boynton.

162. Penn State Nittany Lions

*Exempt Event: Cancun Challenge (Riviera Division)

True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (5) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
241. North Florida* 156. Wright State* 199. Duquesne ! 144. DePaul^
195. Jacksonville State* 24. SMU or ! - PPG Paints Arena 55. Alabama
49. Virginia Tech # 205. Bradley* ^ - Gavitt Games
240. Colgate 59. N.C. State $
257. UMBC $ - Atlantic City, N.J.
# - ACC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 1 loss (@N.C. State)

The NIT champions were another team hit hard by the combination of a down Big Ten and poor non-conference schedule (the Nittany Lions’ best non-league win of a season ago came against Montana). So, Pat Chambers, entering his eighth season in charge without a single NCAA bid on the Penn State portion of his C.V., attempted to line up some better matchups for November and December. The results are a mixed bag.

  • A Gavitt Games matchup at DePaul really won’t help matters, while the ACC contest against Virginia Tech should.
  • A trip to Alabama, a matchup reminiscent of classic 1980s football, is great, but Penn State’s exempt event, the Cancun Challenge, isn’t really.
  • N.C. State in a Hall of Fame-run event in Atlantic City? That’s good. A game with Duquesne at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh? That looks like a potential trap.

Plus, the Nittany Lions will entertain UMBC in University Park to close their non-league schedule in December. That’s another game that could lead to Penn State fans being surprised in a negative fashion.

211. Minnesota Golden Gophers

*Exempt Event: Vancouver Showcase

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
217. Omaha* 38. Oklahoma State # 34. Texas A&M* 121. Boston College^
36. Utah # - U.S. Bank Stadium 216. Santa Clara* ^ - ACC Challenge
234. Arkansas State 100. Washington*
241. North Florida
342. N.C. A&T
238. Mount St. Mary's

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

Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers stumbled to a 15-17 finish after a season full of injuries and absences, so the pressure is on in the Twin Cities for a coach who’s only managed a single NCAA game in five seasons. Difficulties in scheduling Minnesota’s exempt event, the Vancouver Showcase, meant the Gophers had to add a sixth sub-200 game to their schedule, a matchup in British Columbia against Santa Clara. However, the other two games in Canada, against Texas A&M and Washington, feature a pair of teams with actual NCAA hopes. Plus, Minnesota welcomes Utah to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and will entertain Oklahoma State in a Final Four dress rehearsal at US Bank Stadium. And while the lone true road game, an ACC Challenge tilt at Boston College, doesn’t look all that appetizing, it could end up being a vital bubble matchup for both participants.

213. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

*Exempt Event: Hub City Classic

True Home Games (7) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (7) True Road Games (3)
293. Fairleigh Dickinson* 23. Miami (Fla.) #
263. Drexel* 232. Fordham
93. St. John's^ 37. Seton Hall
147. Eastern Michigan* # - ACC Challenge
236. Boston University*
200. Columbia
340. Maine
^ - Gavitt Games

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (Fairleigh Dickinson, Fordham, Seton Hall)

While Steve Pikiell has been unable to win more than 15 games in his short tenure in Piscataway, he’s gotten the Scarlet Knights used to winning a lot of games against typically overmatched opponents in non-league play. And while there are still six teams on this slate ranked 200th or worse in the four-year ranking, there are some real tests for Rutgers as it attempts to gain national respectability. For starters, St. John’s visits for the Gavitt Games, a test placed in the middle of the Scarlet Knights’ weak MTE (which features Eastern Michigan, a team perfectly capable of winning at the RAC, in the showcase game). The ACC Challenge draw is a very difficult one, as Miami, who Rutgers will meet in Coral Gables, is a likely postseason team. Then there’s the trip to Seton Hall for the Garden State Hardwood Classic, as the Pirates will want to avenge the 71-65 loss they took on the road a season ago.

277. Iowa Hawkeyes

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

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1)
268. UMKC* 25. Oregon* 46. Syracuse or
189. Green Bay* 99. UNI # 92. UConn*
337. Alabama State # - Des Moines
109. Pittsburgh^
33. Iowa State
296. Western Carolina
326. Savannah State
334. Bryant
^ - ACC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Alabama State) and 1 loss (@Iowa State)

The Hawkeyes are expected to bounce back from last season’s 14-19 trainwreck and potentially end a two-season NCAA drought. However, without doing some serious damage in the Big Ten or in their neutral-site games this season, Fran McCaffrey’s team could find itself in a lurch come March. Not only does Iowa not play a single true non-conference road game this fall, but they also welcome five sub-200 teams to Carver-Hawkeye, with three of teams ranked outside of the top 300. Rebuilding Pittsburgh isn’t likely to be a quality win coming out of the ACC Challenge, while visiting Iowa State might be poised to get back to the Big Dance more quickly than their in-state rivals.

But if Iowa can knock off Pac-12 favorite Oregon in the 2K Empire Classic semifinals one week before Thanksgiving, the whole picture could change.

283. Northwestern Wildcats

*Exempt Event: Wooden Legacy

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3)
269. New Orleans 88. Fresno State*
320. American 23. Miami (Fla.) or
321. Binghamton* 166. La Salle*
85. Georgia Tech^ 36. Utah/
144. DePaul 37. Seton Hall/
346. Chicago State 140. Grand Canyon/
27. Oklahoma 179. Hawai'i*
200. Columbia
^ - ACC Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (La Salle (N), Chicago State, @DePaul) and 2 losses (@Georgia Tech, @Oklahoma)

The Wildcats couldn’t manage a suitable encore for their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, slipping to a 15-17 mark in a 2017-18 campaign that saw them commuting from Evanston to Rosemont while Welsh-Ryan Arena was undergoing much needed renovations. But Chris Collins’ club will return to its plush new home this November, and as a result, the Cats join Iowa in not playing a single true road game during non-conference play. And while Northwestern fans will be “treated” to visits from Georgia Tech (the Wildcats’ seemingly eternal ACC Challenge opponent), DePaul, and Oklahoma, they’ll also see five games against teams ranked 200th or lower in the four-year ranking. Barring a big season from the Sooners or Yellow Jackets (or even the Blue Demons, if a miracle happens), the Wildcats will need to make a run in the Wooden Legacy to have any non-conference wins of note, with Miami, Utah, and Seton Hall the most helpful potential opponents.

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