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

The majority of the league’s coaches aren’t taking kindly to the “football league” epithet being thrown their way and are showing their displeasure by beefing up their non-conference scheduling.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff
Mike White knows how to build a quality non-conference schedule.
Vasha Hunt-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 SEC increased its NCAA bid total from three in 2016 to five in 2017, the league jumped to another level in 2018, placing eight teams in field of 68, finishing just one bid behind the ACC in the conference race. And considering the preseason forecasts and how the majority of the league’s 14 teams have built their non-conference schedules for this season, even bigger things could be in store in March 2019. In 2018, no SEC team earned a seed higher than the 3 Tennessee secured. But this time around the Vols, along with Auburn and the league’s two modern basketball powers, Kentucky and Florida, will all be capable of landing on lines 1 or 2 if things break right.

In terms of the four-year rankings, every single SEC team now ranks within the top 100 nationally, thanks to big jumps by 2018 NCAA teams Missouri and Auburn and NIT qualifier Mississippi State. Unfortunately for the conference, those teams’ jumps weren’t quite enough to push it past the Big Ten, so the SEC remains the fifth-ranked conference nationally—for now.

Four-Year Rankings

Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Team Team Score 4-Year Ranking 2017-18 Ranking
Kentucky 12.53971 7 3
Florida 10.07313 16 17
Texas A&M 7.888805 34 44
Arkansas 7.38744 40 42
Tennessee 7.358655 42 62
Vanderbilt 6.749698 47 37
South Carolina 6.500329 51 45
Alabama 6.227124 55 59
Georgia 6.17343 57 54
Auburn 5.265121 64 122
Mississippi State 4.5235294 73 101
Ole Miss 4.437866 75 63
LSU 4.0945856 80 90
Missouri 3.07819375 98 150
Average 6.592686911 52.78571429 63.5
Conference Rank 5th of 32 (5th 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
32 Missouri 98 43 55
41 Mississippi State 73 23 50
44 Auburn 64 17 47
72 Tennessee 42 11 31
74 LSU 80 50 30
128 South Carolina 51 42 9
145 Alabama 55 51 4
161 Kentucky 7 7 0
177 Florida 16 19 -3
223 Texas A&M 34 48 -14
241 Ole Miss 75 94 -19
249 Vanderbilt 47 69 -22
259 Arkansas 40 64 -24
307 Georgia 57 101 -44

And I say “for now” because KenPom’s preseason numbers project that the majority of the SEC will either improve upon its four-year results by a decent margin or stick relatively close to their recent historical performances. And of the five teams forecast to see their performances slip by a double-digit margin, two (Georgia and Ole Miss) just changed coaches in the hopes of getting back on track in the near future.

Ranking The Schedules

Heading into last season, the SEC’s non-conference schedule average ranked second nationally in all four categories. But this time around, thanks to the quality of the exempt events the majority of conference teams are involved in, the SEC jumps to the top spot in the Average Strength category, which helps push the conference to first overall in the Super Average. Not only do five SEC teams have top 50 non-conference schedules based on the Super Average, but every team except for Georgia ranks in the top half of Division I. And honestly, UGA’s 201st-ranked schedule is far stronger than those of the last-place finishers in the rest of the power conferences—DePaul, Northwestern, South Florida, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, and Washington State.

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
3 Florida** 6.894278234 4 7.557835135 3 8.563254275 3 6.817776887 5
7 Kentucky 6.804183713 6 6.804183713 7 6.804183713 12 6.804183713 6
25 South Carolina* 4.858765803 29 5.147800462 27 5.634734818 24 4.660866107 29
29 Tennessee* 4.311139917 50 5.083224327 28 5.445626462 31 4.720822192 27
43 Auburn** 2.834959216 115 4.580925077 42 5.461083568 29 3.590866664 68
53 Ole Miss* 3.92253552 66 4.241016278 55 4.910253364 46 3.571779191 70
66 Alabama** 3.75725393 73 4.333874586 53 5.345006767 39 2.951919125 108
106 Vanderbilt 3.209216225 96 3.209216225 106 3.209216225 121 3.209216225 91
121 Missouri** 2.578199043 127 2.751026195 125 3.563182827 101 2.11993614 142
125 LSU** 1.638174927 183 2.752327846 123 4.248368035 71 1.536386495 186
134 Texas A&M 2.614172371 124 2.614172371 135 2.614172371 154 2.614172371 118
150 Arkansas 2.308729385 144 2.308729385 152 2.308729385 168 2.308729385 133
152 Mississippi State* 1.837824665 169 2.325408123 150 2.793656229 143 1.857160017 160
201 Georgia** 0.6073438045 251 1.595156604 199 2.411386219 163 0.8285221231 234
86.78571429 Average 3.44119834 102.6428571 3.950349738 86.07142857 4.522346733 78.92857143 3.399452617 98.35714286
1/32 Conference Rank 2 of 32 1 of 32 2 of 32 2 of 32

Who Over- And Under-Scheduled?

Georgia naturally owns the biggest scheduling gap in the conference, of 143 spots. (Remember that the two new transitional D1 members are removed from this analysis, since they don’t have four-year rankings, hence the discrepancies in the Super Average rankings here.) The Bulldogs are one of eight SEC teams to under-schedule this season, though only five of those teams did so by more than 50 spots. Kentucky is one of two teams nationally to be spot on in terms of its non-conference scheduling, along with OVC struggler SIU Edwardsville, curiously. Meanwhile, the five teams that over-scheduled did so by no more than 26 spots each, which is perfectly reasonable for teams in a conference with heightened expectations.

Scheduling Gaps

National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
National Rank Team Four-Year Ranking Super Average Ranking Scheduling Gap
1 Kentucky 7 7 0
33 Alabama 55 66 -11
38 Florida 16 3 13
39 Tennessee 42 29 13
58 Auburn 64 43 21
62 Ole Miss 75 53 22
65 Missouri 98 121 -23
69 South Carolina 51 25 26
112 LSU 80 125 -45
138 Vanderbilt 47 106 -59
183 Mississippi State 73 152 -79
229 Texas A&M 34 134 -100
238 Arkansas 40 150 -110
280 Georgia 57 200 -143
110.3571429 Average (1/32 conf.) 52.78571429 86.71428571 -33.92857143

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
23 6 3

Even though the SEC is playing two fewer non-conference road games this season, that’s still the second-highest total of the power conferences, in a tie with the ACC (and the Big Ten is just one behind both). The SEC remains third in non-Power 7 road games, despite scheduling two fewer this season, as every conference except for the Pac-12 either took a step back or held steady in that category. Disappointingly, for the second season in a row, three SEC teams scheduled non-D1 opposition, though in two cases (Auburn in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational and Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off) the game was scheduled as a “waiver” contest due to the difficulties in scheduling on-campus games for exempt events.

Non-Conference Games By League

Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Conference Games Scheduled Against Possible Tournament Games Against
Big 12 16 4
ACC 15 5
Sun Belt 11 2
Southland 10 0
Pac-12 9 3
OVC 9 1
SoCon 9 0
American Athletic 8 3
C-USA 8 3
Atlantic Sun 8 0
Big East 6 4
Big Ten 6 4
Big South 6 0
SWAC 6 0
WCC 5 2
A 10 4 5
MVC 4 1
MEAC 4 0
Big West 3 0
Non-D1 3 0
MW 2 3
MAC 2 2
MAAC 2 1
America East 2 0
CAA 2 0
Horizon 2 0
Summit 2 0
Big Sky 1 0
Ivy 0 1
NEC 0 0
Patriot 0 0
WAC 0 0

For the second season in succession, the Big 12 and ACC are the top two conferences on this list, with the latter almost closing the gap with the SEC’s challenge partner, thanks to four additional games this season. But there are some new names in the top five (or seven, thanks to a three-way tie for the fifth spot), as the Sun Belt and Pac-12 jump in, replacing the American Athletic and Big South. However, the number of conferences absent from SEC slates has jumped from just one in 2017-18 to four, with three of those leagues being from the Northeast.

Three teams—long-departed former member Georgia Tech, a Savannah State team in its final Division I season, and the Pac-12’s Arizona State appear on three different SEC schedules. Both Kentucky and Tennessee will play three ACC teams apiece, while Florida has three Big 12 teams on its slate (all away from Gainesville). Arkansas, on the other hand, is playing three C-USA teams.

Non-Conference Games By Quad

Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Opponent Strength Home Away Neutral Total Average Potential
Quad 1 9 14 14 37 2.642857143 20
Quad 2 11 8 7 26 1.857142857 9
Quad 3 32 1 6 39 2.785714286 11
Quad 4 55 0 4 59 4.214285714 2
Non-D1 3 0 0 3 0.2142857143 0
Total 110 23 31 164
Average 7.857142857 1.642857143 2.214285714 11.71428571
Percentage 0.6707317073 0.1402439024 0.1890243902
Q1 1-30 1-75 1-50
Q2 31-75 76-135 51-100
Q3 76-160 136-240 101-200
Q4 161-353 241-353 201-353

This season, the SEC will play 20 top 75 home games (based on the four-year ranking), which fall under Quads 1 and 2 in the NCAA’s categorization. That’s more than the 14 top 75 road games planned. That helps compensate for the fact that slightly more than half of the SEC’s non-league home games this season will feature either Quad 4 or non-D1 opposition. However, SEC teams will really numerous neutral-site chances to improve their postseason profiles this November and December, with 21 top 100 neutral games lined up and 29 potential top 100 matchups lurking in the later rounds of exempt tournaments.

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.

3. Florida Gators

*Exempt Event: Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (5) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (6) True Neutral-Site Games (5) True Road Games (2)
286. Charleston Southern* 27. Oklahoma* 26. Florida State
166. La Salle 22. Wisconsin or 45. TCU^
241. North Florida 79. Stanford* ^ - Big 12 Challenge
10. Michigan State 2. Virginia/
154. Mercer 21. Butler/
21. Butler 62. Middle Tennessee/
77. Dayton*
9. West Virginia #
138. FGCU $
# - New York
$ - Sunrise, Fla.

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (North Florida, Stanford (N)) and 1 loss (Florida State)

Speaking as a Florida alum and fan, 2017-18’s home-heavy schedule was a little disappointing, even though I fully understood the need for it after 2016’s barnstorming tour. But Mike White, beginning his fourth season in Gainesville, ratcheted things up considerably fort this year. Not only will the Gators play in a Battle 4 Atlantis that features a bunch of familiar names (UF has played or will play every team in that field since the 2013-14 season tipped), but they’ll take on West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic and TCU in the Big 12 Challenge. Florida will end a home-and-home with Michigan State and start one with Butler, who looms as a potential day three opponent in the Bahamas. And to cap it all off, the Gators will open their season at Florida State, a team that’s riding a four-game winning streak in the series. With just two teams from outside of the top 200 on this schedule, it’s not a surprise that the Gators’ slate ranks third nationally and just behind Kansas when limiting the discussion to the power conferences.

7. Kentucky Wildcats

*Exempt Event: Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
150. Southern Illinois 4. Duke # 37. Seton Hall $ 14. Louisville
218. North Dakota* 5. North Carolina ! $ - New York
331. VMI* # - Indianapolis
148. Winthrop* ! - Chicago
197. Tennessee State*
120. Monmouth
134. UNCG
36. Utah
6. Kansas^
^ - Big 12 Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Monmouth (N), Louisville) and 1 loss (Kansas (N))

Thanks to a lack of true road games and an underwhelming Lexington-focused exempt event, the Wildcats’ schedule ranks only second in the SEC this season. But John Calipari’s team will be more than challenged along the way, starting on Opening Night, when UK faces Duke in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis to the end, as Kansas visits for the Big 12 Challenge in late January. And there will be further challenges in between, as Pac-12 at-large threat Utah will visit Rupp Arena, while the Wildcats travel to Bluegrass rival Louisville for Chris Mack’s first taste of the rivalry. Plus, there are neutral-site games against Seton Hall (at MSG) and potential Final Four team North Carolina (in Chicago).

25. South Carolina Gamecocks

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

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (2) True Road Games (3)
314. USC Upstate 50. Providence* 129. Wyoming
180. Stony Brook* 17. Michigan or 17. Michigan
294. Norfolk State* 128. George Washington* 38. Oklahoma State^
151. Wofford ^ - Big 12 Challenge
190. Coastal Carolina
2. Virginia
29. Clemson
(Non-D1) North Greenville

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 3 wins (@Wofford, Wyoming, Coastal Carolina) and 1 loss (@Clemson)

If you expected Frank Martin to schedule a lot of cupcakes after 2017-18’s 17-16 campaign, which snapped a two-year run featuring at least 25 wins, you would be wrong. For starters, the Gamecocks will play three true road games, including a tricky test at Wyoming, where altitude will be a factor. South Carolina could meet Michigan twice, once in Ann Arbor in a scheduled meeting, but even earlier at the Mohegan Sun provided the two teams’ first day results match up in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. And while six of the home games should indeed be easy wins, visits from Virginia and Clemson most assuredly won’t be. Carolina went 9-4 in non-conference games a season ago, and with this lineup, the Gamecocks will be hard-pressed to equal that mark this time around.

29. Tennessee Volunteers

*Exempt Event: NIT Season Tip-Off

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)
(Non-D1) Lenoir-Rhyne* 14. Louisville* 104. Memphis
96. Louisiana* 6. Kansas or
85. Georgia Tech 53. Marquette*
264. Eastern Kentucky 3. Gonzaga #
246. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi # - Phoenix
243. Samford
69. Wake Forest
230. Tennessee Tech
9. West Virginia^
^ - Big 12 Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (@Georgia Tech, @Wake Forest) and 0 losses

The Volunteers’ slate is the first that looks to be overrated a bit by the metrics, due in no small part to the home games against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, both of whom should struggle in the ACC this year. Plus, the road game at Memphis in Penny Hardaway’s first season might not pack all that much punch. But the four top matchups on this slate should all be worth it come March. Early on, Rick Barnes’ club will participate in a loaded NIT Season Tip-Off where the Vols will hope to top Louisville and meet Kansas in the final, though a matchup with Marquette might not be too shabby a consolation this season. A few weeks later, they’ll take on Gonzaga, likely to be without Killian Tillie, in Phoenix. And finally, in the heart of the SEC slate, Tennessee will host a West Virginia team expected to be the Jayhawks’ most serious challengers for the Big 12 title.

43. Auburn Tigers

*Exempt Event: Maui Jim Maui Invitational

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
249. South Alabama 18. Xavier* 135. UAB # 59. N.C. State
100. Washington 4. Duke or # - Legacy Arena
(Non-D1) Mississippi College* 54. San Diego State*
183. Saint Peter's 3. Gonzaga/
155. UNC Asheville 13. Arizona/
77. Dayton 33. Iowa State/
103. Murray State 81. Illinois*
241. North Florida

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

Last season, the Tigers tied Tennessee in a surprising SEC race, and both are expected to be in the thick of this year’s hunt. Obviously, the highlight of Auburn’s slate is the trip to Maui, where Duke looms as a potential semifinal opponent. But with Bruce Pearl’s squad left out of the Big 12 Challenge this season, it’s the other two power conference games on this slate that look to be the most important for the Tigers’s March fortunes. Visiting Washington will head to the Plains looking to pick up a vital win for its at-large profile, while 2018 NCAA qualifier N.C. State will aim to hold serve on its home court when Auburn visits Raleigh.

53. Ole Miss Rebels

*Exempt Event: Emerald Coast Classic

True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (7) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
170. Western Michigan* 252. Southeastern Louisiana # 15. Baylor* 62. Middle Tennessee $ 21. Butler
287. Nicholls State* # - Jackson, Miss. 11. Cincinnati or $ - Nashville 87. Illinois State
186. San Diego 185. George Mason*
207. ULM
187. Chattanooga
138. FGCU
33. Iowa State^
^ - Big 12 Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 0 wins and 2 losses (@Middle Tennessee, Illinois State)

Former Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis replaces Andy Kennedy, who left his alma mater after a disappointing 12-20 campaign. Davis will get a chance to see his former program right away, as the Rebels will take on the Blue Raiders in Nashville in December. Remember that Middle has defeated Ole Miss in each of the last two seasons. That matchup isn’t even the biggest mid-major challenge on the Rebels’ 2018-19 slate, as they’ll head to Normal to take on an Illinois State team expected to challenge Loyola Chicago for the Missouri Valley title. And did I mention that the Redbirds won the first game of the Twitter Challenge series in Oxford in 2017? In terms of power conference matchups, Ole Miss will host Iowa State in the Big 12 Challenge and travel to Butler, while meeting Baylor, at a minimum, in the Emerald Coast Classic.

66. Alabama Crimson Tide

*Exempt Event: Charleston Classic

True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (3)
True Home Games (6) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (3)
313. Southern 233. Liberty # 116. Northeastern* 115. UCF
255. Appalachian State* # - Huntsville, Ala. 49. Virginia Tech or 107. Stephen F. Austin
103. Murray State 172. Ball State* 15. Baylor^
110. Georgia State 8. Purdue/ ^ - Big 12 Challenge
13. Arizona 12. Wichita State/
65. Penn State 60. Davidson/
255. Appalachian State*

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 1 win (Virginia Tech (N)) and 2 losses (UCF, @Arizona)

Earlier, I stated that Tennessee’s schedule might be a bit less impressive than the metrics indicate. Conversely, Avery Johnson’s fourth Alabama schedule, and first coming off an NCAA bid, looks to be even more difficult than the numbers show, and that’s even taking into account the fact the top-ranked team visiting Tuscaloosa—Arizona—is likely to not be as good as they were a season ago. For starters, there are three other teams on this slate coming off conference championships—Georgia State, Murray State, and Stephen F. Austin—with the Tide playing the last of those teams on the road. The other two away games, at UCF and Baylor, feature teams expected to be at-large threats this season, as is the Penn State team that heads to Coleman Coliseum in December. And then there’s the Charleston Classic, where a potential NCAA rematch with Virginia Tech looms in the semifinals, if Bama can get past CAA favorite Northeastern in the first round. Plus, three 2018 NCAA teams are potential opponents on the final day in South Carolina.

106. Vanderbilt Commodores

*Exempt Event: Commodore Classic

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (1) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (2)
148. Winthrop 59. N.C. State* # 39. Kansas State $ 52. USC
333. Alcorn State* # - Miami $ - Kansas City 27. Oklahoma^
233. Liberty* ^ - Big 12 Challenge
176. Kent State*
326. Savannah State*
62. Middle Tennessee
70. Arizona State
197. Tennessee State
155. UNC Asheville

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (UNC Asheville, Alcorn State) and 4 losses (USC, Kansas State, Middle Tennessee, @Arizona State)

In 2017, the Commodores made history by becoming the first 16-loss team to earn an NCAA at-large bid, thanks in no small part to their non-conference schedule. And even though Bryce Drew lined up potentially this season’s worst on-campus exempt event for his Vanderbilt squad as it attempts to rebound from a 12-20 campaign, there are still plenty of challenges here for the ‘Dores. Not only will Arizona State make the trip to Memorial Gym, but Vandy will play four games away from against power conference foes—N.C. State in Miami, Kansas State in Kansas City, and both USC and Oklahoma in true road contests. Of those four, only the Trojans failed to reach the NCAAs last season and all four teams will have varying chances of making the 2019 field. Those matchups should help Vanderbilt in its attempt to do the same.

121. Missouri Tigers

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

True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (7) True Neutral-Site Games (4) True Road Games (1)
301. Central Arkansas 300. Kennesaw State* 33. Iowa State
86. Temple 83. Old Dominion or
115. UCF 125. Oregon State*
102. UT Arlington 39. Kansas State/
223. Oral Roberts 264. Eastern Kentucky/
18. Xavier 99. UNI/
213. Morehead State 178. Penn*
81. Illinois #
# - St. Louis

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Iowa State, @UCF) and 1 loss (Illinois (N))

Mizzou reached the NCAAs in Cuonzo Martin’s first season even though the highly-touted Michael Porter Jr. missed just about all of it due to a back injury. So, expectations are rather high in Columbia, Mo., even with Porter off to the NBA. And this schedule is just about right for a team that will again have to adjust because of an injury, this time to Michael’s brother, Jontay. While playing Iowa State in game two might be ill-advised, the Tigers should be able to make it to the final of the Paradise Jam, even if they might not beat Kansas State in that hypothetical matchup. And while Temple and UCF will provide stern tests at Mizzou Arena following the trip to the Caribbean, the visit from Xavier and the annual Braggin’ Rights matchup with Illinois will come late enough in the slate that Mizzou should have a settled rotation in place by the time those games arrive.

125. LSU Tigers

*Exempt Event: AdvoCare Invitational

True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) True Neutral-Site Games (3-4) Semi-Road Games (0-1) True Road Games (1)
252. Southeastern Louisiana 117. College of Charleston* 26. Florida State 41. Houston
134. UNCG 135. UAB (or UAB)*
104. Memphis* (or Florida State)*
123. Louisiana Tech 1. Villanova/
336. Grambling State 38. Oklahoma State/
324. Incarnate Word 104. Memphis/
126. Furman 165. Canisius*
207. ULM 19. Saint Mary's #
# - Las Vegas

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

If Will Wade’s Tigers want to make the NCAAs in his second season, they’re going to have to do quite a bit of work away from Baton Rouge. The list of teams visiting the PMAC this November and December, other than SoCon favorite UNCG and maybe Memphis and Furman, just won’t provide much of a boost to LSU’s profile. So that means the Bayou Bengals will need to make a nice run through the AdvoCare Invitational, not an easy task with College of Charleston (a team that beat LSU in 2015) in the first round and 2018 Elite Eight squad Florida State potentially awaiting in the semifinals. Or they could win at Houston, a team that will need quality non-league wins for its own profile, and defeat Saint Mary’s and hope that the Gaels don’t take a serious step back this year.

I have the feeling LSU will have to use its SEC slate to really make its postseason case.

134. Texas A&M Aggies

*Exempt Event: Vancouver Showcase

True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (9) True Neutral-Site Games (2) Semi-Road Games (1) True Road Games (1)
326. Savannah State* 84. Minnesota* 125. Oregon State # 3. Gonzaga
119. UC Irvine* 100. Washington* # - Portland, Ore.
249. South Alabama
332. Northwestern State
121. Boston College
90. Valparaiso
145. Marshall
224. Texas Southern
39. Kansas State^
^ - Big 12 Challenge

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

The Aggies reached the Sweet Sixteen a season ago and in an attempt to get back to NCAAs, Billy Kennedy has built a schedule that features nine home contests and six contests against power-conference-level teams (naturally, I’m including Gonzaga Bulldogs in that classification). However, other than the Bulldogs, only 2018 Elite Eight squad Kansas State looks to be a surefire NCAA team this season (though you really never know with a Bruce Weber-coached team). As for the games against Boston College, Minnesota, Washington (with those two contests taking place in Canada for the Vancouver Showcase), and Oregon State, both participants might need the win for their own profiles.

150. Arkansas Razorbacks

*Exempt Event: Hardwood Showcase

True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (2)
True Home Games (9) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (1) True Road Games (2)
169. UC Davis* 245. UTSA $ 43. Texas # 146. Colorado State
44. Indiana* $ - North Little Rock # - Fort Bliss, Texas 30. Texas Tech^
274. Montana State* ^ - Big 12 Challenge
102. UT Arlington*
262. FIU
127. WKU
85. Georgia Tech
203. Texas State
247. Austin Peay

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

Following a 23-win campaign that ended with a loss to Butler in the First Round of the NCAAs, Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks are widely expected to take a step back this season. And looking above, you get a sense that he scheduled with that in mind. As is all but automatic for an SEC team in 2018, there are four power conference games, with a pair of early contests (Texas in the Armed Forces Classic and Indiana in Fayetteville in the showcase game of the two teams’ shared exempt event) that look like potential losses. However, Georgia Tech is a team the Hogs should be able to compete with, though the same might not be able to be said about Arkansas’ Big 12 Challenge foe—2018 Elite Eight squad Texas Tech. Otherwise, there are a lot of winnable home contests and a return game at Colorado State that would be far more scary were the Rams not adjusting to a new coach.

152. Mississippi State Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: MGM Resorts Main Event

True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
True Home Games (8) Semi-Home Games (1) True Neutral-Site Games (3) True Road Games (1)
247. Austin Peay 156. Wright State $ 70. Arizona State* 77. Dayton
302. Hartford* $ - Jackson, Miss. 19. Saint Mary's or
173. Long Beach State* 133. Utah State*
333. Alcorn State 29. Clemson #
315. McNeese State # - Newark, N.J.
11. Cincinnati
151. Wofford
58. BYU

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

The Bulldogs, NIT semifinalists a season ago, turned up their non-conference schedule this season in preparation for an NCAA run, as this slate is much more respectable than 2017-18’s home-heavy lineup that didn’t get Miss. State anywhere near an at-large bid despite 22 regular-season wins. While Ben Howland’s squad will play eight home games, at least a pair of quality teams in Cincinnati and WCC contender BYU feature on that list. Wright State, Horizon champ a season ago, is a respectable opponent for the Jackson game, while the winner of the Bulldogs’ semifinal in Vegas against Arizona State will be favored to claim the Main Event. However, the best game on this slate isn’t the return matchup at Dayton but the Never Forget Tribute Classic matchup with Clemson in Newark. That should be a great December measuring stick for Miss. State’s March prospects.

201. Georgia Bulldogs

*Exempt Event: Cayman Islands Classic

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)
326. Savannah State 87. Illinois State* 86. Temple
204. Sam Houston State* 29. Clemson or 85. Georgia Tech
300. Kennesaw State 157. Akron*
224. Texas Southern 28. Creighton/
70. Arizona State 66. Boise State/
131. Oakland 74. St. Bonaventure/
175. UMass 110. Georgia State*
43. Texas^
^ - Big 12 Challenge

Record against returning opponents from 2017-18: 2 wins (Georgia Tech, Temple) and 1 loss (@UMass)

The Bulldogs finally let Mark Fox go after an 18-15 season that ended in the SEC semifinals. To replace him, Georgia hired former Indiana coach Tom Crean, who might just thrive at a school where basketball hasn’t been a priority for quite some time. While Crean’s first schedule is manageable, it features some real challenges (the Cayman Islands Classic, a visit from Arizona State, Texas in the Big 12 Challenge) and several games that Fox-coached teams would be strongly tempted to lose (Oakland and UMass at home and trips to Temple and Georgia Tech).

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