Future Foe Scenarios

It’s time to return to the wonderful world of the NCAA, a land we haven’t visited since I wrote this post on the methods used to create recruiting rankings. It’s been a while, but that doesn’t mean our zeal for college ball has waned at all.

The Pac-10’s shaping up to be the deepest conference in the country by far for this upcoming season, which should create a messy picture in the conference standings. As such, non-conference wins will be of supreme importance to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee—impressive Pac-10 wins are nice, but you need something extra if you’re hanging around .500 in-conference. With that in mind, here’s a look at the non-conference schedules of Pac-10 teams and what they could mean to each program’s postseason chances. (Full schedules are linked in the team name.)

UCLA Bruins
Total Games: 13
Toughest Games: CBE Classic (neutral) (11/19-20), field includes Michigan State, Maryland, and Missouri; vs. Texas (12/01); vs. Davidson (12/08)
Potential Trap Game: at Michigan (12/22). The Wolverines will take some time to get used to John Beilein’s unusual system, but if they have a hot-shooting game they could always beat UCLA at home. It’s important to note that Beilein’s West Virginia teams had a good deal of success against the Bruins, beating them the last two years (although UCLA was without Darren Collison in last season’s game). This game happens right before the Bruins’ week-long break for Christmas, too.
Verdict: Not as tough as it could be, but good enough given the strength of the Pac-10 this year. UCLA will win a good deal of games with any schedule, so they should be able to get the few quality non-conference wins that they’ll need to be in the running for a #1 seed.

USC Trojans
Total Games: 12
Toughest Games: vs. Oklahoma (11/29); vs. Kansas (12/02); vs. Memphis (neutral in NYC) (12/04)
Potential Trap Game: at South Carolina (11/17). USC is young, it’s early in the season, it’s on the road at an SEC school, and the Gamecocks could be upset that no one outside of the South calls them USC.
Verdict: Floyd probably made this schedule when he thought Pruitt and Young would still be around, but it’s a great one nonetheless. The home game against Kansas is a potential goldmine, and the Memphis contest (aka the Rose/Mayo Battle) will help recruiting, at the very least. They lucked out in getting Oklahoma in the Pac-10/Big 12 event—that one will look better than its actual quality by the end of the year.

Cal Golden Bears
Total Games:
Toughest Games: at Nevada (11/28); at Kansas State (12/09)
Potential Trap Game: vs. Missouri (12/01). Mike Anderson’s team plays an unusual, fast-paced style that could get to stellar big men Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin.
Verdict: Winning one of those big road games would do wonders for a team that should finish around the NCAA bubble. Home schedule has no big names, but wins over Utah and San Diego State can’t hurt. This schedule can’t hurt them, although you’d like to see a big-time home or neutral game.

Stanford Cardinal

Total Games: 12
Toughest Games: at Northwestern (11/15); at Colorado (12/02); vs. Texas Tech (12/22); vs. Fresno State (12/29)
Potential Trap Game: Almost all of them, but at Siena (11/17) is the biggest of them all. Cross-country trip happening early in the season is a recipe for disappointment.
Verdict: Don’t even get me started. No big-time games in a year when the Cardinal should be pretty good. None of these wins will look particularly impressive at the end of the year, meaning that even an undefeated non-conference season wouldn’t help seeding. Stanford will need to win at least ten games in the Pac-10 to be a lock for the tournament, and ten wins won’t be a sure-thing this year. Thank Yahweh the Pac-10 plays a home/away schedule.

Oregon Ducks
Total Games:
Toughest Games: at Kansas State (11/29)
Potential Trap Game: at St. Mary’s (11/20). Comes at the end of a short WCC road trip and two games before the big K-State clash.
Verdict: Kansas State win would be huge, because I don’t think Oregon’s going to be as good as advertised this season. No other big ones on here, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given Ernie Kent’s scheduling habits—this is basically par for the course.

Oregon State Beavers
Total Games:
Toughest Games: at LSU (12/22)
Potential Trap Game: All the others. OSU should be better this year, but they’re still not good enough to call any game a gimmie.
Verdict: It makes sense for the Beavers to play an easy schedule, but they don’t have a prayer of making the NCAAs or NIT.

Arizona Wildcats
Total Games:
Toughest Games: vs. Virginia (11/17); at Kansas (11/25); vs. Texas A&M (12/2); vs. Illinois (in Chicago, so not really neutral) (12/8); at UNLV (12/19); at Memphis (12/29)
Potential Trap Game: at Houston (1/12). In the middle of the conference season, against a decent opponent, and on the road. Never underestimate having to travel halfway across the country at an inconvenient time.
Verdict: Hellish. I don’t expect Arizona to be a tremendous team this season, so it’s entirely possible they’ll enter conference play with five or six big losses. The good news is that they’re playing legitimate teams, so a big win or two could be the difference come Selection Sunday.

Arizona State Sun Devils
Total Games: 12
Toughest Games: Maui Invitational (neutral) (11/19-21), field includes Duke, Illinois, Marquette, Oklahoma St., and LSU; vs. Xavier (12/15)
Potential Trap Game: Many, but at Nebraska (12/02) should be tough, if not exactly a trap. ASU’s only game away from Tempe outside of the Maui Invitational.
Verdict: Perfect schedule for this team. They’re still finding their way around Herb Sendek’s system, but the Maui should be a great learning experience and the easy home games can bring some confidence-building victories. This is probably my favorite mediocre team in the country.

Washington Huskies
Total Games:
Toughest Games: NIT Season Tip-Off (neutral) (11/13-23), field includes Syracuse, Ohio St., and Texas A&M; at Oklahoma St. (12/01); vs. Pitt (12/08); at LSU (12/29)
Potential Trap Game: vs. Long Beach St. (11/26) Sandwiched between the NIT and the Oklahoma St. road game, meaning that the Huskies could overlook a team that made the NCAA Tournament last year.
Verdict: Lorenzo Romar finally schedules real teams on the road, but he does so during a likely off-year. Huskies have talent, though, so they could pick up some big wins, with Pitt and one of the talented NIT teams with a leadership vacuum as possibilities.

Washington St. Cougars
Total Games: 12
Toughest Games: vs. Air Force (11/23); at Baylor (11/30); at Gonzaga (12/05)
Potential Trap Game: Not many, but at Boise St. qualifies. On the road and early in the season.
Verdict: It’s a shame the Coug braintrust created the bulk of this schedule when they thought they’d be bad. All the games outside of the Baylor contest occur in the PNW or very close to Pullman—the Idaho games are basically short bus trips. This schedule could come back to bite them if they have a middling year in the Pac-10.


Trey Jones said...

You can count me in for that Arizona at Houston game on Jan. 12.

The Pac-10 will be tough, but like I said in my UCLA/USC post, it's only going to get tougher.

I'm really anxious to see what Oregon does, and Arizona will get a few annual big losses but still get in the tourney.

Ty Keenan said...

Is the Houston gym small enough to make Lute visible from your likely seats? Stanford's home game against Arizona is on Jan 17, so I'll definitely want to hear your thoughts.

Yeah, Arizona probably creeps in as an 8/9 and suffers another disappointing loss. We've been down this road before.

Trey Jones said...

It's an annual road for the Wildcats.

Yeah, Hofheinz Pavilion is a pretty big gym. I'll give you some good notes from the game, also when Memphis and a certain freshman pg comes to town.

What was wrong with my Blueprint post?

rtmsf said...

Ty & Carter -

Very cool blog and article on the Pac-10 schedules. It appears you guys do a lot of NBA stuff, which is also great, but I focus almost exclusively on college hoops on my blog. Just wanted to introduce myself and wish you guys luck, I'll be checking back often. Oh, and I also work out of the bay area.

Ty Keenan said...

rtmsf: Just checked out your blog -- seems really good from the admittedly limited time I looked at it. Thanks for the note and appreciate that you like the site.

Doctor Dribbles said...

I was going to argue that the Big East actually has more quality teams, ergo "deeper conference"...but after reading this, first I'm not sure they do, and second, deeper really does mean "anyone in the conference can beat someone else on a given night." Basically, it's just Oregon State on the sideline, right? Good post.

Ty Keenan said...

One thing I'll concede to the Big East is that the Pac-10 likely doesn't have a #2 team on the level of Georgetown or Louisville. Even if they had more quality teams, some of that would have to be explained by the fact that they have six more total teams. And I take depth to mean the same thing you seem to, so yeah, there you go. Oregon State actually has some decent players, but I wouldn't be shocked if they lose all their conference games.