Memphis, UCLA and Kansas will take on tough nonconference slates
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com
August 9, 2007
A few scheduling reflections of the nonconference schedules and games we know so far. The full schedules should be released by early September.
• Give UCLA some credit for playing Davidson in the Wooden Classic on Dec. 8. The Bruins are giving Davidson a West Coast/national platform. This will be one of the top games for the Bruins outside of the Pac-10. The Bruins do play in the CBE Classic in Kansas City with Michigan State, Missouri and Maryland. They will also host George Washington and Texas as well as take a road trip to Michigan. When John Beilein was coaching West Virginia the last two seasons, he beat UCLA twice. Now he's at Michigan.
• Davidson is stepping up to play a schedule that could earn the Wildcats an at-large berth. Coach Bob McKillop has his team playing UCLA, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State.
• Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has played plenty of folks in neutral-court games but got away from true road games for a spell in recent years. Well, that will end next season with a trip to Virginia. So, there's no more need to squawk about leaving the comfy confines of the Carrier Dome.
• Southern Illinois couldn't get a big-time home-and-home series, but the Salukis do have Indiana coming to Carbondale and will likely play USC in an event in Anaheim. That should help with the team's power rating, despite SIU being unable to secure more marquee games.
• No top-10 team is playing more marquee games than Memphis. But the interesting thing about the Tigers' schedule is that they got so many of those big games at home. Memphis plays Gonzaga, Tennessee, Georgetown and Arizona at the FedEX Forum. The neutral-court games against Oklahoma, Connecticut and/or Kentucky in New York, as well as USC in the Jimmy V in New York too, gives Memphis a loaded slate. Their only true road game of note is at Cincinnati.
• Kansas has its fair share of tough games yet again, with Arizona in the Big 12/Pac-10 event, USC on the road, a dangerous game against Ohio in Kansas City, at Boston College and at Georgia Tech. Playing DePaul at home, a lower-tier Big East team, is still a solid opponent on this slate.
• No team in a non-football playing Division I conference can rake in the quality opponents like Gonzaga. The Zags will once again have one of the top schedules with games against Memphis on the road, Connecticut in Boston, Tennessee in Seattle, Georgia in the Spokane Arena and at Saint Joseph's. Gonzaga will also host in-state rival Washington State, which has evolved into a top 15 game with the Cougars' recent success.
• Texas coach Rick Barnes continues to play nearly all takers by going against Wisconsin, Michigan State and participating in the inaugural Legends event in Newark, N.J., which also includes Tennessee, West Virginia and New Mexico State. Oh, and the Longhorns play at UCLA in the Big 12/Pac-10 event.
• Providence in name only looks like it has a schedule worthy of helping it get to the NCAAs in a year when the Friars have the talent. But that means they need Boston College, Rhode Island, Florida State and South Carolina (they had no say in this one since it's a part of the Big East/SEC Challenge) to be postseason worthy. The Friars can't go into the Big East needing to do it all in the league to get a bid.
• Billy Gillispie left his usual slate of home games for Mark Turgeon at Texas A&M but the quality has risen. Alabama and LSU will head into College Station. The Aggies will also play a road game in the Big 12/Pac-10 Classic at Arizona (the Wildcats and Stanford will play twice in that series to offset the fact that the Big 12 has more teams), as well as potential NIT Season Tip-Off games in New York against Syracuse, Washington or Ohio State.
• Washington looks like a possible bubble team with four of five starters returning in a loaded Pac-10. So, that means the Huskies had to get some quality wins in nonconference. Pitt comes to Seattle, and Washington goes to Oklahoma State in the Big 12/Pac-10 event. Add in the NIT games in New York, as well as a road game at LSU, and the Huskies have enough.
• Conversely Cal could have done more. The Bears play at Nevada and at Kansas State in what should be their toughest game. Hosting Missouri in the Big 12/Pac-10 event is a battle of teams in the middle of their respective leagues. Cal will need to be successful in the Pac-10 even more than Washington with this slate.
• Michigan State coach Tom Izzo knows that he shouldn't load up too much in the nonconference anymore. So, playing Texas in Auburn Hills, N.C. State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, possibly Maryland, Missouri or UCLA in Kansas City in the CBE Classic and a dangerous pair of road games at Bradley and BYU in Salt Lake City (not in Provo) is enough.
• Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl gets plenty of credit for agreeing late to play Gonzaga in Seattle in a year where he's also going to Memphis.
• Pitt wanted to play Duke and got the Blue Devils in their second home court at Madison Square Garden. But for this to occur, Dayton had to agree to move a game at home against Pitt even though it wasn't on the same date (two days later). So, the credit goes to Brian Gregory of Dayton for doing; he didn't have to accommodate Pitt.
• It's too bad that Washington State's biggest nonconference game will be against Gonzaga. The Cougars deserved to get a marquee, televised quality game but couldn't land one.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.