Rating the 2013-14 NEC Men’s Basketball non-conference schedules

With the releases of LIU Brooklyn’s and Robert Morris’ 2013-14 schedules last Monday, all ten NEC schools have now announced their full schedules for the upcoming season. With that, I decided to delve into each team’s non-conference schedule and see which schools are taking the easy road to the conference season and which teams are challenging themselves and are going for it to get themselves a possible postseason berth or a non-16 seed in the NCAA tournament come next March.

I will use a number ranking system on each team’s non-conference schedules with 1 meaning way too easy or how ESPN’s Dick Vitale loves to say “cupcake city”, up to a 5 which means there are no gimmes at all, every game is going to be a battle for a win. So let’s begin as I look at each team in order of finish in last year’s NEC standings.

Robert Morris – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 161; Kenpom avg.: 177

The Big Boys: at Kentucky 11/17, at Oklahoma State 12/30, at Alabama 1/4

Potential Gems: Texas-Arlington 11/21, at Buffalo 11/26, at Delaware 11/30, at Oakland 12/22

Scheduling Duds: Campbell 12/18

My thoughts: It is a challenging fifteen game slate for the Colonials. They’re starting the season with three winnable games before their rematch with Kentucky could be a good start for them. After the UK game (which could be an ugly one), they see some pretty tough road games against good mid-major competition. They end the non-conference season with back-to-back difficult road game against BCS schools (at OK State & at Alabama). Andy Toole and his staff didn’t ramp down the degree of difficulty with their scheduling this season. Eleven road games is a ton but I think they will get through it pretty well and end up over .500 by the time NEC play begins.

BHJ Rating: 4 out of 5

Wagner – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 177; Kenpom avg.: 176

The Big Boys: at Penn State 11/9, at St. John’s 11/15, at La Salle 12/19

Potential Gems: Vermont 11/21

Scheduling Duds: Chestnut Hill 11/12, at Coppin State 11/18, at Monmouth 12/30

My thoughts: Wagner will be in the hunt for an NEC title this season. I believe Wagner non-schedule is well-balanced. They have several tough games with the most anticipated one being the 11/15 game at St. John’s. Playing at La Salle also will be a good test for the Basir Mason’s Seahawks. All three Division I home opponents had a RPI and a KenPom above 162 last season so there is no real cupcakes in that mix. All in all, I believe Wagner has a chance to have one of the better records going into the NEC play this season.

BHJ Rating: 3.5 out of 5

LIU Brooklyn – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 192; Kenpom avg.: 188

The Big Boys: at Indiana 11/12, at Seton Hall 12/5, Temple 12/21

Potential Gems: at UC Irvine 11/22, vs Boston University 11/24, at Lehigh 12/9

Scheduling Duds: St. Peter’s 11/9, vs Eastern Washington 11/23, Lamar 12/18

My thoughts: Last season, I believe LIU Brooklyn played their hardest non-conference schedule since I started following them in 1996. After winning three straight NEC titles, LIU had challenges scheduling games this season. LIU will play just four home non-conference games and with exception of Temple, the other three teams RPI and KenPom are below 176. LIU’s early season tests comes the 2K Sports Classic when they see UC Irvine, Eastern Washington and Boston U. in a span of 42.5 hours. The most anticipated game on their schedule is the home game at Barclays against Temple. Even though, the schedule is not as tough as it was last season, the schedule does provide its challenges and I believe they will land around .500 after it is all said and done going into NEC play.

BHJ Rating: 3 out of 5

Bryant – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 160 ; Kenpom avg.: 160

The Big Boys: at Gonzaga 11/9, at Notre Dame 12/9, at Ohio State 12/11

Potential Gems: Vermont 11/16, at Harvard 11/20, vs Delaware at MSG 12/21, Lehigh 12/30

Scheduling Duds: at Dartmouth 11/13, Navy 12/14, at Binghamton 12/28

My thoughts: Bryant might have the toughest non-conference schedule among all the NEC teams this season. They start the season at Gonzaga aka the Kennel. Their first home game will be a good one against Vermont before heading to Ivy League favorite Harvard. Bryant will in fact play four games against Ivy League schools with three of the four having finished in the top half last season. December will be a tough month for Tim O’Shea’s Bulldogs. Playing at Yale, at Notre Dame, at Ohio State and against Delaware at MSG and finishing it all off against Lehigh should have Bryant ready to go once NEC play begins. I think their goal should be to reach .500 out-of-conference with this difficult of a schedule they put together this season.

BHJ Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Mount St. Mary’s – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 172; Kenpom avg.: 176

The Big Boys: at West Virginia 11/8, at Villanova 11/15, at Michigan State 11/29, at Penn State 12/22, at Texas Tech 12/30

Potential Gems: at BYU 11/15, Bucknell 11/26, Loyola (MD) 12/7

Scheduling Duds: at UMBC 11/17, at Maryland-Eastern Shore 11/19, Binghamton 12/4

My thoughts: Mount St. Mary’s will see what it is made of early with of a couple of heavyweights to start the year at WVU and at Villanova and then playing at BYU. Starting with five straight on the road will be tough. Bucknell and Loyola are easily their two best home non-conference opponents. Sandwiched in between four home games is a visit to Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team. That will be fun, at least early. Three more road games to finish their non-conference season with two more BCS schools to face in Penn State and Texas Tech. No doubt, the Mount OOC schedule is very difficult. Probably a little too difficult. There might be just too many tough games and nearly all of them are on the road. It’s going to be tough for me to see the Mount come out with more than three wins on the road. If they win all four home games they still can get above .500 at 7-6 going into NEC play. Anything above 7 non-conference wins will be outstanding for the Mount I feel.

BHJ Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Central Connecticut – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 209; Kenpom avg.: 195

The Big Boys: at Purdue 11/13, at Ohio State 12/7

Potential Gems: vs Yale 11/9, at Northeastern 11/16, Rider 11/23

Scheduling Duds: at Hofstra 12/15, Coastal Carolina 12/21, Albertus Magus 12/29, at Coastal Carolina 1/3

My thoughts: CCSU has a nice mix of non-conference games. They’ll face two Big Ten teams on the road in Purdue and Ohio State. There is some potential good wins out there for Howie Dickenman’s team with games at Northeastern and vs Yale at the Connecticut 6. A couple of negatives, they are playing two games against Coastal Carolina who had an RPI of 267 last season plus they’re playing Division III Albertus Magnus who is from their backyard in New Haven. They should get their fair share of Ws out this non-conference schedule. It will have its tough games but overall it shouldn’t be too difficult to navigate through.

BHJ Rating: 2.5 out of 5

St. Francis Brooklyn – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 176; Kenpom avg.: 169

The Big Boys: at Miami (FL) 11/8, at Syracuse 11/18

Potential Gems: at Dayton 11/16, at Stony Brook 12/1, Canisius 12/14

Scheduling Duds: at Coastal Carolina 11/23, Monmouth 12/10, Delaware State 12/30

My thoughts: St. Francis Brooklyn are no strangers to being road warriors in non-conference play. This season is no different. They start their year with nine straight games away from Brooklyn Heights. In that nine game road trip they face Miami (FL), Dayton, Syracuse at the Dome, a neutral game vs Oakland, and at Stony Brook. They will be lucky to see 2 or 3 wins to start the year. The schedule does eases up once they return back to Brooklyn with home games against Monmouth, NJIT, Delaware State and Columbia. They finish off the non-conference schedule with six straight home games. There are any NEC teams who can claim they have six home games out-of-conference much less play them all in a row. The six game home stand should provide the Terriers with the momentum they need to start off fast in the NEC.

BHJ Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Sacred Heart – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 195; Kenpom avg.: 189

The Big Boys: at Boston College 11/26, at UNLV 12/20

Potential Gems: vs Fairfield 11/9, at Fordham 11/23, at Lehigh 12/1, vs Florida Gulf Coast (possible) 12/23

Scheduling Duds: at Hofstra 12/4, Radford 12/22, Florida A&M (possible) 12/23

My thoughts: Sacred Heart will play 15 games on their non-conference schedule this season. They have a good game to start their year against Fairfield in the Connecticut 6. They will play 7 of their first 8 games away from home. They have some challenges in games at Yale, at Fordham, at Boston College and at Lehigh. Only three home non-conference games for new head coach Anthony Latina’s Pioneers will make it tough for them to see .500 once NEC play starts. After a short two-game home stand, they see the road again for the final six games of the non-conference season with a trip out west to Santa Clara and Las Vegas to play UNLV at the Continental Tires Las Vegas Classic. One potential fun game to watch is if they get a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast. It will either be Dunk City or Florida A&M so Pioneers and NEC fans really hope somehow SHU can get the FGCU instead of A&M. Overall, it is a lot of games which should get them ready for NEC action but I really don’t see too many wins coming from it. I think five wins might be asking a lot.

BHJ Rating: 3.5 out of 5

St. Francis (PA) – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 194; Kenpom avg.: 189

The Big Boys: None

Potential Gems: at Fordham 11/8, at Dayton 11/13, at Bucknell 11/16, at George Mason 11/19, Lehigh 12/4, at Denver 12/31

Scheduling Duds: Navy 11/11, at Colgate 11/23, American 11/30

My thoughts: It is an interesting non-conference schedule St. Francis (PA) put out this season. They won’t see any major opponents but will see plenty of strong high-level mid-majors on the road. Five of six on the road to start the season will be tough start for Rob Krimmel’s squad. Starting the year at an excited Fordham team this season will be a tall order for them. Playing at Dayton, at Bucknell, at George Mason will be a brutal three-game stretch for the Red Flash. They have a couple of good home opponents in Lehigh and Duquesne but overall it is a home schedule which isn’t too hard and can get some potential wins from. They are going to need those home wins because their road schedule is pretty difficult. Playing at Drexel and at Denver near the end of the non-conference season isn’t going to be too fun for them. I give them three wins at most from this non-conference schedule.

BHJ Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Fairleigh Dickinson – ’12-’13 non-conference Opponents’ RPI avg.: 183; Kenpom avg.: 163

The Big Boys: at Arizona 11/18, at Seton Hall 12/1, at Iowa 12/9

Potential Gems: at Stony Brook 12/4, at Princeton 12/7, vs Rhode Island (potential) 11/19

Scheduling Duds: Caldwell 11/8, at Hofstra 11/10, Saint Peter’s 11/23, Hofstra 1/5

My thoughts: I give FDU and new head coach Greg Herenda credit, they didn’t shy away from playing some good teams in year one. Playing games at Hartford, at Stony Brook, at Princeton plus a couple of guarantee games at Arizona and at Iowa proved they didn’t just schedule easy games which after the way last season ended went for FDU, would have been within their right to do. They are playing Hofstra twice this season who are rebuilding themselves. They are also playing Division II team Caldwell to start their season. Overall, the schedule is what it is from them. FDU isn’t expected to do much this season but if they can get some early wins or maybe a surprise win or two out-of-conference then NEC teams will have to play closer attention to them when they play FDU.

BHJ Rating: 3 out of 5

Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets also wrote a post today on the Top NEC Non-Conference for the 2013-14 season.

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  1. […] Nelson Castillo of Blackbird Hoops Journal recently rated each NEC team’s non-conference schedule. […]

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