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Every year, we take an in-depth look at each team’s non-conference schedules. This year, we’re looking at the key matchups for each team, as well as overall strength of schedule.

 

This year, we’re taking a bit of a different approach of our yearly schedule breakdowns, looking at a few key areas. Here’s our quick definition of two of those areas. The rest are self-descriptive:

  • Overall SOS: As in years past, the average RPI of all opponents, excluding non-Division I teams. The RPI is calculated using the official NCAA numbers.
  • Early Benchmark: We try to select a game that gives us a good preview of where a team stands. It’s a team that’s on a fairly even level to the individual team. A big win? It could mean good things. A big loss? It could spell trouble.

 

Austin Peay

Overall D-I SOS: 194.9 (6th hardest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Vanderbilt (88), at Indiana (63), home vs Wofford (49)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – November 21st vs Cal Poly (neutral court): The Mustangs were a sub .500 team a year ago in the Big West, but they return their top two scorers on a team that’s only saving grace offensively was their ability to hang onto the basketball. Neither team will likely have a lot of fans in Colorado, which makes it an even better test. It’s just the Governors’ fourth game of the year, but a win could signal a turnaround for a team with just two wins against teams in the RPI-top 200 last year.

Other Notes: The Governors go 24 days without a home game after the Governors host Samford on November 28th. Austin Peay also plays their first three, and three of their last four OVC games at home.

Full Schedule

 

Belmont

Overall D-I SOS: 148.0 (Hardest in the OVC)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Arizona State (90), at Evansville (82), at BYU (44), home-and-home with Valparaiso (57)

Non-Division I Opponents: One

Early Benchmark – November 13th at Marquette: Forget what you know about Marquette’s basketball history — the Golden Eagles finished behind Belmont and Eastern Kentucky last season in the RPI, after going 4-14 in the Big East under first year head coach Steve Wojciechowski. The team also graduated three seniors, including their leading scorer from last year. Simply put, the experienced Bruins open with a very winnable game on the road.

Other Notes: Your best early look at the Bruins will have to be on television: just one of Belmont’s first seven games is at the Curb. Bruins have an impressive home-and-home against Valparaiso.

Full Schedule

 

Eastern Illinois

Overall D-I SOS: 229.0 (3rd easiest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Indiana (63), home vs Green Bay (60)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – December 1st vs Indiana State: November is an interesting month for EIU: two games against top-75 RPI opposition, and two games against teams in the bottom 75. Indiana State is the one of the few non-conference opponents EIU faces with a similar profile. The Sycamores are coming off their first sub-500 season in the last six, and lost just one senior to graduation — odds are they’ll be better this year. The Panthers get them at home, and it’s a early peek into how competitive EIU could be in a wide-open West Division.

Other Notes: EIU will play four straight home games in November and early December before a 23-day break from Lantz Arena.

Full Schedule

 

 

Eastern Kentucky

Overall D-I SOS: 227.0 (4th easiest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Kentucky (3), at West Virginia (22)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – November 16th at UNC Wilmington: EKU doesn’t have a lot of teams on their schedule that fall near their 142nd ranked RPI from last year. In fact — there are only three within 100 either way. The first of those is a UNC Wilmington team that finished 18-14 last year, their first winning season in seven years, but is losing three starters. The Seahawks are more likely to take a step back than one forward, but it’s an interesting road test for a young EKU team with a new head coach.

Other Notes: EKU once again hosts the EKU Hoops classic, and will play three teams the finished last season in the bottom 50 RPI at home as a result. Five of EKU’s last seven conference games are on the road.

Full Schedule

 

Jacksonville State

Overall D-I SOS: 218.8 (8th hardest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Central Michigan (70), at Alabama (86)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – November 20th at Winthrop: Interestingly enough, the Virginia Tech team Jacksonville State plays two days previous to the Winthrop game had a lower RPI last season than Winthrop. But Winthrop, based on history, is more likely to be a mid-200 RPI type team at season’s end, especially after they graduated Keon Moore, who helped lead the Eagles to back-to-back winning seasons. It’s a true road game: last year, Jacksonville State was just 1-16 away from the Coliseum. They were 11-3 at home. If this team wants to take a step forward, they have to win on the road against a quality opponent. 

Other Notes: Depending on how the Emerald Classic draw goes, Jacksonville State could play Alabama State twice this season.

Full Schedule

 

Morehead State

Overall D-I SOS: 157.6 (2nd hardest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents:  at Illinois State (53), at Indiana (63), at Pittsburgh (78), at Eastern Washington (73), at Davidson (42), home vs Green Bay (60)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two 

Early Benchmark – November 16th at Illinois State: Morehead State plays just one team that finished between 100th and 200th in RPI last year — ETSU, their final non-conference game before OVC play. But Morehead State’s next step isn’t mid-conference, it’s an OVC title, so they have to prove they can win against top-100 RPI teams, like Illinois State. Last year, the Redbirds were trounced by Murray State, and beat UT Martin. They’ve been a top 130-RPI team the last four years straight — odds are, they’ll be good again this year. If Morehead kicks off the season with a win on the road, that’s something to be noticed.

Other Notes: Count them again — six games against RPI-top 100 teams, four of which are in “mid-major” conferences. They only get one at home, where the Eagles struggled last year. (Just 7-6 at Johnson Arena)

Full Schedule

 

Murray State

Overall D-I SOS: 183.2 (3rd hardest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Georgia (45), home vs Evansville (82), at Illinois State (53)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – December 13th at Illinois State: Illinois State is in a similar boat to Murray. They’ve lost Daishon Knight, who lit up Murray State for 26 points last year, but return much of the rest of the team. It’s later in their non-conference schedule, and ISU on the road could be a good indicator as to how well they’ll matchup against the top tier of the OVC.

Other Notes: The Racers SOS is especially fluid — they’ll play two of six possible teams as part of the Gulf Coast Showcase. I averaged the possibilities together to come up with a number. There’s no scheduled matchup with long-time rival Western Kentucky, but there’s a one-in-four chance they’ll play in the third game of that showcase.

Full Schedule

 

SIUE

Overall D-I SOS: 207.7 (7th hardest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Butler (30), home vs Green Bay (60)

Non-Division I Opponents: None

Early Benchmark – November 21st at IPFW: SIUE was atrocious on the road last year, going 1-13 away from the Vad Pad. One of the narrow losses? At IPFW. It will be the first road game for the teams first Division I coaching hire. Want to show things are different? Beat a IPFW team graduating their two top scorers from last year’s 16-15 squad.

Other Notes: The Cougars are the only OVC team not playing a non-Division I opponent in the regular season. In the “weird number facts” category, SIUE plays four teams in the 270th-279th RPI range last year: Arkansas State, St. Louis, SIU, and Grand Canyon.

Full Schedule

 

Southeast Missouri

Overall D-I SOS: 189.5 (5th hardest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Dayton (29), at Evansville (82), at Memphis (89), home vs Ole Miss (58)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – December 8th vs Bowling Green: The Redhawks schedule is polarizing to start: they travel to two really good programs, and then play four in the bottom 75 of the RPI. Bowling Green is coming off their first 20+ win season since 1996-97, but they’re losing a lot of their scoring from last year. Both teams are likely in a transition season, and the game in Cape Girardeau should give us a good view where the Redhawks stand.

Other Notes: SEMO plays the University of Texas at Rio Grand Valley this year, which last season was known at UT Pan-American. (Technically, UTPA combined with another non D-I school) I used UTPA’s RPI from last year for the SOS calculation. SEMO doesn’t play their first regular season home game until November 28th.

Full Schedule

 

Tennessee State

Overall D-I SOS: 252.3 (Easiest in the OVC)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Illinois State (53) 

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – November 13th at Loyola (MD): It’s year two for Dana Ford, and to be brutally honest, he can’t blame the schedule if the Tigers go winless again on the road. (Not that he would. He very much wouldn’t.) Loyola was one of the worst offensive teams in the nation last year, but they return almost everyone. It’s the first game of the year, but starting the season with a victory would go a long way in showing these aren’t the Tigers of the last two years.

Other Notes: TSU faces four teams in the bottom 30 of the RPI last year, including a home-and-home with Stetson. The Tigers go 23 days without a home game after hosting Lipscomb on December 17th

Full Schedule

 

Tennessee Tech

Overall D-I SOS: 185.6 (4th toughest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Arkansas (23), at Iowa (40)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – December 2nd vs ETSU: If Tennessee Tech is going to take a step up in conference, they have to be able to beat good teams at home. ETSU is coming off a 16-14 year, but they’ve finished above .500 14 of the last 15 seasons under head coach Murry Bartlow. They’ve got a new coach that spent time at Wichita State as an assistant, and I’d wager he’ll continue the success the Buccaneers are used to enjoying. It’s an in-state team that you get at home. You want to show you’re ready to get back into OVC title races? This could be a good sign.

Other Notes: Tennessee Tech plays three games in three days in late November, two as part of the Air Force Classic. Good preparation for the OVC tournament in March.

Full Schedule

 

 

UT Martin

Overall D-I SOS: 243.3 (2nd easiest)

Top-100 RPI Opponents: at Oklahoma State (56)

Non-Division I Opponents: Two

Early Benchmark – November 20th vs Oral Roberts (in Virginia): UT Martin has a good chance to compete in a wide-open West Division. Oral Roberts, on a neutral court, is possibly the best indicator on a weak non-conference schedule whether the Skyhawks can take that step; The Golden Eagles haven’t had a losing season since 2000-01.

Other Notes: UTM plays the University of Texas at Rio Grand Valley this year, which last season was known at UT Pan-American. (Technically, UTPA combined with another non D-I school) I used UTPA’s RPI from last year for the SOS calculation. Nine of UTM’s first 11 games will be played either on the road or on a neutral site.

Full Schedule

 


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OVC Ball
Predicting the OVC race…in mid-December

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVCOverall

EAST

Belmont8-014-4
Morehead State6-310-12
Tennessee Tech5-39-14
Jacksonville State5-413-11
Tennessee State4-413-8
Eastern Kentucky2-69-14

WEST

UT Martin5-315-8
Murray State5-311-11
SEMO5-310-13
Austin Peay3-57-15
Eastern Illinois1-79-12
SIUE0-85-17
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