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Pac-12 Basketball: Breaking Down Non-Conference Schedules

We take a deeper dive into what we can anticipate from each of the Pac-12 teams in the first two months of the season.

California v Virginia Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The data below does not include tournaments in which the matchups have yet to be decided. Only the first game of these tournaments that are already scheduled are included. Non-division 1 opponents were also not included.

Arizona

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 139.5
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 2
  • Total Win-Loss: 242-159
  • Resume Boosters: Michigan State, Gonzaga, New Mexico
  • Trap Games: UC Irvine

The opening matchup against Michigan State will be very telling of whether or not the Wildcats will be contenders or pretenders in the Pac-12 this season. A rematch with Gonzaga is also in the works. Arizona topped Gonzaga in a 68-63 thriller in Spokane last season. Watch out for UC Irvine. The Anteaters are one of the nation’s most underrated teams, and could provide a decent challenge at McKale Center.

Arizona State

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 138.2
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 3
  • Total Win-Loss: 205-163
  • Resume Boosters: Northern Iowa, Kentucky, Purdue, San Diego State, Creighton
  • Trap Games: UNLV

Bobby Hurley doesn’t mess around with his non-conference schedules. After a daunting slate last season, Hurley has followed up with four legitimate Sweet 16 candidates: Kentucky, Purdue, San Diego State and Creighton. The Sun Devils are expected to stumble on and off again in Hurley’s second season with the program, but at least the non-conference schedule should prepare his players for what’s ahead.

California

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 140.9
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 3
  • Total Win-Loss: 243-155
  • Resume Boosters: San Diego State, Virginia
  • Trap Games: South Dakota State, Princeton

This is a decent schedule by Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. There are key matchups in San Diego State and Virginia, and games against tournament hopefuls like South Dakota State, UC Irvine, Princeton and Seton Hall. Don’t expect a great RPI (at least in the non-conference) from the Golden Bears, but the schedule should provide for some resume boosters come March.

Colorado

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 164.4
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 2
  • Total Win-Loss: 204-164
  • Resume Boosters: Notre Dame, Xavier, BYU
  • Trap Games: Louisiana Monroe, Wofford, Eastern Washington

It’s a mixed bag for the Buffs - fresh off its fourth tournament appearance in five seasons under Tad Boyle. Facing Notre Dame on a neutral court in Brooklyn will give Boyle a tremendous opportunity to post a signature win on the resume. Xavier at home, however, will be the biggest game of the non-conference slate. There are some questionable matchups, including a number of potential trap games that could damage CU’s RPI. We’ll see if Colorado can weather the storm.

Oregon

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 108.1
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 2
  • Total Win-Loss: 188-115
  • Resume Boosters: Baylor, Valparaiso, Georgetown, Fresno State
  • Trap Games: Valparaiso

This is a fantastic schedule. Army aside, every other opponent on Oregon’s non-conference schedule should have no trouble finishing in the top 175 of KenPom rankings this season. Even some of the weaker opponents (Boise State, Montana, UNLV, Alabama) could make a legitimate run at a tournament bid on Selection Sunday. The Ducks found the right balance between games it can win and not damaging the RPI in the process.

Oregon State

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 198.3
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 0
  • Total Win-Loss: 187-206
  • Resume Boosters: Nevada
  • Trap Games: Tulsa, Long Beach State, Charlotte

Not a great schedule for the Beavers, who will learn what life is like without Gary Payton III this upcoming season. The top game on the schedule is a November road matchup at Nevada. The Wolf Pack are legitimate threats to win the Mountain West this season with a number of incoming transfers and returning talent. Four games against 300-level KenPom teams and a non-D-1 opponent will significantly hurt OSU’s RPI.

Stanford

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 111.1
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 3
  • Total Win-Loss: 203-98
  • Resume Boosters: Miami FL, Saint Mary’s, Kansas, SMU
  • Trap Games: Harvard, Colorado State

Stanford pumped out one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the conference this season. Included are Miami FL, Kansas and Saint Mary’s - all three should compete for the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Even the trap games (Harvard and Colorado State) provide an opportunity for Stanford to challenge itself before conference season. Jerod Haase will be tested in his first season with the Cardinal.

USC

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 169.6
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 2
  • Total Win-Loss: 215-201
  • Resume Boosters: BYU, Texas A&M, SMU
  • Trap Games: UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine

After losing Julian Jacobs, Katin Reinhardt, Nikola Jovanovic and Darion Clark all in one off-season, the expectations have simmered a bit for the Trojans. With that comes a non-conference schedule filled with more teams that are in a similar rebuilding state. However, if Bennie Boatwright and company do make a run for the field of 68 this season, it will have to win the headliner games against BYU, Texas A&M and SMU.

UCLA

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 156.2
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 1
  • Total Win-Loss: 176-184
  • Resume Boosters: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State
  • Trap Games: Long Beach State

Only one top 50 matchup and a compiled losing record for UCLA’s non-conference schedule this season. The Bruins should be able to cruise through the first two months of the season, with two exceptions being Kentucky and a potential matchup in the Wooden Legacy against Dayton. The expectations are sky-high for Bryce Alford and a top freshmen class, and UCLA should be able to stockpile a number of wins before league play begins.

Utah

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 209.6
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 2
  • Total Win-Loss: 121-132
  • Resume Boosters: Butler, Xavier
  • Trap Games: None

There’s no balance in Utah’s schedule whatsoever. The Utes play two teams that aren’t in D-1, and six other squads that finished 195th or worse in KenPom last season. Two Big East matchups (Butler and Xavier) will make or break the non-conference portion of Utah’s season. With losses in both of those games, the Utes could be in some serious trouble.

Washington

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 172.9
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 2
  • Total Win-Loss: 178-182
  • Resume Boosters: Yale, Gonzaga, Nevada
  • Trap Games: Long Beach State, TCU

Is this the final season of Lorenzo Romar’s length Washington tenure? The beloved UW grad has been the head man at Washington the last 14 seasons, but hasn’t reached the tournament since March of 2011. In just about any other P-5 program, Romar would be gone. The Huskies need to take advantage of the key games (Gonzaga, Nevada) on the schedule or Romar’s days in Seattle could be over.

Washington State

  • Average Opponent KenPom: 217.6
  • KenPom Top 50 Matchups: 1
  • Total Win-Loss: 128-158
  • Resume Boosters: Creighton, Kansas State
  • Trap Games: Idaho, Santa Clara

Another year, another forgettable basketball season in Pullman. The Cougars have won an average of 14.9 games since Tony Bennett took the Cougs to the Sweet 16 in 2008. The expectations are to stay out of the Pac-12 cellar this season, and with easily the worst schedule in the league, maybe WSU is capable of doing just that.