Big Ten Basketball: Ranking the Non-Conference Schedules

Ryan CuriFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2012

Big Ten Basketball: Ranking the Non-Conference Schedules

0 of 12

    The Big Ten Conference schedule was announced recently, which I highlighted in this article. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, I think it's worth looking at each Big Ten team's non-conference schedule.

    While I do love watching two Big Ten teams hit the hardwood more than anything else, I also enjoy getting a look at each team prior to conference play. Preseason tournaments are the best way to accomplish this, which nearly every team enters into.

    A team cannot build a resume solely off non-conference wins, but it does help. At the same time, if you lose some games that you're not supposed to prior to Big Ten play, you run the risk of needing more conference wins to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

    I based my rankings off the quality of opponents each of the 12 Big Ten teams will be facing off with, but maybe more importantly is where the games will be played. Home court, on the road or at a neutral site make a huge difference in sports, college basketball in particular, so I made a point to include that here.

12. Nebraska Cornhuskers

1 of 12

    vs. Southern

    vs. Valparaiso

    vs. Nebraska-Omaha

    vs. Tulane

    vs. Kent State

    @ Wake Forest

    vs. USC 

    vs. Creighton

    @ Oregon

    vs. Jacksonville State

    vs. Central Michigan (El Paso)

    vs. UTEP/Arkansas Pine Bluff (El Paso)

    vs. Nicholls State

    The Cornhusker's toughest tests of the non-conference season will be a road game at Oregon, along with a home game against an in-state opponent of Creighton. Wake Forest and USC are the only other two power-conference opponents on the schedule.

    With an extremely young team, it may be in coach Tim Miles' best interest to have a relatively easy out of conference schedule as this team is sure to take its lumps during conference play. Finishing over .500 in these 13 games would be a good start for Miles.

11. Iowa Hawkeyes

2 of 12

    vs. Texas Pan-American

    vs. Central Michigan

    vs. Howard

    vs. Gardner-Webb

    vs. Western Kentucky (Cancun)

    vs. DePaul/Wichita State (Cancun)

    @ Virginia Tech

    vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi

    vs. South Dakota

    vs. Iowa State

    vs. UNI (Des Moines)

    vs. South Carolina State

    vs. Coppin State

    Iowa has the luxury of playing an easy non-conference schedule once again, although they weren't able to take advantage a year ago which may have cost them a chance at the NCAA Tournament. Facing off with in-state rival Iowa State should be the highlight of their non-conference season.

    Other games of interest listed here are at Virginia Tech, playing Northern Iowa in a neutral court setting and taking on either DePaul or Wichita State in Cancun. Expect this year's team to play better prior to Big Ten play, giving them an outside shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament. 

10. Penn State Nittany Lions

3 of 12

    vs. St. Francis (PA)

    vs. North Carolina State (San Juan)

    vs. Providence/UMASS (San Juan)

    vs. TBD (San Juan)

    vs. Bucknell

    vs. Boston College

    vs. Penn

    @ La Salle

    vs. Army

    vs. Delaware State

    vs. New Hampshire

    vs. Duquesne

    Other than a trip to San Juan, Penn State would boast the easiest pre-Big Ten play schedule of any team in the conference. They will face off with a preseason Top-10 team in North Carolina State the first day, before likely playing UMass on day two.

    Day three's most likely opponents are UNC-Asheville or Oklahoma State, so grabbing a win or two in San Juan would be a nice step forward for the Nittany Lions. They host Boston College in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, whom they beat last season on the road.

9. Purdue Boilermakers

4 of 12

    vs. TBD

    vs. TBD

    vs. Villanova (New York)

    vs. Alabama/Oregon State (New York)

    vs. UNC-Wilmington

    @ Clemson

    vs. Xavier

    vs. Lamar

    @ Eastern Michigan

    vs. Notre Dame (Indianapolis)

    vs. Ball State

    vs. William & Mary

    The Boilermakers have a handful of tough games on their non-conference schedule, although none come against teams that are unbeatable. The highlight of this list comes against Notre Dame in Indianapolis, the same place where Purdue blew a big lead against Butler last year in the same event.

    A road game at Clemson, home game against Xavier and neutral site games against Villanova and either Alabama or Oregon State help make up a respectable, yet very winnable non-conference schedule for this young Purdue team.

8. Northwestern Wildcats

5 of 12

    vs. Texas Southern

    vs. Mississippi Valley State

    vs. Fairleigh Dickinson

    vs. Delaware State

    vs. TCU (South Padre)

    vs. UAB/Illinois State (South Padre)

    vs. Maryland

    vs. UIC

    @ Baylor

    vs. Butler

    vs. Texas State

    vs. Stanford

    vs. Brown

    Despite having the easiest Big Ten conference schedule, the Wildcats do not have the easiest non-conference one. A road game in Waco against Baylor is the obvious tough game on the schedule, although the South Padre trip will be no cake walk either.

    Home games against Maryland, Butler and Stanford help give this non-conference slate some legitimacy. The Wildcats have played well prior to Big Ten play the last few years, although it's yet to translate into an NCAA Tournament berth. Hopefully, this year will be different.

7. Indiana Hoosiers

6 of 12

    vs. Bryant

    vs. North Dakota State

    vs. Sam Houston State

    vs. Georgia (Brooklyn)

    vs. UCLA/Georgetown (Brooklyn)

    vs. Ball State

    vs. North Carolina

    vs. Coppin State

    vs. Central Connecticut State

    vs. Butler (Indianapolis)

    vs. Mount Saint Mary

    vs. Florida Atlantic

    vs. Jacksonville

    While the Hoosiers will likely take on both UCLA and North Carolina during their non-conference schedule, not playing a true road game prior to Big Ten play really puzzles me especially for a team that only went 3-6 on the road in league play last year.

    Playing Butler in Indianapolis should also be a challenge, but I'm not so sure the potential top-ranked team in the nation will be battle tested enough before league play tips off in late December. UCLA vs. Indiana could be one of the more hotly-contested, out-of-conference games.

6. Michigan State Spartans

7 of 12

    vs. Connecticut (Germany)

    vs. Kansas (Atlanta)

    vs. Texas Southern

    vs. Boise State

    vs. Oakland

    vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

    @ Miami

    vs. Nicholls State

    vs. Arkansas Pine-Bluff

    vs. Loyola (Chicago)

    vs. Tuskegee

    @ Bowling Green

    vs. Texas

    Michigan State has been known for their tough out of conference schedules during Tom Izzo's tenure, but this year's lacks the beef that it has had in year's past. While playing Connecticut in Germany will be a neat experience for the Spartans, it probably won't end up being a quality win by year's end.

    Facing off with Kansas in Atlanta, however, will be a challenge, as well as taking on an improved Miami team on the road. Their non-conference season ends with a home game against Texas, one that MSU should win.

5. Wisconsin Badgers

8 of 12

    vs. Southeastern Louisiana

    @ Florida

    vs. Cornell

    vs. Presbyterian

    vs. Creighton (Las Vegas)

    vs. Arizona State/Arkansas (Las Vegas)

    vs. Virginia

    vs. California

    vs. Nebraska-Omaha

    @ Marquette

    vs. Green Bay

    vs. Milwaukee

    vs. Samford

    The Badgers' two toughest games listed above come on the road, at Florida and Marquette. The Badgers fell to Marquette in 2011, so they will be looking for revenge this December in Milwaukee. Other than those two games and a trip to Las Vegas, the Badgers will stay local.

    In Las Vegas, Wisconsin will match up with a tough Creighton squad, followed by either Arizona State or Arkansas. Virginia and California will also await UW upon their arrival back to Madison, where Bo Ryan's team rarely loses.

4. Michigan Wolverines

9 of 12

    vs. Slippery Rock

    vs. Oakland

    vs. Cleveland State/Bowling Green

    vs. TBD (New York City)

    vs. TBD (New York City)

    vs. North Carolina State

    @ Bradley

    vs. Western Michigan

    vs. Arkansas

    vs. Binghamton

    vs. West Virginia (Brooklyn)

    vs. Eastern Michigan

    vs. Central Michigan

    Michigan's young team should ease into this season rather easily, although a trip to New York at the beginning of the year should be eye opening. Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Virginia are the other teams participating, so two wins there would be a huge confidence boost.

    It doesn't get any easier from there as the Wolverines then host highly-touted North Carolina State. A home game against Arkansas, whom they lost to in 2012, and a neutral-site game against West Virginia top off their non-conference slate. Michigan's only road game comes against Bradley.

3. Minnesota Golden Gophers

10 of 12

    vs. American

    vs. Toledo

    vs. Tennessee State

    vs. Duke (Bahamas)

    vs. Memphis/VCU (Bahamas)

    vs. TBD (Bahamas)

    @ Florida State

    vs. North Florida

    @ USC

    vs. North Dakota State

    vs. Lafayette

    An early season trip to the Bahamas in the Battle 4 Atlantis will help show whether this year's Golden Gopher squad is for real. Tubby Smith's team opens against Duke, followed by Memphis or VCU, and will play either Missouri, Stanford, Louisville or Northern Iowa to close this deep and talented tournament.

    The Gophers then head to Florida State in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and also take on USC on the road. I believe that the quality of opponents, as well as playing every tough game on the road or neutral site, will help prepare this team to perform well come league play.

2. Illinois Fighting Illini

11 of 12

    vs. Colgate 

    vs. St. Francis (NY)

    @ Hawaii

    vs. USC (Maui)

    vs. Texas/Chaminde (Maui)

    vs. TBD (Maui)

    vs. Gardner-Webb

    vs. Georgia Tech

    vs. Western Carolina

    @ Gonzaga

    vs. Norfolk State

    vs. Eastern Kentucky

    vs. Missouri (St. Louis)

    vs. Auburn (Chicago)

    Illinois will take part in probably the most heralded preseason tournament, that being the Maui Invitational. Although this year's field may be down from a typical year, Illinois will get the chance to play USC, Texas and either Marquette, Butler, or North Carolina.

    The Illini have a chance to extend their Big Ten-ACC Challenge win streak by hosting Georgia Tech and then head to Spokane to face Gonzaga. Their non-conference slate ends with two neutral site games, against Missouri and Auburn. Illinois has lost three straight games to Missouri and three straight games at the United Center.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

12 of 12

    vs. Marquette (South Carolina)

    vs. Albany

    vs. Rhode Island (Connecticut)

    vs. Washington/Seton Hall (Connecticut)

    vs. Missouri-Kansas City

    @ Duke

    vs. Northern Kentucky

    vs. Long Beach State

    vs. Savannah State

    vs. UNC Asheville

    vs. Winthrop

    vs. Kansas

    vs. Chicago State

    Ohio State has three major tests during their non-conference schedule: vs. Marquette, at Duke and against Kansas. Long Beach State could also be thrown into that mix, along with Washington if the two teams end up clashing.

    Ohio State lost to Kansas twice last season, including during the Final Four, so they'd love nothing more than to get payback. On the reverse, Ohio State annihilated Duke last season in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, so the Blue Devils will look to get even.