Toughest college basketball schedules 2021-22: Alabama, UNC, Gonzaga face difficult nonconference slates

The countdown to varsity basketball season goes by rapidly as groups start taking the courtroom this weekend for exhibition video games in anticipation of opening day on Nov. 9. For some packages, the sense of urgency to organize could also be significantly robust due to what awaits within the opening weeks of the season. Whereas some packages have opted for nonconference schedules composed largely of cupcake opponents — we’ll cowl these subsequent week — others are making ready for early-season gauntlets.

There could be a large payoff for taking part in a difficult nonconference schedule, because it presents groups an opportunity to solidify their NCAA Tournament resumes earlier than league play ever begins. However a troublesome schedule brings the chance of amassing losses and being embarrassed in a primetime slot.

So who’s enjoying the hardest nonconference in faculty basketball this season? After surveying each schedule within the sport’s prime conferences together with these of different nationwide contenders, 5 emerged as the very best. It is an inexact science, as a result of the opponents for some groups might be decided how the brackets shake out in early-season tournaments. However for now, here is a rating of the hardest 5 nonconference schedules.

The preseason AP Top 25 rankings are used if relevant with Matt Norlander’s No. 1-358 rankings used for all others.

Nov. 9: vs. Louisiana Tech — 76
Nov. 12: vs. South Dakota State — 107
Nov. 16: vs. South Alabama — 175
Nov. 19 vs. Oakland — 225
Nov. 25: Iona (impartial) — 139
Nov. 27: Belmont/Drake (impartial) 38/72
Nov. 28: TBA in ESPN Occasions Invitational (doubtlessly No. 3 Kansas)
Dec. 4: at No. 1 Gonzaga (Seattle)
Dec. 11: vs. No. 15 Houston
Dec. 14: at No. 12 Memphis
Dec. 18: vs. Jacksonville State — 23
Dec. 21: vs. Colorado State — 32
Jan. 29: vs. No. 8 Baylor

The Crimson Tide play three of final season’s Remaining 4 groups in Gonzaga, Houston and Baylor. Additionally they face No. 12 Memphis on the highway. If issues break as anticipated within the ESPN Occasions Invitational, the Crimson Tide may additionally play No. 3 Kansas. A gathering with the Jayhawks would imply this workforce finally ends up enjoying 5 of the highest 15 from the preseason AP High 25. That is a loopy slate. Even the Crimson Tide’s “simple” nonconference video games are towards respectable foes comparable to Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, South Dakota State and Iona.

Nov. 5: vs. Loyola (MD) — 207
Nov. 12: vs. Brown — 156
Nov. 16: at Charleston — 253
Nov. 20: No. 7 Purdue (impartial)
Nov. 21: No. 4 Villanova OR No. 18 Tennessee (impartial)
Nov. 23: vs. UNC Asheville — 226
Dec. 1: vs. No. 6 Michigan
Dec. 11: vs. Elon — 209
Dec. 14: vs. Furman — 97
Dec. 18: vs. No. 2 UCLA (impartial)
Dec. 21: vs. Appalachian State — 142

There are many cupcakes on North Carolina’s schedule, because the Tar Heels begin out with 4 video games towards groups ranked No. 150 or decrease in Matt Norlander’s preseason 1-358 rating. However when it ramps up, it actually ramps up for the Tar Heels. They’re assured two video games towards preseason top-20 groups within the Air Force Reserve Corridor of Fame Tip-Off, which ranks as our No. 1 early-season match. The primary one is towards No. 7 Purdue, after which they’ll play both No. 4 Villanova or No. 18 Tennessee the next day. Then, in December, UNC performs No. 6 Michigan within the ACC/Large Ten Problem on Dec. 1 and UCLA within the CBS Sports activities Basic on Dec. 18. All informed, the Tar Heels may find yourself enjoying 4 of the preseason prime 10 groups.

3. Gonzaga

Nov. 9: vs. Dixie State — 283
Nov. 13: vs. No. 5 Texas
Nov. 15: vs. Alcorn State — 355
Nov. 19: vs. Bellarmine — 198
Nov. 22: vs. Central Michigan (impartial) — 204
Nov. 23: vs. No. 2 UCLA (impartial)
Nov. 26: vs. No. 9 Duke (impartial)
Nov. 29: vs. Tarleton State — 242
Dec. 4: vs. No. 14 Alabama (Seattle)
Dec. 9: vs. Merrimack — 248
Dec. 12: vs. Washington — 94
Dec. 18: vs. Texas Tech (impartial) — 40

The Bulldogs have little selection however to play a difficult non convention slate in order that they’ll construct a strong NCAA Match resume and get a style of high-level competitors earlier than cruising by way of the comparatively simple West Coast Convention. This yr’s non convention schedule is especially robust, with 4 video games scheduled towards preseason top-15 groups (No. 2 UCLA, No. 5 Texas, No. 9 Duke and No. 14 Alabama). Gonzaga will even play Washington and Texas Tech.

4. Villanova

Nov. 9: vs. Mount St. Mary’s — 221
Nov. 12: at No. 2 UCLA
Nov. 16: vs. Howard — 342
Nov. 20: No. 18 Tennessee (impartial)
Nov. 21: No. 7 Purdue OR North Carolina — 20
Nov. 28: at La Salle — 229
Dec. 1:  at Penn — 202
Dec. 4: vs. St. Joseph’s — 200
Dec. 7: Syracuse (impartial) — 46
Dec. 12: at No. 8 Baylor
Dec. 29: vs. Temple — 137

The No. 4 Wildcats play at No. 2 UCLA on Nov. 12 of their second sport of the season. Eight days later, they are going to be taking up No. 20 Tennessee within the Air Drive Reserve Corridor of Fame Tip-Off. The next day, they’ll face both No. 7 Purdue or North Carolina. December brings a neutral-site sport with Syracuse and a highway sport towards defending nationwide champion Baylor. There are many simple wins included into Villanova’s non convention schedule, however the large video games are actually large.

Nov. 14: vs. Yale — 88
Nov. 16: at No. 6 Michigan
Nov. 22: vs. No. 17 Ohio State (impartial)
Nov. 24: vs. Cal OR Florida (impartial) — 119/35
Nov. 28: vs. Bethune Cookman — 352
Dec. 1: vs. Wagner — 240
Dec. 4: vs. Nyack — (DII)
Dec. 9: vs. No. 5 Texas
Dec. 12: vs. Rutgers — 39
Dec. 18: Iona (impartial) — 139

This schedule stands out as robust not solely due to who’s on it but additionally due to who’s enjoying it. The Pirates completed 14-13 final season and missed out on the NCAA Match. This yr, they’re changing main scorer and co-Large East Participant of the Yr Sandro Mamukelashvili and are picked to complete fifth within the Large East. Going through No. 5 Texas, No. 6 Michigan and No. 17 Ohio State together with Rutgers will not be simple. Throw in a possible sport with Florida after the Ohio State sport within the Fort Myers Tip-Off together with a contest towards Iona, a 2021 NCAA Match workforce, and also you get some robust assessments for the Pirates.

Honorable mentions

The groups thought-about for the rankings had been taken from the AP High 25 and faculty basketball’s energy conferences. However there are many different packages enjoying significantly robust schedules. Listed below are a few robust schedules from mid-majors.


Key video games

Nov. 9: at No. 7 Purdue
Nov. 17: at Saint Mary’s — 56
Nov. 19: at No. 1 Gonzaga
Nov. 22: vs. No. 2 UCLA (impartial)
Nov. 30: at West Virginia — 45

After going 14-8 throughout its first season in Division I, Bellarmine of the ASUN is loading up on robust video games. The Knights play three groups within the preseason AP prime 10 and 5 whole video games towards top-60 foes earlier than convention play ramps up. Contemplating that Bellarmine’s first-ever sport as a Division I workforce was performed at Duke final season, it is apparent this program has little concern.

Alabama State

Key video games

Nov. 9: at Western Kentucky — 85
Nov. 10: at Vanderbilt — 102
Nov. 16: at Iowa State — 148
Nov. 18: at Iowa — 59
Dec. 1: at Dayton — 71
Dec. 15: at No. 2 UCLA
Dec. 21: at No. 12 Memphis
Dec. 28: at Texas Tech — 40

Each workforce within the SWAC hundreds up on highway video games towards larger names for monetary functions, and issues are not any totally different for Alabama State. What does stick in regards to the Hornets’ schedule, although, is the presence of video games at UCLA and Memphis. In whole, Alabama State, coached by former NBA star Mo Williams, will play eight highway video games towards groups which might be both in an influence convention or Norlander’s preseason prime 100. | Hardest faculty basketball schedules 2021-22: Alabama, UNC, Gonzaga face tough nonconference slates


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