Lord Vader is no stranger to basketball.
Those are the words spoken by Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars when he gives the order to move the Death Star to Alderaan in order to destroy it. It is also clearly the attitude of the athletic department and head coach Buzz Williams regarding the non-conference scheduling for the 2011-12 season. Last year was Buzz's first year coaching players who were all his own recruits, and it resulted in a Sweet 16 appearance for the Golden Eagles. Now, in Buzz's first year with players that he had more than a few months to quickly assemble into a team, the men's basketball team is facing their stiffest early season tests since Buzz was hired.
I've taken the non-conference schedules for each of Buzz's first three seasons as well as this upcoming season and looked at the KenPom.com ratings for each team on the schedule at the end of the previous season. I elected to only look at games that were definitively scheduled at the start of the season, so games like last year's contest against Gonzaga have been left out. This allows me to not have to deal with the unknown quantity of this year's 2 games in the Paradise Jam, although our best case scenarios (Mississippi at 70 and Drexel at 92) would both be good enough for a top 4 difficulty game in any of Buzz's seasons, including this coming year.
In two cases, once each in Buzz's first two years, Marquette played a team that was in their first year as an NCAA D1 team, so I assigned them the value of one number higher than whatever Ken Pomeroy's worst ranked team was. This seemed like a fair way to assign the difficulty value of picking the least prepared team in all of D1 as a non-conference buy game opponent.
Join me after the jump for the season by season breakdown!
Lowest ranked team: Wisconsin (5)
Highest ranked team: Houston Baptist (342, one higher than KP's worst team)
Average of MU's 13 opponents: 178.6
Median Opponent Ranking: 185
Low: Xavier (20)
High: South Dakota (345, one higher than KP's worst team)
Average of MU's 10 opponents: 216
Median Opponent Ranking: 257
Low: Duke (1)
High: Mississippi Valley State (326 of 347 teams)
Average of MU's 12 opponents: 185.9
Median Opponent Ranking: 207
Low: Wisconsin (7)
High: Norfolk State (302 of 345 teams)
Average of MU's 11 opponents: 151.8
Median Opponent Ranking: 156
As you can see, this coming year's schedule has the best average ranking and best median ranking of any of Buzz's previous seasons. In addition, this is the season that has the smallest difference between the median and the average, showing that there's an evenly balanced schedule. It's worth pointing out that the only reason that Norfolk State is on the schedule is because that game is technically part of the Paradise Jam. If not for MU's obligation to take that game, the worst ranked team on the schedule would be season opener Mt. St. Mary's at 267.
Of course, past results do not guarantee future successes, but this scheduling clearly shows the confidence of Buzz, his staff, and the athletic department in general to test this year's team heading into the Big East schedule.
I'm looking forward to it.