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How Does Marquette’s Non-Conference Schedule Compare To The Rest Of The Big East?

We always look at previous Marquette seasons, but how do the Golden Eagles compare to their league?

NCAA Basketball: Butler at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, after Marquette announces the entirety of their non-conference men’s basketball schedule, we take a moment to compare it to the schedules of the recent past. You might remember our breakdown on the 2017-18 MU schedule from back in July. It included the following sentence as written by me, a noted anti-sub-300 scheduling crank: “You can make an argument for the 2017-18 non-conference schedule as the best that we’ve seen in nearly a decade.”

So with that in mind, it seemed like a good idea to compare Marquette’s really great non-conference schedule to the rest of the teams in the Big East.

Key words: “seemed like.”

See, Georgetown decided to be a big bag of jerks and wait until the Big East conference schedule was released to announce their non-conference slate. And thus, an article that was officially started 89 days ago (shoutout to the SB Nation editor’s version history function) is finally brought to realization because the Hoyas decided to get off their can and do something that resembles producing a winning basketball team. More on their failures in that regard later.

We’re using the same system of assessment of everyone’s schedules that we used for Marquette. Take the schedule and look at each opponent’s final KenPom ranking from last season. It’s not a perfect predictor of next season’s results, but it’s close enough to get an idea of how things are going to go. We leave out any games that aren’t officially decided, for example Marquette’s second and third games in Maui. Might play Wichita State, might play Cal. We don’t know for sure, so that game just gets ignored here.

From there, we find the best opponent (the Low) and the worst opponent (the High). We find the average of every known opponent, as well as the median opponent ranking. As a reminder: Median is the exact middle. Just as many teams above as there are below that point. If you play teams 1, 2, 3, 4, and 351, your median is 3, but your average is 72.2.

As an example for you to compare each one, here’s Marquette’s breakdown for 2017-18:

Low: Purdue (19)
High: Chicago State (335 out of 351)
Average of MU’s 10 opponents: 148.8
Median Opponent Ranking: 134

And so, with that in mind, here’s the breakdowns for the other nine teams in the Big East, going in alphabetical order....

Butler Bulldogs

Low: Purdue (19)
High: Western Illinois (297 out of 351)
Average of BU’s 11 opponents: 150.4
Median Opponent Ranking: 106

Creighton Bluejays

Low: Gonzaga (1)
High: Maryland Eastern Shore (321 out of 351)
Average of CU’s 11 opponents: 170.8
Median Opponent Ranking: 159.5

DePaul Blue Demons

Low: Notre Dame (27)
High: Alabama A&M (351 out of 351)
Average of DPU’s 10 opponents: 200.1
Median Opponent Ranking: 258.5

Georgetown Hoyas

Low: Syracuse (55)
High: Alabama A&M (351 out of 351)
Average of GU’s 11 opponents: 271.8
Median Opponent Ranking: 321

Providence Friars

Low: Rhode Island (34)
High: Sacred Heart (301 out of 351)
Average of PC’s 12 opponents: 160
Median Opponent Ranking: 168

St. John’s Red Storm

Low: Duke (14)
High: Central Connecticut (341 out of 351)
Average of SJU’s 10 opponents: 178.2
Median Opponent Ranking: 165

Seton Hall Pirates

Low: Louisville (9)
High: Manhattan (287 out of 351)
Average of SHU’s 12 opponents: 131.2
Median Opponent Ranking: 88

Villanova Wildcats

Low: Gonzaga (1)
High: Lafayette (330 out of 351)
Average of VU’s 11 opponents: 177.7
Median Opponent Ranking: 177

Xavier Musketeers

Low: Baylor (13)
High: Hampton (310 out of 351)
Average of XU’s 11 opponents: 125.1
Median Opponent Ranking: 141

First things first.

Let’s talk about the Georgetown schedule.

It’s bad. It’s really bad. Look at that median. There are just as many teams ranked above THREE HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE in the 2016-17 KenPom chart as there are BELOW IT. They have FIVE SUB-321 TEAMS on their schedule. FIVE. CINCO.

The only team in KenPom history to schedule WORSE than Georgetown was 2004-05 Baylor. That was Scott Drew’s second season after taking over from Dave Bliss. In 2005-06, Baylor didn’t even PLAY non-conference games as part of their punishment for the reason that got Dave Bliss fired. In other words: Georgetown assembled the worst schedule in the KenPom era that wasn’t assembled by a team that was digging its way out from underneath the former head coach trying to cover up the murder of a player by another player.

THINK ABOUT THAT.

We should probably talk about Seton Hall’s schedule. They don’t have the best KenPom average amongst the nine, that honor belongs to Xavier. However, the median of 88 is by far the best median, edging out Butler’s 106. Indiana, Rhode Island, Texas Tech, Louisville, and VCU are all on the schedule, Rutgers wasn’t a complete laughing stock last year, and they still have a game against either Vanderbilt or Virginia on the slate that’s not being factored in there. That’s a really strong schedule for a team that’s built to go places this season. I suppose that we should probably keep an eye on Louisville, though. Given the current state of affairs in the Commonwealth, it’s 50/50 as to whether or not that the Cardinals manage to hold things together this season.

Butler’s schedule is fascinating to me, although I suspect that most of it was set in stone long before LaVall Jordan was hired to replace Chris Holtmann. It might be a little tougher schedule than you’d want for a coach in his first season, but because of the late change at the top, they probably didn’t have much of a choice. Because of the “leaving undecided games out” thing, this calculation doesn’t factor in their PK80 second round game against either Duke or Portland State, nor their third round game against one of Florida, Stanford, Ohio State (!), or Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are going to get battle tested pretty quickly, so we’ll see how they respond to that.

For the most part, everyone else’s schedules fall into the category of “yep, that’s a schedule all right.” I’m pretty impressed with Villanova’s ability to create a schedule where the average and the median are so similar. DePaul’s schedule is largely junk that’s going to get completely ignored due to the fact that Georgetown may be openly attempting to submarine the entire Big East’s RPI with their slate.

Anything jump out at you in these numbers? That’s what the comments section is for.