Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Taking a look at the Valley’s non-conference basketball schedules

If there’s one thing Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin hates to see, it’s a soft men’s basketball non-conference schedule.

Elgin is all about strengthening the Valley – it could use strengthening – and one of the key components of doing so is to bulk up the non-conference portion of the schedule.

Some MVC teams have been good about that. Others, not so much. And it’s the “not so much” that causes steam to come from Elgin’s ears.

For the past few seasons, Wichita State has been the dominant force in Missouri Valley Conference basketball and the Shockers will be an overwhelming favorite to win their third consecutive conference championship this season.

It’s difficult to see any losses for the Shockers in the Valley and that’s not an insult to the other nine teams. It’s simply reality.

And WSU has done a nice job with the non-conference portion of its schedule with road games against Tulsa, Saint Louis and Seton Hall, a tough tournament in Orlando in November and home games against UNLV, Utah (Intrust Bank Arena), Nevada and New Mexico State.

It’s not the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, but it’s definitely challenging.

How does it compare to the non-conference schedules of other Valley schools?

Well, let’s take a closer look and grade the non-conference schedules. The Valley is helped by its Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, revived this season.

Bradley

Ball State, at Arizona, Virginia (tournament), Long Beach/Seton Hall (tournament), George Mason/Oklahoma State/Ole Miss/Towson (tournament), New Orleans, Ole Miss, at Delaware, North Dakota, at Texas-Arlington, Maryville, at Boise State, TCU.

Grade: B-plus.

Highlight: Games against Virginia and Arizona are probably a bit much for a young, inexperienced Bradley team breaking in a new coach. But the Braves are to be commended for beefing up.

Lowlight: Maryville?

Drake

Simpson, at Tulane, UMKC, Western Kentucky (tournament), Central Michigan/Weber State (tournament), Murray State/Milwaukee/Pepperdine/Duquesne (tournament), Illinois-Chicago, at Bowling Green, DePaul, at Nevada, vs. Iowa in Des Moines, Abilene Christian.

Grade: C-minus.

Highlight: It’s always fun when the Iowa teams play one another so the game against the Hawkeyes at the Wells Fargo Center will be fun.

Lowlight: Simpson? Unless Homer is the mascot. This is a pretty “meh” schedule. But Drake is a pretty “meh” team.

Evansville

Southeast Missouri State, Marion (Ind.), Belmont, Providence (tournament), Santa Clara/Arizona (tournament), UC Irvine/Boise State/Boston College/Michigan State (tournament), Murray State, at Arkansas, Mississippi Valley State, Norfolk State, at Fresno State, Alabama A&M.

Grade: B-minus. Getting into the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Calif., is a big boost, but there’s no guarantee the Aces will play the big-name teams.

Highlight: The Wooden tournament is nice and so are road games against Arkansas and Fresno State. There’s not much for the home folks, though, except a game against Belmont.

Lowlight: The weak home schedule.

Illinois State

at San Diego State, Morehead State, South Dakota State, Houston Baptist, Maryland (tournament), Rhode Island/TCU (tournament), Quincy, at Kentucky, UAB, Murray State, at Illinois-Chicago, at St. Joseph’s, Tennessee State.

Grade: B-plus.

Highlight: Road games against San Diego State and Kentucky and a game against Maryland in the Cancun Challenge is tough, tough, tough.

Lowlight: Just not much for Redbirds fans to see in the home portion of the non-conference schedule.

Indiana State

DePauw, IUPUI, Wyoming, Norfolk State (tournament), Ohio/Tulsa (tournament), Hofstra/Florida State/DePaul/South Carolina (tournament), at Eastern Illinois, at Butler, Valparaiso, at Western Kentucky, Illinois-Springfield, at Saint Louis, Ball State.

Grade: C-minus.

Highlight: The Paradise Jam is pretty weak this season. I like the home game against Wyoming in the Mountain West Challenge and the road game against Butler, but this is pretty slim pickings.

Lowlight: Illinois would be nice. Illinois-Springfield not so much.

Loyola

UTSA, Eureka, at New Mexico, Toledo, San Diego (tournament), Toledo/San Jose State (tournament), Middle Tennessee/Alaska-Anchorage/ Drexel/UNC Asheville (tournament), Creighton, at Notre Dame, Cleveland State, Illinois-Chicago, Western Illinois.

Grade: C.

Highlight: Like a great mountain appearing from flat land, Creighton and Notre Dame rise up in the middle of a rather mundane schedule. Not bad. Not brad at all.

Lowlight: The Great Alaska Shootout, Loyola’s tournament, isn’t what it once was.

Missouri State

at ORU, Butler (tournament), Temple/Minnesota (tournament), Miami/Mississippi State/Utah/Texas Tech (tournament), William Woods, Utah State, at Oklahoma State, IUPUI, Tulsa, ORU, at Valparaiso, Southeast Missouri State.

Grade: C, but only because there’s a nice field in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Highlight: Butler in the first round in Puerto Rico. At Oklahoma State. Tulsa at home.

Lowlight: Two games against Oral Roberts? No, no, no.

Northern Iowa

Colorado State, Stephen F. Austin, North Carolina, Dubuque, at North Dakota, North Texas, at Richmond, at George Mason, at New Mexico, Iowa State in Des Moines, Hawaii (tournament), Oklahoma/Washington State (tournament), Auburn/New Mexico/BYU/Harvard (tournament).

Grade: A-plus.

Highlight: The Panthers have loaded up and have North Carolina visiting Cedar Falls on Nov. 21. The Panthers play one interesting game after another. Highlights abound.

Lowlight: Well, Dubuque probably won’t be ranked this season.

Southern Illinois

Air Force, Florida A&M, Kent State, Sam Houston State, Oakland, UTEP (tournament), Portland/Colorado State (tournament), Southeast Missouri State, at North Texas, SIU-Edwardsville, North Texas, at Murray State, at Saint Louis.

Grade: D-minus.

Highlight: Is there one?

Lowlight: The two games against North Texas. Two games against North Texas? Two games against anyone is just lazy scheduling.

Wichita State

Charleston Southern, at Tulsa, Emporia State, Southern California (tournament), Alabama/Xavier (tournament), Notre Dame/Monmouth/Iowa/Dayton (tournament), at Saint Louis, UNLV, Utah, at Seton Hall, Nevada, New Mexico State.

Grade: A.

Highlight: It’s just a good, solid, interesting non-conference schedule with challenging games throughout.

Lowlight: Emporia State, of course. But at least it’s in-state.

Thanks for reading.

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