I thought long and hard this week about how I might write the flip side of my schedule series. Last week I began with the college hoops teams facing the most challenging schedules, and today concludes the series with teams facing the easiest schedules. It’s important to strike the right tone, add the correct caveats and avoid hurting feelings, lest the mob of social media shall attack. That was my thinking.
Then I came to a realization: Do I want to call it like I see it or call it like I feel others would like it called so as not to ruffle feathers?
I prefer the former.
So, today, feelings be damned, I’m back to finish my schedule series with a look at five teams that notably face, ahem, soft(ish) schedules in the 2023-24 season. If you’re unfamiliar with this two-part series, a quick reminder before we jump in: This series is not based in metrics such as strength of schedule or how analytics websites project schedule difficulty. It is also tilted towards nonconference schedules with conference schedule difficulty playing only a minor role. Teams have a strong say in who they schedule out of conference — that is not the case in league play, so it’s important to account for that.
So, now that I’ve already broken my promise of no caveats, let’s move on and get into it.
Schedule thoughts: Cincinnati’s saving grace in its 2023-24 schedule is, of course, the obvious: the Bearcats will, for the first time ever, be playing as a member of the Big 12 after transitioning out of the American Athletic Conference. That doesn’t totally hide the ugly that is littered about its non-league schedule, though, highlighted by its nonconference finale on Dec. 29 vs. Evansville — a team ranked 332 at KenPom and projected to finish last in the MVC.
Schedule thoughts: Louisville lost to Division II Kentucky Wesleyan on Monday (!!!), so calling any part of its schedule easy feels a bit oxymoronic. I get it. But even as bad as that exhibition loss was, and even as bad as Louisville might be (again) this season, it’s still worth noting that its nonconference schedule might as well be pictured next to the word “cupcake” in the dictionary. The only games worth a watch will be vs. Texas on Nov. 19 in the Empire Classic and vs. Kentucky — part of an annual series with its rival — on Dec. 21. The majority of the games are snooze-fests. UMBC is picked to finish near the bottom of the America East and the Coppin State game on Nov. 15 means Louisville will face a team projected to be in contention for the fewest wins among all college hoops teams this season. Yuck!
Schedule thoughts: Not the ugliest schedule, but not the most challenging, either. Oregon opens its season on a neutral court Nov. 6 vs. Georgia in the Hall of Fame series before launching into four consecutive games against teams ranked 150 or lower in KenPom’s preseason metrics. There’s a good chance the Ducks go in to Pac-12 play at 10-0 depending on what happens vs. UGA in the opener and what happens vs. Michigan on Dec. 2. Don’t be fooled into thinking it means much if that happens. This schedule is laughably soft to open the year.
- vs. Le Moyne (Nov. 7)
- vs. Holy Cross (Nov. 11)
- vs. American (Nov. 19)
- vs. Merrimack (Nov. 29)
- vs. Coppin State (Dec. 12)
Schedule thoughts: First-year coach Ed Cooley has a lot to turn around at Georgetown, and he has ensured himself a soft start to his tenure with a schedule that should be fairly forgiving in his first season. Four of the team’s nonconference games are against teams ranked 331 or worse in KenPom’s preseason ratings, including an opening game vs. Le Moyne, which might be in contention with Coppin State (another team on the schedule!) as the worst team in the sport. Cooley gets a slight pass here, this being his first year and all, but this cake walk of a schedule at a historically proud program like Georgetown won’t fly moving forward.
Schedule thoughts: Tilts vs. Colorado State (Nov. 29) and Miami (Dec. 10) aren’t bad solo games, but the bulk of Colorado’s non-league schedule is not great! Outside those two, no opponent ranks top 100 at KenPom before conference play kicks up on Dec. 29. This Colorado team could surprise as a real threat given the talent Tad Boyle has brought back and brought in, but it doesn’t feel like we’ll learn much about this group until the start of 2024.