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Michigan's Non-Conference Schedule Strong, Has Faults

Michigan Basketball released their 2014-15 non-conference schedule today, giving us an opportunity to talk some college basketball in July. Here’s the slate, from MGoBlue:

Monday, Nov. 10 WAYNE STATE (Exhibition)
Monday, Nov. 17 TBD
Thursday, Nov. 20 TBD
Monday, Nov. 24 vs. VCU or Oregon
Tuesday, Nov. 25 vs. Villanova
Saturday, Nov. 29 NICHOLLS STATE
Tuesday, Dec. 2 SYRACUSE
Saturday, Dec. 13 at Arizona
Saturday, Dec. 20 SMU
Monday, Dec. 22 COPPIN STATE

The immediate takeaway from Michigan’s schedule is the big names.  John Beilein’s crew will be playing either VCU or Oregon, and Villanova at the Barclays Center, as a part of the Progressive Legends Classic, a home-game with Syracuse in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and a match-up at Arizona.  These will be fun games for fans who want to see the Wolverines against strong competition early in the season. The most intriguing of those high-profile games is likely the Arizona game, as it will be Michigan’s first true road game and the only one before Big Ten play.  These four games should will give Michigan opportunities at the type of marquee wins that look real good in March.  They’ll also boost Michigan’s strength of schedule and their RPI, two important metrics for NCAA Tournament selection.

However, this schedule is a double-edged sword in regards to Michigan’s SOS and RPI.  While games against the likes of Arizona and Syracuse (likely highly rated teams) help Michigan, scheduling such low-profile schools like Hillsdale College, NJIT, Coppin State and Nicholls State hurt.  All four of those teams finished outside of the top 290 in Kenpom’s end of year team rankings, which is very low, even for a cupcake-level opponent.  For some context on that, both Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan, typical Michigan non-conference opponents finished in the top 140. And it’s not like these teams present a significantly easier matchup for Michigan, as they would roll most teams in the 100-200 range on these rankings. Therefore, there’s little benefit from scheduling such weak teams, and there will be some significant cost to Michigan in their SOS and RPI.

So, there will be some challenges and some clobberings for Michigan. They will have legitimate shots to score 100+ points against some of these incredibly obscure opponents, while there will also be some potential struggles against the few elite teams Michigan has scheduled.  While it is true that how Michigan does in conference play will be the biggest factor in how strong their regular season is, the non-conference schedule gives them the chance to improve and gel, test themselves against some strong teams and have some momentum going into the cauldron of Big Ten basketball.

It should be fun.

You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter @alexdalecfb

Tags: Football Michigan Football Michigan Wolverines

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