Every school in the NEC has officially announced its 2016-17 non-conference schedule, so, like we did with the MAAC two weeks ago, let’s hand out some scheduling awards.
Once again, at the mid-major level different schools have wildly different scheduling philosophies. Quite honestly, that’s okay. There’s a near-zero chance of earning an at-large bid in the NEC, so however you want to fill the schedule is fine by me. As you’ll see below there were some wildly different choices.
Toughest Schedule: Mount St. Mary’s
Both Andy Toole at Robert Morris and Jamion Christian at MSM believe in challenging their teams during non-conference play. The Colonials’ opponents had an average KenPom rating of 149 last season, while the Mount’s are right behind at 163. One reason MSM’s slate might be a little bit harder is that Christian’s team won’t play a home game until Dec. 7 versus UMBC. An absolutely brutal nine-game road trip to start the season could leave the Mount winless through the first month of the season. RMU’s schedule is tough, but it starts at home against Penn and includes a few neutral site games (and “home” games at the Consol Energy Center).
Notables: Robert Morris, Fairleigh Dickinson, Saint Francis U.
Easiest Schedule: LIU Brooklyn
The Blackbirds seem more interested in earning some wins and easing whoever is in their new backcourt into the season. LIU will play six teams that finished 250th or worse in KenPom. The schedule overall has an average opponent rating of 260, and that doesn’t even include the season opener against John Jay. Yes, St. John’s and Minnesota should be better, but the rest of the schedule is filled with winnable games and opportunities to show off the Barclays Center. It’s interesting that RMU used the Consol Energy Center to schedule games against Duquesne and Buffalo, whereas LIU will play Loyola (MD) and Niagara in Brooklyn.
Notables: Central Connecticut, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn
Looking For Wins: LIU Brooklyn
Jack Perri probably hopes that what comes from the easy schedule is a bunch of wins. The Blackbirds have an outside shot at being above .500 when NEC play kicks off. Considering most NEC teams will be five or more games under .500 by that point, that’d be a good start.
You Missed A Spot: Wagner
The Seahawks currently have 10 non-conference games on the schedule. It’s a really light slate. And only nine of those games will count for RPI purposes, because the last game of the non-conference schedule is on Dec. 22 against the College of Staten Island. Local rivalries are fun, but it’d be nice if the Seahawks could find at least one more Division I opponent somewhere.
It’s Hard Enough: Central Connecticut
CCSU might have the second easiest non-conference schedule in the NEC according to last season’s KenPom ratings, but that’s probably intended to help Donyell Marshall sleep at night. The Blue Devils might be able to win their opener against Hartford, but then going 0-10 the rest of the way is completely plausible. The other easier games on the schedule are all on the road at America East squads (Binghamton, Maine, UMass-Lowell).
10 Games To Look Forward To:
- LIU Brooklyn vs. Loyola (MD) (Barclays): Nov. 16
- Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Saint Peter’s (at Fordham): Nov. 20
- Wagner vs. Rider: Nov. 26
- Saint Francis U. at NJIT: Nov. 30
- Bryant vs. New Hampshire: Nov. 30
- Robert Morris vs. Duquesne (Consol Energy Center): Dec. 6
- Mount St. Mary’s vs. Lehigh: Dec. 10
- Fairleigh Dickinson at Rutgers: Dec. 14
- Saint Francis Brooklyn vs. Manhattan: Dec. 20
- LIU Brooklyn vs. Niagara (Barclays): Dec. 21
I Like These: Mount St. Mary’s, Robert Morris, St. Francis Brooklyn, Fairleigh Dickinson
Ok I Guess: Bryant, Saint Francis U., Sacred Heart
Obviously Rebuilding: Central Connecticut
Huh?: Wagner, LIU Brooklyn