ESPN recently ranked the non-conference schedules for all of the major conferences and power mid-major schools. Let's take a look at how MAC schools did with their respective non-conference schedules.
Note: All RPI figures are from April 3, 2012 courtesy of Statsheet.com
1. Buffalo (RPI 79)
Yes, Buffalo. The average RPI of their non-conference opponents is a paltry 128.33. Take out Canisius (RPI of 333), and the average dips down to 109.73. Pretty good for a rebuilding Bulls squad. It'll be tough to replace guys like Mitchell Watt, Zach Filzen, and Titus Robinson. Buffalo will learn a lot about their team early on as they face top 150 RPI opponents in seven of their first nine games.
Top 50: Florida State, Temple
51-100: Princeton, St. Bonaventure
101-200: Evansville, Western Illinois, Yale, UW-Milwaukee, Washington State, Tulsa
RPI Killers (over 300): Canisius
Non D-I: Notre Dame College
2. Bowling Green (163)
Bowling Green seems to always be looking to take the next step forward. They should be improved this year, even with the loss of Scott Thomas. Some highlights of the Falcons' schedule include an appearance in the NIT Season Tip-Off and a home game against Michigan State.
Top 50: Michigan State, South Florida, Temple
51-100: Cleveland State
101-200: Detroit, Youngstown State
201-300: Wright State, Samford, North Dakota
RPI Killers (over 300): None
Non D-1: Lake Erie College
RPI of potential opponents: Michigan (17), IUPUI (202)
3. Akron (60)
Deciding between Akron's and Kent State's schedule was tough. Kent State has a higher average RPI (148.62 to 151.60), but Akron's participation in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament pushed the Zips over the top. There are not too many big names on the Zips slate, but the quality of the mid-level schools are very good. Many Zips fans make it an annual tradition to complain about the non-conference schedule, but there may not be much complaining to do this year.
Top 50: Creighton
51-100: Middle Tennessee State, Cleveland State, Princeton
101-200: Coastal Carolina, Oklahoma State, Detroit
200-300: Texas Southern, Coppin State
RPI Killers (over 300): Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Non D-1: John Carroll
RPI of potential opponents: UNC-Asheville (105), Tennessee (88), North Carolina State (35), Penn State (153), Providence (152), Massachusetts (63)
4. Kent State (117)
The Flashes have to replace a lot, and that a lot may be an understatement. Losing Michael Porrini, Justin Greene, Justin Manns, and Carlton Guyton hurts. Even though they lost many contributors, the schedule is still strong. Trips to strong mid-majors Xavier and Bucknell and home games against Drexel, Temple and Princeton make the Flashes' schedule that much more impressive.
Top 50: Temple, Xavier
51-100: Drexel, Princeton, Bucknell, Cleveland State
101-200: Valparaiso, Nebraska, Youngstown State
201-300: Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas State
RPI Killers (over 300): Chicago State, Saint Francis (Pa.)
Non D-1: Fairmont State
5. Eastern Michigan (243)
Eastern Michigan is almost having a full facelift this season. They're welcoming a couple big-time transfers into the program in Daylen Harrison and Glenn Bryant. Their schedule is a bit odd; it's both top-heavy and bottom-heavy. With a team just learning how to play with each other, coach Rob Murphy set up his schedule so they play the bad teams in November and the better teams in December. Fun fact: Eastern Michigan is the only team to play both Kentucky and Syracuse (RPI #1 & #2 last year) in the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Top 50: Kentucky, Syracuse, Purdue, Michigan
201-300: Jacksonville State, Eastern Illinois, IPFW, Illinois-Chicago
RPI Killers (over 300): Texas-Pan American
6. Ohio (44)
You'd think coming off a Sweet Sixteen appearance that the Bobcats would play some more high-quality games. Of course, on the flip side, what team wants to schedule Ohio and possibly lose? Not Duke, not Ohio State of course. But Memphis and Oklahoma do. Those are the big names on the schedule, and really not much else.
Top 50: Memphis, Marshall
51-100: St. Bonaventure, Robert Morris, Massachusetts
101-200: Wofford, Richmond, Oakland, Oklahoma
201-300: Portland, UNC-Wilmington, Winthrop
RPI Killers (over 300): Hampton, Maryland-Eastern Shore
7. Ball State (263)
Ball State has typically had a problem in scheduling good non-conference opponents. This year is a little different, as they play in-state foes Indiana, Purdue and Butler and quality mid-majors Cleveland State and Norfolk State. The Cardinals may take a step back this year after losing Jarrod Jones and Randy Davis.
Top 50: Indiana, Purdue
51-100: Cleveland State
101-200: Butler, Norfolk State, Wofford, Indiana State
201-300: IUPUI, South Dakota
RPI Killers (over 300): Grambling
Non D-1: Holy Cross (Indiana)
8. Western Michigan (203)
Western Michigan, like Kent State, loses a lot of talent. Coach Steve Hawkins brought in seven, count ‘em, seven freshmen to fill the void left by players like Matt Stainbrook, Flenard Whitfield and Mike Douglas. With this young team, do you really want to be playing three top 50 teams? I realize some of these may be guarantee games, but still. This is looking like a down year in KZoo.
Top 50: South Florida, Michigan, North Carolina State
51-100: Illinois State, Duquesne
101-200: Cornell, Oakland
201-300: High Point, Mount St. Mary's
RPI Killers (over 300): Loyola (Illinois), Maryland-Eastern Shore
Non D-1: Marygrove
9. Miami (245)
Remember when Miami used to schedule Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio State all in the same year? Well, with Charlie Coles retired, that seems to not be happening anymore. New head man John Cooper seems to be looking for more wins this season then getting experience against quality opponents. I'm not sure how it will prepare them for the conference season, but we'll know soon enough.
Top 50: North Carolina State, Louisville
51-100: Dayton, Massachusetts
201-300: William & Mary, James Madison, IPFW, Wright State, Illinois-Chicago
RPI Killers (over 300): Grambling State
Non D-1: Wilmington College
10. Northern Illinois (332)
The Huskies had a pretty terrible year last year, going 5-26. This year, they may be a little better, but I expected them to try and get more wins with this schedule. They have a couple high-quality names on their schedule when it may be more beneficial to them to pick up easier opponents and build on some wins. They do travel out west for some reason, playing at Washington and at Seattle. The matchup with Valparaiso is at 7 a.m. and is part of ESPN's 24 Hour College Basketball Marathon.
Top 50: None
51-100: Dayton, Washington, Massachusetts
101-200: Valparaiso, UW-Milwaukee, DePaul
201-300: Illinois-Chicago, SIU-Edwardsville, Seattle
RPI Killers (over 300): Loyola (Illinois)
Non D-1: Nebraska-Omaha (transitional member), Judson College
11. Central Michigan (276)
Central Michigan has a very young team and a new head coach. So, obviously they're just looking for some competitive games and those that they won't get blown out. The Chips are playing in two early season tournaments, one in Utah over Thanksgiving and the other in El Paso, Texas right before Christmas. That experience will be sure to get them ready for the conference tournament come March.
Top 50: Michigan
101-200: Iowa, Charlotte, Nebraska
201-300: Wright State, Utah, Idaho State, Bradley, Niagara, Pepperdine, Texas State
RPI Killers (over 300): None
Non D-1: Olivet
RPI of potential opponents: UTEP (141), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (303)
12. Toledo (246)
The Rockets can't play in the postseason this year, even though they'll have a pretty good team. I'm surprised they have this bad of a non-conference schedule; the home schedule includes two exhibitions and three of the worst teams in the country. If I'm a Toledo season ticket holder, nothing excites me about this season. The average RPI of opponents is 217.6, fourteen points worse than the next worse schedule in the conference.
Top 50: None
51-100: Minnesota, Northern Iowa, Cleveland State
201-300: Samford, Eastern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago
RPI Killers (over 300): Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Chicago State
RPI of potential opponents: Florida Gulf Coast (208), Alcorn State (337)
Agree? Disagree? Gripes? Let me know in the comments!