Nonconference schedule analysis: CAA

For the rest of the week, ESPN.com will be breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen different leagues. On Tuesday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Wednesday, we continued with the Big East and the Atlantic 10 and now wrap up the day with the Colonial Athletic Association ...


Toughest: at Villanova (Nov. 18), Temple (Dec. 30)

Next-toughest: at Boston U. (Nov. 30), La Salle (Dec. 19), BracketBusters (home)

The rest: at Radford (Nov. 11), Cornell (Nov. 22), Lafayette (Nov. 26), at Penn (Dec. 7), at Delaware State (Dec. 10), at Howard (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Blue Hens do have a pair of big challenges -- or, put more appropriately, big opportunities -- in the form of a trip to Villanova and a home game against Temple. The strength of those games alone is enough to nudge them above some of their other conference mates. But if those opportunities are lost, Delaware won't have many chances to impress.


Toughest: Paradise Jam (Nov. 18-21), Princeton (Dec. 10), Fairfield (Dec. 28)

Next-toughest: at Rider (Nov. 15), at Saint Joseph's (Nov. 30), at BracketBusters (road)

The rest: at Niagara (Dec. 13), Bradley (Dec. 17), at Binghamton (Dec. 22), St. Francis-Pa. (Dec. 31)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Much of this schedule's toughness will weigh on how far Drexel advances at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. If the Dragons can get past Norfolk State and Virginia/TCU in the second round, they could come up against a ranked Marquette team (or Ole Miss). If that game doesn't happen, at least Drexel has games against good mid-majors in Fairfield and Princeton. There's also a TBA road BracketBusters opportunity in February.


Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 14-25), at Virginia (Dec. 6)

Next-toughest: Rhode Island (Nov. 11), at Florida Atlantic (Nov. 19), Bucknell (Nov. 30), Duquesne (Dec. 21), at Charleston (Dec. 30), BracketBusters (home)

The rest: at Radford (Dec. 10), Manhattan (Dec. 23)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Credit the Patriots: They were able to convince some decent opponents, including Rhode Island and Duquesne, to come to Fairfax this season. But really, this schedule's main feature is the NIT Season Tip-Off -- which will pit Mason against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg assuming GMU can get past FIU and Tech beats Monmouth. If the Patriots survive that game and seeds hold, they would likely meet Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, followed by a game against probably either Stanford or Oklahoma State. Regardless of what happens, getting the state's two bellweather schools -- UVa and Va Tech -- on the schedule is extremely meaningful to Mason fans.


Toughest: at Washington (Nov. 12)

Next-toughest: vs. Portland in Seattle (Nov. 13), vs. Florida Atlantic in Seattle (Nov. 14), Rhode Island (Dec. 10), BracketBusters (home)

The rest: McNeese State (Nov. 18), at Samford (Nov. 22), Liberty (Nov. 26), at South Carolina State (Nov. 29), Florida International (Dec. 1), at Utah Valley State (Dec. 17), Georgia Southern (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- First-year coach Ron Hunter's regular-season debut comes at Washington in the Basketball Travelers Invitational. It's an arrangement so brutal it makes you want to grant the Panthers some measure of schedule clemency. After the trio of games in Seattle are done, though, the rest of Hunter's schedule isn't all that fearsome. But to be fair, this is a struggling CAA program with a new coach, scattered fan interest and a walk-up gym. Its schedule shouldn't be tough.


Toughest: at Oregon State (Nov. 16), at Rhode Island (Nov. 25), vs. Boston U. in Kingston, R.I. (Nov. 27), Iona (Dec. 29)

Next-toughest: Long Island (Nov. 11), vs. Cleveland State in Kingston, R.I. (Nov. 26), BracketBusters (home)

The rest: St. Francis-N.Y. (Nov. 19), Florida Atlantic (Nov. 22), at Wagner (Dec. 6), Manhattan (Dec. 10), Binghamton (Dec. 17), Colgate (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Hofstra may get some so-so matchups out of the TicketCity Legends Classic, the "tournament" in which it travels to Oregon State on Nov. 16 and makes a three-day stand in Rhode Island late in the month. And the Beavers can be tough in Corvallis. But the rest of Hofstra's schedule -- and this is probably a good thing, given the loss of star Charles Jenkins to the NBA draft this summer -- offers little to get excited about, except for perhaps a home BracketBusters matchup.


Toughest: Kent State (Dec. 6), UCF Holiday Classic (Dec. 29-30)

Next-toughest: at La Salle (Nov. 19), vs. Rider in Philadelphia (Nov. 25), at Penn (Nov. 26), at George Washington (Dec. 22), at East Tennessee State (Jan. 30), at BracketBusters (road)

The rest: Canisius (Nov. 13), Robert Morris (Nov. 22), The Citadel (Dec. 19), Hampton (Jan. 9)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Make no mistake, this is hardly a murderers' row of opponents. What is it? A decent-but-hardly-great assemblage of games against decent-but-hardly-great squads. La Salle, Robert Morris, Rider, Kent State, George Washington -- none of these is a marquee opponent, but taken together, JMU's schedule doesn't look so bad. And down in Orlando, Fla., the Dukes will face Rhode Island and possibly homestanding UCF in the second game.


Toughest: at Maryland (Nov. 13), at Dayton (Nov. 19)

Next-toughest: Marshall (Nov. 22), at Wake Forest (Dec. 21)

The rest: Davidson (Nov. 26), at Toledo (Nov. 30), at Illinois State (Dec. 3), at Liberty (Dec. 6), Campbell (Dec. 19), Furman (Dec. 30), at BracketBusters (road)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- It's not really the opponents that make this schedule tough. It's the travel. Wilmington opens on the road at Maryland and follows it with a trip to Dayton. A sneaky tough Marshall team will be waiting for the Seahawks upon their return, and beginning on Nov. 30, UNCW will spend the next two weeks on the road (with a conference opener at VCU mixed in). That's a lot of road work, and it could result in some tough losses before the New Year arrives.


Toughest: at St. John's (Nov. 26), at NC State (Dec. 22)

Next-toughest: at Boston U. (Nov. 11), at La Salle (Nov. 30), Princeton (Dec. 18), at Vermont (Dec. 30), BracketBusters (home)

The rest: at UMass (Nov. 14), Southern Illinois (Nov. 19), at Bradley (Dec. 6), at Louisiana Tech (Dec. 20)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Similar to Wilmington, the opponents might not merit a high score, but the logistics do. Of the Huskies' 10 nonconference games, only two (Southern Illinois, Princeton) will be played at home (in addition to the February BracketBusters game). The rest require constant travel and hostile crowds and, yes, taking on some solid teams in big, unforgiving environments. Like, say, Madison Square Garden. Maybe you've heard of it?


Toughest: Hall of Fame Tipoff (Nov. 19-20), at Richmond (Dec. 20), Missouri (Dec. 30)

Next-toughest: Northern Iowa (Nov. 12), Long Island (Nov. 14), at Fairfield (Dec. 9), at UCF (Dec. 17), at BracketBusters (road)

The rest: Howard (Nov. 16), Vermont (Nov. 23), East Carolina (Nov. 29), VMI (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- This might be the toughest schedule in the CAA this season, and it's tougher than it looks on first glance. The Hall of Fame tournament in Connecticut will begin with South Florida, and if that's a win, mighty Kentucky almost certainly awaits. Combine that tourney with the games at Richmond and Fairfield and home tilts with LIU, UNI and that huge opportunity with Missouri, and you get a schedule worthy of ODU's designs on consistent NCAA tournament competition.


Toughest: at Kansas (Nov. 11), at Michigan (Nov. 14), vs. Belmont in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Nov. 19), at Virginia (Dec. 30)

Next-toughest: Oregon State (Nov. 26), at UMass (Nov. 30), at BracketBusters (road)

The rest: Virginia State (Nov. 6), vs. UNC Greensboro/Middle Tennessee in Murfreesoboro, Tenn. (Nov. 20), La Salle (Dec. 7), UMBC (Dec. 10), at Coppin State (Dec. 14), Manhattan (Dec. 20), Vermont (Dec. 23)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Towson's early November slate -- part of the qualifying rounds of the EA Sports Maui Invitational -- includes trips to Kansas, Michigan and Belmont, a three-game road stand you wouldn't wish on any team, let alone one that finished 4-26 last season. Ouch.


Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 17-20), at Alabama (Nov. 27), Richmond (Dec. 10)

Next-toughest: at Western Kentucky (Nov. 23), vs. George Washington in Washington, D.C.'s Verizon Center (Dec. 4), UAB (Dec. 20), at Akron (Dec. 29), BracketBusters (home)

The rest: Saint Francis-Pa. (Nov. 11), South Florida (Nov. 30), at UNC Greensboro (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The road to another miraculous March run begins in earnest on Nov. 17, when VCU will face Seton Hall in the Charleston Classic. Depending on each team's performance, the Rams could face either Georgia Tech or Saint Joseph's in the second round, followed by a meeting with either LSU, Tulsa, Northwestern or Western Kentucky. That's not the most loaded tournament field of all time, but combined with VCU's other nonleague home tests (Richmond, UAB) and that trip to see former coach Anthony Grant at Alabama, it's a solid schedule overall.


Toughest: at St. John's (Nov. 7), at Missouri (Dec. 18)

Next-toughest: Richmond (Nov. 30), Iona (Dec. 21), at BracketBusters (road)

The rest: at Hampton (Nov. 12), Liberty (Nov. 14), vs. Lehigh in Lynchburg, Va. (Nov. 18), vs. Eastern Kentucky in Lynchburg (Nov. 19), at Liberty (Nov. 20), at Howard (Nov. 26), Wesley College (Dec. 15), at Miami-Ohio (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Tribe get a bunch of their nonconference work from the 2K Sports Classic, in which they'll play St. John's and a handful of so-so opponents in Lynchburg, Va. There are other challenges here, as you can see, with a trip to Missouri looming especially large. The Tribe will have to make the most of their biggest games, especially those at home versus Richmond and Iona, to make waves in what could be another down season.