Nonconference schedule analysis: WCC

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, Atlantic 10 and Colonial.

We are devoting Thursday to the West, beginning with the Pac-12 and now continuing with the newly expanded West Coast Conference ...


Toughest: Chicago Invitational Challenge (Nov. 25-26), Baylor (Dec. 17), at Virginia Tech (Jan. 25)

Next-toughest: at Utah State (Nov. 11), vs. Oregon in Salt Lake City (Dec. 3), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 22)

The rest: BYU-Hawaii (Nov. 15), Longwood (Nov. 18), Prairie View A&M (Nov. 22), vs. Northern Arizona in Prescott Valley, Ariz. (Nov. 30), Weber State (Dec. 7), at Utah (Dec. 10), Buffalo (Dec. 20), Cal State San Marcos (Dec. 27)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- BYU begins its season at Utah State's raucous Spectrum and also has a late-January date at Virginia Tech. In between, the Cougars host Baylor, play rising Oregon in Salt Lake and also head to the Chicago Invitational Challenge, where there is a game against Nevada and a likely date with Wisconsin if BYU takes care of business in the first game. It’s not always easy to get an at-large bid out of the WCC, but this nonconference schedule certainly gives Dave Rose’s team a chance.


Toughest: at Illinois (Dec. 3), Michigan State (Dec. 10), vs. Arizona in Seattle (Dec. 17), at Xavier (Dec. 31)

Next-toughest: Washington State (Nov. 14), Notre Dame (Nov. 30), Butler (Dec. 20)

The rest: Eastern Washington (Nov. 11), vs. Hawaii in Vancouver, British Columbia (Nov. 19), Western Michigan (Nov. 26), Oral Roberts (Dec. 15), Air Force (Dec. 22), Longwood (Feb. 27)

Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- As usual, the Zags aren't afraid to play anyone this season. The refreshing part for Gonzaga fans is that some big-time programs are headed to Spokane, including Michigan State, Notre Dame and Butler, along with the traditional rivalry game with Washington State, which arrives for the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. That Battle In Seattle with Zona should be fun and road trips to Illinois and Xavier will provide brutal environments, but Gonzaga has usually been bold about playing wherever it can find good competition. Mark Few gets creativity points too for getting center Robert Sacre a hometown game in Vancouver.


Toughest: at UCLA (Nov. 11), at Florida State (Dec. 18)

Next-toughest: Harvard (Nov. 19), Saint Louis (Nov. 29), North Texas (Dec. 4)

The rest: Middle Tennessee (Nov. 13), at Idaho State (Nov. 23), Northern Arizona (Nov. 26), Columbia (Dec. 2), La Sierra (Dec. 3), Idaho State (Dec. 10), at Morgan State (Dec. 21), Vanguard (Dec. 27), TBA BracketBusters (home)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- LMU has a record number of home games this season, including ones against rising mid-majors Harvard and North Texas. It has difficult road games across town at UCLA for the season opener and also a nationally televised return trip to Florida State. The Lions need a bounceback after a disappointing 2010-11 season, and this schedule certainly offers the opportunity for statement wins.


Toughest: at Arizona State (Nov. 15), at UCLA (Nov. 28), vs. Washington State in Seattle (Dec. 22)

Next-toughest: Hawaii (Dec. 3)

The rest: Pomona-Pitzer (Nov. 12), at Cal State Bakersfield (Nov. 19), Central Michigan (Nov. 21), at UT-San Antonio (Nov. 26), at Northern Arizona (Dec. 7), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 10), Montana State (Dec. 18), at Seattle (Feb. 16)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- The Waves play three Pac-12 teams away from home, including the always-difficult trip to UCLA. That’s balanced out with a mix of mid-majors at home and on the road. It’s a schedule that should give first-year coach Marty Wilson and his team some confidence heading into WCC play.


Toughest: at Washington (Nov. 14), at Kentucky (Nov. 26)

Next-toughest: Washington State (Nov. 20), at UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 22), at Saint Louis (Dec. 3), at Nevada (Dec. 22)

The rest: vs. Florida Atlantic in Seattle (Nov. 12), vs. Georgia State in Seattle (Nov. 13), Lewis & Clark (Nov. 29), at Boise State (Dec. 7), Ohio (Dec. 10), Montana (Dec. 17), at Utah (Dec. 19)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The return trip to Kentucky is the highlight of the schedule, but where the difficulty lies is in the overall quality of the opponents. The Pilots play road games against rising programs such as UC Santa Barbara, Nevada, Saint Louis and Boise State. Home games against Ohio, Montana, and a game against Florida Atlantic in Seattle won’t be easy. There are also three Pac-12 opponents on the schedule.


Toughest: vs. Baylor in Las Vegas (Dec. 22)

Next-toughest: Northern Iowa (Nov. 14), at Denver (Nov. 23), vs. Missouri State in Las Vegas (Dec. 23)

The rest: Shamrock Classic (Nov. 27-28), at Cal Poly (Dec. 3), Jackson State (Dec. 13), Bethune-Cookman (Dec. 17), Kennesaw State (Dec. 19), Eastern Washington (Dec. 20), at TBA BracketBusters (road)

Toughness scale (1-10): Incomplete -- Saint Mary’s has only officially released a partial schedule, so this list was compiled in conjunction with some of their opponents announcing games. The highlights for the Gaels are opening the season with a late-night affair against Northern Iowa for the Tip-Off Marathon and playing Baylor and Missouri State on consecutive days in Vegas. SMC is also hosting an event on campus that includes Weber State, Jacksonville State and San Francisco State.


Toughest: San Diego State (Dec. 7), at Stanford (Dec. 17)

Next-toughest: Montana (Nov. 20), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 13)

The rest: Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 14), San Diego Christian (Nov. 16), vs. New Orleans in New Orleans (Nov. 25), vs. Alcorn State in New Orleans (Nov. 26), at Tulane (Nov. 27), at UC Irvine (Dec. 3), Maine (Dec. 10), vs. South Alabama in Las Vegas (Dec. 22), at Cal State Bakersfield (Feb. 18)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- San Diego had to redo the early part of its schedule after the cancellation of the Rainbow Classic and is now headed to New Orleans for the three-game Hoops for Hope Classic at Tulane. The Toreros also host a crosstown game against San Diego State as well as solid mid-major teams in Montana and UC Santa Barbara.


Toughest: Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 23-26), at Montana (Dec. 1)

Next-toughest: at Seattle (Nov. 19)

The rest: North Dakota State (Nov. 11), Northern Arizona (Nov. 12), Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 13), San Jose State (Nov. 16), Pacific Union (Dec. 4), Pacific (Dec. 10), Menlo College (Dec. 17), at Holy Cross (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 1 -- Rex Walters said he and school administrators decided it wasn’t in the best interest of the program to play guarantee games. That’s one reason why rising San Francisco won’t be facing any power-conference teams. With few possibilities for notable nonconference wins, the Great Alaska Shootout becomes important. Assuming it gets past Dartmouth, USF could play Murray State in the second round, with New Mexico State and Southern Miss lurking on the other side of the bracket.


Toughest: 76 Classic (Nov. 24-27), at Washington State (Dec. 11)

Next-toughest: at UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 15)

The rest: UC Merced (Nov. 11), San Jose State (Nov. 19), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 3), Pacifica (Dec. 13), Pacific (Dec. 17), at Houston Baptist (Dec. 21), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 29), Air Force (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The 76 Classic presents a big opportunity for Kerry Keating’s team to do some damage and open some eyes. The Broncos have an opening-round game against MWC contender New Mexico and then face either Oklahoma or Washington State. They also have road trips to Washington State and UC Santa Barbara. The rest of the schedule gives them an opportunity to go into WCC play with momentum.

The rest of the schedule gives them an opportunity to go into WCC with momentum.