Nonconference schedule analysis: MWC

This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of the nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Tuesday, we focused on the East with the A-10, Big East and CAA. Today we head out West with the Mountain West, Pac-12 and WCC.


Toughest: at Colorado (Nov. 25), vs. Florida (Dec. 29 in Sunrise, Fla.)

Next-toughest: Wichita State (Dec. 2), at Richmond (Jan. 2)

The rest: vs. Army (Nov. 10 in Charleston, S.C.), vs. Citadel or VMI (Nov. 11 in Charleston, S.C.), Western State (Nov. 15), Regis (Nov. 18), Montana State (Nov. 21), Jackson State (Nov. 28), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 8), at UC Riverside (Dec. 22), New Orleans (Jan. 23)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Falcons could be one of the sleeper teams in the Mountain West with an experienced squad that will be a tough out. Air Force is putting itself out there with tough games away from home against Florida, Colorado and Richmond. The home slate is somewhat manageable and could produce a decent record.


Toughest: at Michigan State (Nov. 20), at Creighton (Nov. 28)

Next-toughest: at Utah (Dec. 5), LSU (Dec. 14)

The rest: Texas Southern (Nov. 11), Oakland (Nov. 13), Louisiana-Lafayette (Nov. 18), UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 24), at Seattle (Dec. 2), vs. New Orleans (Dec. 23 in Las Vegas), Corban (Dec. 30), at Texas-Arlington (Jan. 2), Walla Walla (Jan. 5)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Boise State is trying to climb up the Mountain West ladder before departing for the Big West. The Broncos are going to two of the tougher stops in the country: Creighton and Michigan State. Those two games alone elevate this schedule. The key for BSU is to play the rest of it well. But there are plenty of potential hiccups on the way to the start of the MWC. Winning at Utah or at both of the WAC opponents, let alone taking out LSU, will be tough chores.


Toughest: at Washington (Nov. 24), at Colorado (Dec. 5)

Next-toughest: Montana (Nov. 9), at Denver (Nov. 21), Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23), St. Bonaventure (Jan. 5)

The rest: Chadron State (Nov. 15), Northern Colorado (Nov. 26), Evansville (Dec. 1), at UIC (Dec. 8), North Florida (Dec. 17), CSU-Bakersfield (Dec. 19), Adams State (Dec. 29), UTEP (Jan. 2)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- The Rams return the core of their team and add a key transfer, Colton Iverson from Minnesota. New coach Larry Eustachy is taking over a group ready to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. But the Rams don't really have a schedule that reflects that. U-Dub is a quality road game, and the rivalry matchup with CU will be as intense as any between the schools. But the rest is subpar for a team that could push for a top 25-30 position -- and unfortunately, the trip to Vegas doesn't provide a boost since Portland, Virginia Tech and Bradley are expected to struggle.


Toughest: at Texas (Nov. 9), Long Beach State (Nov. 25), at Long Beach State (Dec. 3), Colorado (Dec. 12), at UCLA (Dec. 22)

Next-toughest: Pacific (Nov. 16), at Washington State (Dec. 9)

The rest: at UC Riverside (Nov. 14), at Cal Poly (Nov. 19), at Southern Illinois (Nov. 28), San Diego Christian (Dec. 6), UC Irvine (Dec. 15), Sonoma State (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- With nine newcomers, the Bulldogs have undergone a complete roster overhaul, so this slate of games will be difficult to navigate. Texas, LBSU, CU and UCLA are all projected to be in the tournament or on the good side of the bubble come March. A road game in Pullman is never a walk, no matter who is coming to play the Cougars. Coach Rodney Terry will learn quite a bit about his crew with this schedule. The Bulldogs desperately wanted into the MWC. Their first season in the league will be daunting, considering the NCAA-bid depth and the possibility that they might not enter league play with momentum.


Toughest: at Marshall (Nov. 24), at Washington (Dec. 8), at Oregon (Dec. 31)

Next-toughest: at Pacific (Dec. 4)

The rest: at UC Irvine (Nov. 10), Cal State-Fullerton (Nov. 16), Green Bay (Nov. 17), Southern Utah (Nov. 18), UC Davis (Nov. 28), Drake (Nov. 30), Cal Poly (Dec. 11), San Francisco (Dec. 15), Cal State-San Marcos (Dec. 21), Yale (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Wolf Pack fancy themselves an NCAA team. They have a legit shot of finishing in the top four in the Mountain West. That’s why the schedule could have been tougher. Going to Washington and Oregon is never easy, but both teams are retooling. The Pack need those two teams to be better than projected. Having Pacific challenge for the Big West title would help, too. Marshall is a great add considering the Herd are a threat to contend in C-USA.


Toughest: Paradise Jam (Nov. 16-19 in Virgin Islands), at New Mexico State (Dec. 19), at Cincinnati (Dec. 27), at Saint Louis (Dec. 31)

Next-toughest: Davidson (Nov. 12), at Indiana State (Dec. 1), USC (Dec. 5), Valparaiso (Dec. 8), New Mexico State (Dec. 15), South Dakota State (Dec. 22)

The rest: Idaho (Nov. 23), Portland (Nov. 25), Mercer (Nov. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- This is one of New Mexico's best schedules ever. The Lobos usually don’t test themselves to this level because of the need to play so many home games at the Pit. The road swing to Cincinnati and Saint Louis will be as tough a trip as the Lobos have had under coach Steve Alford in the nonconference. The NMSU series is always brutal. The home games against Davidson, USC, Valpo, Mercer and South Dakota State are all smartly scheduled against teams that should be vying for bids. Indiana State will be a gritty affair. The Paradise Jam is open for the Lobos to win as UNM is clearly the best team in the field. Facing off with George Mason in the second game and UConn in the final would help the computer numbers.


Toughest: vs. Syracuse (Nov. 9 on USS Midway), at USC (Nov. 25), vs. UCLA (Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Calif.), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)

Next-toughest: at Missouri State (Nov. 17), San Diego (Dec. 15)

The rest: San Diego Christian (Nov. 11), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 21), Texas Southern (Dec. 3), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 6), Point Loma Nazarene (Dec. 18), CSU Bakersfield (Jan. 2)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Aztecs could see this scale rise if they meet Ole Miss and then Arizona in the Diamond Head Classic (they open with San Francisco). If that happens, SDSU will pick up two more postseason teams on the schedule. The Syracuse game is clearly the best on the schedule. The two contests against the Pac-12 L.A. schools also should be high-quality games if those two are as good as projected. This is an NCAA team with an NCAA schedule.


Toughest: Global Sports Classic (Nov. 23-24 in Las Vegas), at Cal (Dec. 9), at North Carolina (Dec. 29)

Next-toughest: at UTEP (Dec. 17), Northern Iowa (Dec. 19)

The rest: Northern Arizona (Nov. 12), Jacksonville State (Nov. 17), UC Irvine (Nov. 28), Hawaii (Dec. 1), at Portland (Dec. 4), La Verne (Dec. 13), Canisius (Dec. 22), Chicago State (Jan. 3), CSU Bakersfield (Jan. 5)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Rebels play three true nonconference road games, with one a return game at North Carolina after beating the Tar Heels in Vegas last season. It’s still hard to read how good Cal will be, but playing the Golden Bears on the road is always a grind. Going to UTEP will turn into a battle since the Rebels are going to be one of the best games on UTEP's schedule. UNLV gets Oregon at home in the Global Sports Classic and then either Cincinnati or Iowa State the next day. The Rebs are the conference favorite, and this schedule should prepare them well for the MWC title chase.


Toughest: Colorado (Dec. 1), at Illinois State (Dec. 4)

Next-toughest: Denver (Dec. 18), at UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 28)

The rest: Western State (Nov. 10), North Carolina Central (Nov. 14), South Dakota (Nov. 15), Southern (Nov. 16), at Northern Colorado (Nov. 21), CSU-Bakersfield (Nov. 24), Oklahoma Panhandle State (Dec. 8), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 21), at SMU (Jan. 2)

Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- The Cowboys overachieved in Larry Shyatt’s first season back in Laramie, and now the Cowboys get Leonard Washington on the roster after he was suspended. That means this team is more than capable of a difficult schedule. The Colorado rivalry game is a nice challenge, and the MWC-MVC Challenge trip to league contender Illinois State is a stiff test. Playing an in-season home-and-home with the Gauchos will prove to be a grind. Other than that, though, not much to see here.