Nonconference schedule analysis: Pac-12

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: Florida (Dec. 15), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)

Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 19), at Clemson (Dec. 8), Oral Roberts (Dec. 18)

The rest: Charleston Southern (Nov. 11), UTEP (Nov. 15), Northern Arizona (Nov. 28), at Texas Tech (Dec. 1), Southern Miss (Dec. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Wildcats’ tilt with Florida in Tucson could be one of the marquee nonconference games of the season. And the Diamond Head Classic boasts a solid field. After opening with ETSU out in Honolulu, look for Arizona to play NCAA tournament contender Miami in the semifinals and either Ole Miss or San Diego State in the title game if it makes it that far. Otherwise, the schedule is somewhat soft for a top-20-caliber squad. LBSU and Southern Miss were NCAA tournament teams last season, but both lost a lot.


Toughest: Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 23-24)

Next-toughest: DePaul (Dec. 12), at Texas Tech (Dec. 22)

The rest: Central Arkansas (Nov. 10), Florida A&M (Nov. 18), Cornell (Nov. 20), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Nov. 28), Sacramento State (Dec. 1), Hartford (Dec. 5), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 8), Dartmouth (Dec. 15), Coppin State (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 2 -- This almost looks like a schedule designed to help save the job of head coach Herb Sendek, who enters the 2012-13 season on the hot seat. Arizona State will play Arkansas and either Wisconsin or Creighton in Las Vegas. Otherwise, there isn’t a high-level foe on the entire nonconference slate. DePaul and Texas Tech are both expected to finish near the bottom of their respective leagues. Maybe a gaudy win total will give ASU confidence entering league play?


Toughest: at Wisconsin (Dec. 2), UNLV (Dec. 9), Creighton (Dec. 15)

Next-toughest: at Denver (Nov. 16), DIRECTV Classic (Nov. 22-25 in Anaheim, Calif.), Harvard (Dec. 29)

The rest: CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 11), Pepperdine (Nov. 13), Drake (Nov. 22), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 18), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Golden Bears' schedule is anything but soft with games against Wisconsin, UNLV and Creighton -- all of whom should enter the season in the Top 25. Cal will also be tested at home by Harvard and on the road against a dangerous Denver team. The DIRECTV Classic field is a bit underwhelming, although a title game matchup between the Bears and Saint Mary’s could be entertaining.


Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 15-18), Colorado State (Dec. 5), at Kansas (Dec. 8)

Next-toughest: at Wyoming (Dec. 1)

The rest: Wofford (Nov. 9), Air Force (Nov. 25), Texas Southern (Nov. 27), at Fresno State (Dec. 12), Northern Arizona (Dec. 21), Hartford (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The Buffaloes may have a chance to avenge last season’s NCAA tournament loss to Baylor if both teams win their opening games in the Charleston Classic (CU opens with Dayton), a tourney that also includes Murray State and St. John's. And credit should go to any team willing to play a nonconference game against Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. But other than those games and a tilt with rival CSU, a fringe Top 25 team, the Buffs’ noncon slate doesn’t look all that daunting.


Toughest: Global Sports Classic (Nov. 23-24), Nevada (Dec. 31)

Next-toughest: Vanderbilt (Nov. 16), at UTEP (Dec. 19)

The rest: Northern Arizona (Nov. 10), Portland State (Nov. 12), Jacksonville State (Nov. 19), Texas-San Antonio (Nov. 29), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 1), Idaho State (Dec. 8), Nebraska (Dec. 15), Houston Baptist (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- It’s understandable that third-year coach Dana Altman would schedule somewhat soft as he tries to develop confidence in his players and generate fan support for his program. Still, it’s not as if this slate is completely void of marquee games. Oregon will travel to UNLV and get either Iowa State or Cincinnati the next night in the Global Sports Challenge. And Nevada will be in the mix for the Mountain West title.


Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 15-16 in New York), vs. Kansas (Nov. 30 in Kansas City)

Next-toughest: New Mexico State (Nov. 11)

The rest: Niagara (Nov. 9), Montana State (Nov. 25), Grambling State (Dec. 8), at Portland State (Dec. 12), Chicago State (Dec. 16), Howard (Dec. 19), vs. San Diego (Dec. 22 in Las Vegas), Towson (Dec. 29), Texas-Pan American (Dec. 31)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Other than a showdown with Kansas in Kansas City, the Beavers' schedule won’t do much for the excite-o-meter. They’ll face Alabama and either Purdue or Villanova in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. Purdue and Nova are both down. New Mexico State will contend for the WAC title and could give the Beavers some trouble in Corvalis. Oregon State can’t afford any upsets in any of its other nonconference games, though, if it wants to be taken seriously.


Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24), at NC State (Dec. 18)

Next-toughest: Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 12), Belmont (Nov. 18), at Northwestern (Dec. 21)

The rest: vs. San Francisco (Nov. 9 in Oakland, Calif.), Alcorn State (Nov. 15), Seattle (Nov. 28), Denver (Dec. 2), UC Davis (Dec. 15), Lafayette (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Any team in the Battle 4 Atlantis gets extra points in this rating. The field is loaded and might go 8-for-8 in terms of NCAA tourney teams. Stanford opens with Missouri there and will then face either Louisville or Northern Iowa. Duke and Memphis are on the other side of the bracket. North Carolina State will open the season ranked in the top 10 and Northwestern will be an NCAA tournament bubble team (again).


Toughest: Legends Classic (Nov. 19-20), vs. San Diego State (Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Calif.), vs. Texas (Dec. 8 in Houston), Missouri (Dec. 28)

Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Dec. 18)

The rest: Indiana State (Nov. 9), UC Irvine (Nov. 13), James Madison (Nov. 15), Cal Poly (Nov. 25), Cal State Northridge (Nov. 28), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 15), Fresno State (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- Not many teams in the country boast a nonconference schedule as challenging as UCLA’s. If the Bruins get by Georgetown in the semifinals of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, they’ll likely face national title contender Indiana the following evening. Missouri and San Diego State are both Top 25 caliber teams and Texas could be, too, by the end of the season. Shabazz Muhammad & Co. will have plenty of chances to play on the big stage.


Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 19-21), San Diego State (Nov. 25), at New Mexico (Dec. 5), Minnesota (Dec. 8)

Next-toughest: Long Beach State (Nov. 13), at Georgia (Dec. 22), Dayton (Dec. 30)

The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 9), at Nebraska (Dec. 3), UC Riverside (Dec. 15), UC Irvine (Dec. 20)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill has a history of scheduling tough in the nonconference, and this season is no different. USC opens the Maui Invitational against Illinois and will likely face Texas in the next round. North Carolina, Butler or Marquette could await in the third game. San Diego State is a top-15-caliber team and New Mexico features one of the toughest road environments in the country. This could be one of Tubby Smith’s best Minnesota squads.


Toughest: at BYU (Dec. 8)

Next-toughest: at SMU (Nov. 28), Boise State (Dec. 5)

The rest: Williamette (Nov. 9), Sacramento State (Nov. 16), Idaho State (Nov. 21), Central Michigan (Nov. 23), Wright State (Nov. 24), at Texas State (Nov. 30), SMU (Dec. 18), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 21), College of Idaho (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 1 -- Teams coming off of a 6-25 season shouldn’t be expected to schedule a tough nonconference slate, so we’ll cut Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak a break this season -- and probably next season, too. The Utah Thanksgiving Tournament features Central Michigan, Wright State and Idaho State, all of whom had losing records last season. And yes, Utah is playing SMU two times, once at home and once on the road.


Toughest: Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic (Nov. 17-18 in Uncasville, Conn.), Colorado State (Nov. 24), Saint Louis (Nov. 28), Nevada (Dec. 8), at Connecticut (Dec. 29)

Next-toughest: Loyola-Maryland (Nov. 11), Cal State Fullerton (Dec. 2)

The rest: Albany (Nov. 13), at Seattle (Dec. 13), Jackson State (Dec. 15), Cal Poly (Dec. 20), Northern Illinois (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- A Huskies team that appears to be in a transition year won’t catch any breaks with its schedule. Lorenzo Romar’s squad will play Seton Hall and either Ohio State or Rhode Island at the Mohegan Sun, and it’ll also have a chance to avenge last season’s blowout loss against Saint Louis. Colorado State and Nevada are also good enough to win in Seattle.


Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20 in Kansas City), Gonzaga (Dec. 5)

Next-toughest: Idaho (Nov. 28)

The rest: Eastern Washington (Nov. 10), Utah Valley (Nov. 14), at Pepperdine (Nov. 16), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 24), Portland (Dec. 1), Fresno State (Dec. 9), Jackson State (Dec. 13), Buffalo (Dec. 21), Idaho State (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- The Cougars will open the CBE Classic against Kansas in Kansas City and then face either Saint Louis or Texas A&M the following night. Could be a rough trip. Other than that, though, Washington State’s only marquee nonconference game is the annual tilt with Gonzaga. With Ken Bone on the hot seat and Reggie Moore dismissed from the team during the offseason, this may be the perfect season to take things easy in the nonconference.