Nonconference schedule analysis: ACC

For the rest of the week, ESPN.com will be breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen leagues. Let's begin with the ACC ...


Toughest: 76 Classic (Nov. 24-27), Harvard (Dec. 29)

Next-toughest: UMass (Nov. 21), Boston University (Dec. 3), Stony Brook (Dec. 11), Rhode Island (Jan. 2)

The rest: New Hampshire (Nov. 14), at Holy Cross (Nov. 18), Penn State (Nov. 30), Bryant (Dec. 18), at Providence (Dec. 8), Sacred Heart (Dec. 21)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Steve Donahue can be forgiven for a less-than-overwhelming schedule, with all five of his top scorers gone. But the facts are the facts. There are some nice mid-majors here -- Boston U. and Stony Brook could potentially win in Chestnut Hill -- but hanging your hat on the top team in the Ivy League isn’t going to turn a lot of heads. Yes, there are Big Ten and Big East foes but retooling Penn State and Providence don’t exactly move the needle. Out in Anaheim at the 76 Classic, BC will likely open as an underdog to Saint Louis and will play either Villanova or UC Riverside in the second game.


Toughest: at Arizona (Dec. 10), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)

Next-toughest: Charleston (Nov. 19), at Iowa (Nov. 29), South Carolina (Dec. 4)

The rest: Gardner-Webb (Nov. 11), at The Citadel (Nov. 16), Coastal Carolina (Nov. 22), Furman (Nov. 25), Winthrop (Dec. 17), Alabama State (Dec. 19), East Tennessee State (Jan. 1)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Kudos to Brad Brownell for taking his Tigers to Arizona for a road game, but after that not a whole lot of excitement. If Clemson advances in the Diamond Head Classic (the Tigers open against rebuilding UTEP), Kansas State likely awaits in the second round and either Xavier or Long Beach State await as possibilities in the title game.


Toughest: vs. Michigan State in NYC (Nov. 15), Maui Invitational (Nov. 21-23), at Ohio State (Nov. 29), vs. Washington in NYC (Dec. 10), at Temple (Jan. 4)

Next-toughest: Belmont (Nov. 11), Western Michigan (Dec. 30), Colorado State (Dec. 7), St. John’s (Jan. 28)

The rest: Presbyterian (Nov. 12), Davidson (Nov. 18), UNC Greensboro (Dec. 19), Pennsylvania (Jan. 1)

Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- The Blue Devils are not only dancing with the best of the blue bloods, but they're tangoing with some of the better mid-majors. Count Belmont, Western Michigan and even Davidson among the Cinderella sleepers this season. Bonus points to Duke for playing tough games away from Cameron -- in New York and Philadelphia and, most impressively, in Columbus (although that's part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, so we'll give the Blue Devils half-credit). The real kick here, of course, comes from the loaded Maui field, in which Duke opens with rebuilding Tennessee but then faces the Memphis/Michigan winner and potentially Kansas or UCLA in the championship game.


Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 24-26), at Michigan State (Nov. 30), at Florida (Dec. 22)

Next-toughest: UCF (Nov. 14), Princeton (Dec. 30)

The rest: Jacksonville (Nov. 11), Stetson (Nov. 16), South Alabama (Nov. 20), Charleston Southern (Dec. 5), UNC Greensboro (Dec. 11), Loyola Marymount Dec. 18), Auburn (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- A lot of eyes will be watching the Seminoles this season, seeing whether the preseason excitement is warranted after the surprise Sweet 16 run. This schedule will help clear the issue. Two tough road games -- in East Lansing and Gainesville -- will be stiff tests obviously. The rest of the schedule, on the surface, looks just OK. But Florida State, after opening with UMass down in the Bahamas, will potentially face Harvard and UConn in its next two games. That would be quite a one-two punch in back-to-back games.


Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 17-20), Northwestern (Nov. 29), Alabama (Jan. 3)

Next-toughest: at Georgia (Dec. 7)

The rest: Florida A&M (Nov. 11), Delaware State (Nov. 14), Siena (Nov. 23), at Tulane (Dec. 3), at Savannah State (Dec. 10), Alabama A&M (Dec. 19), Mercer (Dec. 22), at Fordham (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- This is a good schedule to allow Brian Gregory to ease into things in Atlanta. Plenty of winnable games to pad the record and grow the confidence. A fairly difficult draw in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with Northwestern helps add a boost, as does a date with an Alabama team expected to make some noise in the SEC. The Charleston Classic isn't as strong as in the past. St. Joe’s will be tricky in the opener and either VCU or Seton Hall awaits in the second game. And keep this in mind: The Jackets will be sort of nomads this season. Alexander Memorial Coliseum is undergoing massive renovations, so Tech will play its home games in nearby Gwinnett and at the Hawks' Philips Arena.


Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 17-20), Illinois (Nov. 29), at Temple (Jan. 21)

Next-toughest: vs. Notre Dame in Washington, D.C. (Dec. 4)

The rest: UNC Wilmington (Nov. 13), Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 25), Mount St. Mary’s (Dec. 7), FIU (Dec. 14), Radford (Dec. 23), Albany (Dec 28), Samford (Dec. 31), Cornell (Jan. 3)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Not a bad slate for the Terps’ new boss, Mark Turgeon. Maryland gets a tough opening draw (Alabama) in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and will face either Wichita State or Colorado on the second day. Purdue, Temple, Iona and Western Michigan are on the other side of the bracket. All offer some potential bonus strength of schedule points. Even without, Illinois will be a top-half of the Big Ten team and Temple will battle Xavier for the A-10 title.


Toughest: at Purdue (Nov. 29), Memphis (Dec. 6), at West Virginia (Dec. 10)

Next-toughest: at Ole Miss (Nov. 25), Appalachian State (Dec. 30)

The rest: Tennessee Tech (Nov. 11), Rutgers (Nov. 15), North Florida (Nov. 19), Florida Gulf Coast (Nov. 22), UMass (Dec. 3), vs. Florida Atlantic in Sunrise, Fla. (Dec. 17), at Charlotte (Dec. 22), vs. UNC Greensboro (Jan. 2)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- If the Hurricanes are a bubble team, this schedule is decent enough to give them an argument come Selection Sunday. But since plenty of the teams involved could be bubble-dwellers themselves, Miami is going to need to win more than it loses. Memphis is obviously the highlight here and if Robbie Hummel is Robbie Hummel for Purdue, that could be a pretty valuable road game.


Toughest: vs. Michigan State in San Diego (Nov. 11), Wisconsin (Nov. 30), at Kentucky (Dec. 3)

Next-toughest: at UNC Asheville (Nov. 13), Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 25-26), Long Beach State (Dec. 10), Appalachian State (Dec. 17), Texas (Dec. 21)

The rest: Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 20), Tennessee State (Nov. 22), Evansville (Dec. 6), Nicholls State (Dec. 19), Elon (Dec. 29), Monmouth (Jan. 1)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- The title favorite starts things out in style with a game on the USS Carl Vinson against Michigan State. Then there's the ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup against Wisconsin, and folks already are wondering if the game in Lexington isn’t a preview of the national championship game. Texas is a bit of an unknown with all of its freshmen, but Asheville and Appalachian State are considered favorites in their leagues. Out in Vegas, assuming they dispatch of South Carolina, the Heels will likely face off with UNLV in its home city (the Rebels play USC).


Toughest: Legends Classic (Nov. 19, 21), Syracuse (Dec. 17)

Next-toughest: UNC Asheville (Nov. 11), Princeton (Nov. 16), Indiana (Nov. 30), at Stanford (Dec. 4), vs. St. Bonaventure in Rochester, N.Y. (Dec. 20)

The rest: Morehead State (Nov. 13), Elon (Nov. 25), NC Central (Dec. 11), Northeastern (Dec. 22), Campbell (Dec. 29), Western Carolina (Dec. 31), Delaware State (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Good thing Mark Gottfried has decent players to work with. He’s going to need them. Syracuse and Vanderbilt are guaranteed preseason top-10 teams. The Pack host the Orange and face off with the Dores in East Rutherford, N.J., where they'll play either Texas or Oregon State the next day. Indiana and St. Bonaventure are gunning for their best seasons in years and Johnny Dawkins finally has a decent roster at Stanford.


Toughest: Michigan (Nov. 29), George Mason (Dec. 6), at Oregon (Dec. 18)

Next-toughest: Paradise Jam (Nov. 18-21), at LSU (Jan. 2)

The rest: South Carolina State (Nov. 13), Winthrop (Nov. 15), Green Bay (Nov. 25), Longwood (Dec. 3), at Seattle (Dec. 21), Maryland-Eastern Shore (Dec. 27), Towson (Dec. 30)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- This may not be the toughest nonconference schedule out there, but it’s good enough to give the Cavaliers a boost come March should they be in consideration for a bid. Big bonus points to Tony Bennett for taking his team cross-country for a game against Oregon. Truth be told, hardly anyone does that anymore. The Cavs open with TCU at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands and Drexel and Marquette offer good potential matchups there.


Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 14-25), at Minnesota (Nov. 30), at Oklahoma State (Dec. 31)

Next-toughest: St. Bonaventure (Nov. 27), Kansas State (Dec. 4), BYU (Jan. 25)

The rest: East Tennessee State (Nov. 12), Monmouth (Nov. 14), at Rhode Island (Dec. 7), Norfolk State (Dec. 11), Campbell (Dec. 17), North Florida (Dec. 19), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- This is a tough one to judge because so much could happen in the NIT Tip-Off. Presuming the Hokies get past Monmouth, they would likely face George Mason and down the road, Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. On the surface, this is certainly an improvement for Seth Greenberg's program. Road games at Minnesota and Oklahoma State are no easy chore in those arenas, and while Kansas State and BYU might be slightly rebuilding, those are still two commendable home games. Bottom line: If the Hokies again fail to make the NCAA tourney, the schedule itself shouldn't be the reason.


Toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 24-27), Richmond (Dec. 3)

Next-toughest: at Nebraska (Nov. 30), at Seton Hall (Dec. 10)

The rest: Loyola-Md. (Nov. 11), Georgia Southern (Nov. 16), North Carolina Central (Nov. 20), at High Point (Dec. 7), Gardner-Webb (Dec. 18), UNC Wilmington (Dec. 21), Yale (Dec. 29), Wofford (Jan. 2)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Jeff Bzdelik is trying to build the Demon Deacons from the bottom up, so he’s understandably building the schedule in similar increments. This isn’t an NCAA tournament schedule but neither is Wake an NCAA tournament team. There’s not a whole lot of bump with the Old Spice trip to Orlando. Wake opens with Dayton and will face either Fairfield or Arizona State in the second game. Potential third-game opponents are Texas Tech, Indiana State, Minnesota and DePaul.