Analyzing USF's 2013-14 men's basketball schedule
USF released its 2013-14 men's basketball nonconference schedule on Wednesday, and the announcement essentially amounted to the dates, since most of the opponents had been reported one by one in recent months.
USF will open with four games against teams outside the RPI top 200 last year -- Tennessee Tech, Bethune-Cookman, Bowling Green and Stetson -- which should set up a 4-0 start heading into a Nov. 25 home game against Oklahoma State, which should be ranked after finishing last season at No. 17 and returning five of its top six starters.
The final game added was a home game against Alabama on Dec. 7 (actually the same night as football's regular-season finale at Rutgers) to open a home-and-home series against the Crimson Tide. It's a game emblematic of a tougher nonconference schedule that shows USF recognizing a need to toughen up its early schedule to offset an easier conference schedule in the new American Athletic Conference.
To illustrate that, USF played 19 Big East games last season, and of those, only one -- good ol' DePaul -- had an RPI lower than 133. So given that USF finished with an RPI of 150, all but one of the Bulls' conference games was against teams with a higher final RPI. In this year's American, with two games each against nine league opponents, USF will have four of those games (using last year's RPIs): two against Houston (192) and two against SMU (213). The average 2012-13 RPI of last year's Big East opponents was 56.4; the average for this year's American opponent is 85.3.
The schedule as a whole is pretty comparable to last year's -- both have 12 games against top-50 RPI opponents and 16 against top-100 teams. USF will face Louisville twice, as the Bulls did last year, but now have two against Memphis (RPI 14) to help offset not facing Syracuse (RPI 10) or Marquette (13) or Georgetown (15) anymore. The conference schedule still has two against Temple (40), UConn (47) and Cincinnati (49).
It might not seem obvious, but the nonconference slate is definitely tougher -- last year, USF had just one top-100 nonconference opponent, a loss to Oklahoma State (28) in Oklahoma City. Using last year's RPIs, the Bulls have six top-100 games in nonconference: Oklahoma State (28), UNLV (29), Alabama (64), Santa Clara (68), Detroit (71) and Florida Gulf Coast (73). Logically, two or three wins out of those six would constitute progress for the Bulls.
Last year's USF team was relatively predictable -- they went 8-0 against teams with an RPI of 143, 2-5 against teams between 101 and 142 and 2-14 against teams in the top 100. To make a big step forward this season, they'll have to fare better in that second group of opponents -- against the Rutgers and UCFs -- if not the third ...