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Vanderbilt Basketball Releases 2016-17 Non-Conference Schedule

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Showdowns with Marquette, Butler, Dayton, and Iowa State highlight Bryce Drew's first year at the helm in Nashville.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bryce Drew will begin with a slate of challenging, but winnable games for Vanderbilt basketball. The Commodores released their first non-conference schedule under their new head coach on Tuesday morning.

Drew will pit his 'Dores up against up to five opponents from high-major conferences before taking on the SEC this winter. Vandy is taking on the upper midwest in 2016-17, as games against central time zone opponents like Butler, Marquette, Minnesota, Dayton, and Iowa State dot the team's early schedule.

Date Opponent 2015-16 Record NCAA Tournament?
11/11 vs. Marquette (Annapolis, MD) 20-13 No
11/15 vs. Belmont 20-12 No
11/18 vs. Norfolk State 17-17 No
11/21 vs. Bucknell 17-14 No
11/24 vs. Butler (Las Vegas, NV) 22-11 Yes
11/25 vs. Arizona or Santa Clara (Las Vegas, NV) 25-9 or 11-20 Yes/No
11/29 vs. Tennessee State 20-11 No
12/3 vs. Minnesota (Sioux Falls, SD) 8-23 No
12/6 vs. High Point 21-11 No
12/8 at Middle Tennessee 25-10 Yes
12/17 vs. Chattanooga 29-6 Yes
12/21 at Dayton 25-8 Yes
1/28 vs. Iowa State 23-12 Yes

Six teams on Vandy's potential schedule will face the 'Dores after NCAA Tournament runs last winter. Only one likely opponent (excluding Santa Clara), finished 2016 with a losing record. Ten of the team's 13 probably opponents won 20 games or more the previous year. While Drew will be faced with some tough matchups, he'll avoid having them in true road showdowns. Eleven of the team's non-SEC games will take place at home or on a neutral court this winter.

Best Game: vs. Iowa State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge

This one's cheating, because it comes way after the rest of the non-conference schedule has ended (January 28) and is a part of a larger event. Still, the Commodores will get one of the biggest tests of their season when they face a Cyclone team with rebuilding questions of their own. Iowa State will be without stars like Georges Niang, Jameel McKay, and Abdel Nader, but returns plenty of talent from last season's Sweet Sixteen roster.

Beating the Cyclones in January would give Bryce Drew a dependable win for his team's NCAA Tournament resume. While it may not wind up having the cache of a road win at Dayton or neutral site victories against Marquette or Butler, it's still a safe pick as the game most likely to have a big impact on Vandy's postseason.

Worst Game: vs. Norfolk State

Vanderbilt doesn't face a cupcake squad of low-major opponents this season. Chattanooga will come to Nashville eight months after earning a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. High Point won 21 games last season. Belmont is Belmont, and thus always one or two key wins away from being someone's Cinderella pick each March.

That leaves a few gimmes on the Commodore schedule, however. Norfolk State is coming off a 17-17 season and will have to replace the only three players on its roster that scored in double figures last year. The Spartans are on the brink of a rebuild, and facing them early in the year is the blueprint for a home victory for Vandy.

Typically, 8-23 Minnesota, a team ripped apart by its own sex tape scandal, would have made the cut for worst game. But that game is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for some reason, and that means something nutty is going to happen.