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Men’s basketball releases nonconference schedule

The Commodores open the season on November 7.

Syndication: The Tennessean Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

This morning, I openly wondered in the Anchor Drop when the men’s basketball team would release its nonconference schedule.

Evidently, the answer was today:

Here’s a quick rundown of the opponents.

Presbyterian (November 7, home)

Last season, the Blue Hose finished 5-27 (1-17 Big South) and ranked 344th in KenPom. Bart Torvik’s preseason projections have them at 291, which is a bit of an improvement; still, this should be pretty close to an automatic win.

USC Upstate (November 10, home)

Yep, it’s back-to-back Big South opponents to open the season. Upstate is a bit better (16-16, 10-8 Big South, 254 in KenPom, 255 in Bart Torvik preseason) but still shouldn’t present much of a challenge.

UNC Greensboro (November 13, home)

Greensboro actually won’t be easy — the Spartans finished last season 20-12 (14-4 SoCon) and rank 111th in Bart Torvik’s preseason projections. This is a team Vanderbilt should beat, especially at Memorial, but it isn’t a gimme.

Central Arkansas (November 17, home)

9-22 (4-14 ASUN), 342nd in Bart Torvik’s preseason projections, 333 in KenPom last season. Snore.

Vegas Showdown: NC State (November 23), BYU or Arizona State (November 24)

NC State was a tournament team last year at 23-11 (12-8 ACC), though Torvik expects them to drop off a bit with a preseason projection of 85th. The second game in Vegas will be against either BYU (44th in Torvik) or Arizona State (74th.) Both games should be against quality opponents, but not unwinnable.

Boston College (November 29, home)

For the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge, Vanderbilt draws a pretty blah Boston College team, which went 16-17 (9-11 ACC) last season but ranked 170 in KenPom, though Torvik has them at 96th in his preseason projection.

Alabama A&M (December 2, home)

Alabama A&M was a respectable 15-18 (10-8 SWAC) last season, but Torvik has them projected 341st. In other words, kind of an ideal opponent heading into finals.

San Francisco (December 6, home)

The Dons are projected 121st in Torvik after going 20-14 (7-9 WCC) last season. This is not an ideal opponent to be playing around finals.

Texas Tech (December 16, Fort Worth)

Tech finished in a tie for last in the Big 12 at 16-16 (5-13) last season, then fired their coach and brought in Grant McCasland from North Texas, who went portaling and NILing and has them projected 34th in Torvik (though, thankfully, he did not manage to buy Tyrin Lawrence.) This game is in Fort Worth for some reason. No, I am not mad that the game is not at Texas Tech, why do you ask.

Western Carolina (December 19, home)

18-16 (10-8 SoCon) last year, projected 230th in Torvik. Yes, this is a game Vanderbilt should win. Yes, they are good enough for “weird shit around the holidays” to happen.

Memphis (December 23, away)

The return of a home-and-home that started with last year’s season opener. Memphis went 26-9 (13-5 AAC) and is projected 31st in Torvik. This is pretty easily the most loseable game on the nonconference schedule.

Dartmouth (December 30, home)

It wouldn’t be a Vanderbilt nonconference schedule without a nerd school on it.

Thoughts on the schedule

Well, Jerry Stackhouse has listened to the complaints. After scheduling a bunch of difficult games that also wouldn’t command any respect, Stackhouse got the message from the NCAA that they don’t actually care how strong your nonconference schedule is.

It’s unfortunate for college basketball, but this is where we are: there are only four Power 5 teams on the schedule, there are at most three teams on the schedule that made the NCAA Tournament last season (if we play Arizona State in the second game in Vegas), and while UNC Greensboro and San Francisco are potentially tricky, the quality mid-major opponents are mostly gone.

In the meantime, let’s just get this out there: The home schedule blows. Getting stuck with Boston College in the ACC/SEC Challenge isn’t Jerry Stackhouse’s fault, but we couldn’t start a home-and-home with a decent opponent to balance out the back end of the Memphis home-and-home? We really had to play Texas Tech at a neutral site? None of the attractive games on the nonconference schedule are at Memorial. (Eamonn Brennan actually wrote about the general trend a few weeks ago. It started out with John Calipari being weird but it’s gone far beyond that.)

Still, Vanderbilt should be no worse than 9-4 or 10-3 heading into SEC play unless something has gone horribly wrong, so I guess there’s that. Remember: the NCAA has implicitly said that nonconference scheduling doesn’t actually matter, or at least that they’re going to hold it against you if you lose a bunch of games more than they will you going 13-0 against cupcakes.