Breaking Down Iowa's Non-Conference Schedule

By RossWB on October 31, 2016 at 7:00 pm
En garde.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Matt already broke down the Big Ten, and while league games account for almost two-thirds of Iowa's schedule, those other 13 games are mighty important as well.  So let's take a look at who Iowa will be playing in their non-conference games this year. 

I've got each team listed by their KenPom ranking this year, their KenPom ranking last year, their spot in the CBS 1-351 rankings, as well as their league finish predictions from the Athlon, Sporting News, and Lindy's preseason magainzes.

Kennesaw State 306 262 197 8th in A Sun 8th in A Sun 7th in A Sun
Savannah State 341 332 349 4th in MEAC 8th in MEAC 13th in MEAC
Seton Hall 38 29 46 4th in Big East 3rd in Big East 6th in Big East
UT-Rio Grande Valley 344 348 321 7th in WAC 7th in WAC 7th in WAC
Virginia 7 3 8 3rd in ACC 4th in ACC 3rd in ACC
Providence* 63 44 69 8th in Big East 9th in Big East 7th in Big East
Memphis* 93 75 83 5th in AAC 5th in AAC 4th in AAC
Notre Dame 50 37 52 7th in ACC 9th in ACC 5th in ACC
Nebraska Omaha 184 148 189 5th in Summit 4th in Summit 4th in Summit
Stetson 232 278 291 6th in A Sun 4th in A Sun 5th in A Sun
Iowa State 26 20 24 2nd in Big 12 4th in Big 12 4th in Big 12
Northern Iowa 82 67 82 3rd in MVC 3rd in MVC 3rd in MVC
North Dakota 147 198 219 4th in Big Sky 2nd in Big Sky 5th in Big Sky
Delaware State 335 350 346 13th in MEAC 13th in MEAC 4th in MEAC

* Iowa will play Providence OR Memphis in their other game in the Emerald Coast Classic, but not both.  We won't know which one they play until after the Iowa-Virginia and Providence-Memphis games.  

So what can we say about Iowa's non-league schedule? 

  • Iowa should be able to get off to a pretty good start -- Kennesaw State, Savannah State, and UT-Rio Grande Valley are not exactly fearsome-looking opponents.  Given the inexperience Iowa is rolling out this year, though, a soft launch isn't a bad idea.
  • Seton Hall ought to provide an excellent early test for Iowa, though.  While the Pirates are without their best player from a year ago (first team All Big East guard Isaiah Whitehead jumped to the NBA), they still have some very good talent returning, including guard Khadeem Carrington and forwards Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez. Iowa does get them in Iowa City, which should help.
  • And speaking of early tests: hello, Virginia. The Cavaliers were excellent a year ago and they're not expected to drop off much this year, despite losing ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon to graduation. That's a testament to returning senior point guard London Perrantes and the strong system that Tony Bennett has built in Charlottesville.  They did just announce a suspension for their highly-touted transfer forward Austin Nichols -- but only for one game. He should be back in the lineup for the Iowa game. If Iowa's able to knock off Virginia, it might be one of the standout wins of Fran's tenure at Iowa.
  • Iowa will play either Memphis or Providence in their other game in the Emerald Coast Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. Based on the preseason projections, Iowa should be favored against both, so hopefully they can rack up a solid win against whoever they face. 
  • Iowa's third early season test should come immediately after their Emerald Coast Classic jaunt, when they play their first (and only) true road game of the non-conference season, against Notre Dame. Notre Dame has lost four players to the NBA over the last two seasons (including last year's two top scorers, Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste), but they have talent waiting to emerge (led by strong shooter V.J. Beachem) and, like Virginia, Mike Brey has a solid system in place in South Bend. 
  • Iowa's fourth early season test should come a week later, when Iowa State comes to Iowa City for the annual Cy-Hawk clash.  Both teams are replacing a lot from a year ago, but the Cyclones do return Monte Morris, expected to be one of the top guards in the country and welcome in a few new transfers who should see immediate action. Iowa State has won six of the last seven games in this series, so it would really be nice to get a win back over ISU. 
  • Iowa's last early season test is a neutral site game against UNI in the Big Four Classic in Des Moines. UNI doesn't have gaudy preseason projections, but they return several key faces from last year's NCAA Tournament team (including Jeremy Morgan, Wyatt Lohaus, and Bennett Koch), they're always well-coached, and they're always up for a game against one of the "Big Two" in the state. This will be a tough game. 
  • Of Iowa's remaining games, Stetson and Delaware State should be easy wins and final opportunities to fine-tune things before the Big Ten season tips off.  Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota possess a little upset potential if Iowa tries to sleepwalk through those performances, though -- both teams appear to be good enough to contend for finishes near the top of their respective conferences and those teams can bite a power conference team if they're not prepared. Given Iowa's inexperience, there's definitely some reason to be wary of those games.

Still, if Iowa takes care of business in all of their games against weaker opposition, they should get seven wins in non-league play.  That leaves six games against tougher competition. If they can split those games and go into Big Ten play at 10-3, that wouldn't be too bad.  Of course, given how difficult their Big Ten schedule may be, the more wins they can grab in November and December, the better.  

How many wins do you think Iowa will get from their non-conference schedule? 


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