While Arizona has long been safely inside the Pac-12’s new scheduling standards, some conference teams will need to be careful starting in 2020-21.
According to an analysis by the Oregonian’s James Crepea, four Pac-12 teams would have been over the 175 collective NET ratings for nonconference opponents last season.
Using Kenpom opponent averages for the past five seasons (the Pac-12 will use NET ratings going forward), Crepea calculated schedules over the threshold for Utah (175.6), Oregon State (176.8), Colorado (186.0) and Washington State (222.1).
The result for Utah might have come as a surprise. The Utes received publicity for scheduling Nevada, Kentucky, BYU and Minnesota -- but also had three 330-plus teams: Maine, Mississippi Valley State and Florida A&M.
Arizona (138.3) had the third-toughest collective schedule using Kenpom ratings, behind Stanford (132.3) and UCLA (137.4)
Colorado and Washington State also played plus-200 NET opponents on the road last season, which also won’t be allowed starting in 2020-21: Colorado played at Air Force (231.4) and Washington State played at Seattle (247.6). Pac-12 teams will also be no longer allowed to play onetime road games in exchange for a guarantee, regardless of that team’s NET rating.
Pac-12 teams rarely play “guarantee” games on the road but Jamie Zaninovich, the Pac-12’s deputy commissioner in charge of men’s basketball, said the conference is trying to limit teams who play 2-for-1s that get them two home games against a weaker opponent in exchange for one road game at that weaker opponents. Teams playing regional games such as Colorado and Washington State will be affected, however.
Arizona rarely plays road games against weak opponents. Texas Tech was just 239, coming off the departure of Billy Gillespie, when Arizona played at Lubbock in 2012-13. But the Red Raiders’ trailing Kenpom average for the previous five years was 121, so the Wildcats would not have been in violation.
Arizona also played regional midmajors on the road in 2011-12 (No. 65 New Mexico State) and 2013-14 (No. 97 UTEP) but both of those opponents were below 100 during those seasons.
Some other in-the-weeds observations about the new standards:
- NET ratings will be used for the 2018-19 season and in the future but since they weren’t available before then, Kenpom numbers will be used. Zaninovich said Kenpom numbers were closest to the NET ratings, as opposed to the RPI or other power ratings.
- The Pac-12 already had a rule against scheduling non-Division I teams for regular-season games but announced it Monday as part of its rule changes anyway. The rule was an issue last season, when the Maui Invitational asked Arizona and San Diego State to play home regular-season games against Division I Chaminade, which was not hosting the island games. UA said it could not because of the rule, and instead hosted Chaminade for an exhibition game. (as it turned out, Chaminade was the best team UA played before it actually went to Maui but that’s another story…)
- To account for multi-team events, all participants’ five-year NET averages will be calculated, then a collective average will be calculated from them and inputted into as many bracketed games a team has in the event.
For example, Arizona will play in the Wooden Legacy event next season. Those participating teams have a collective five-year average of 144, ranging from Providence (52) to Pepperdine (200). UA will play three bracketed games in the Wooden Legacy, so it would have counted three 144 games toward its season number.
Arizona's overall opponent NET rating from 2018-19 was 138.1 while its opponents' five-year trailing average is 139.6 (counting NET ratings for last season and Kenpom numbers before that, which likely explains the difference in the Oregonian's number)
Here’s UA’s nonconference schedule for next season, with last year’s NET rating and the collective five-year NET/Kenpom average:
Date | Team | (2018-19 NET, five-year average)
Nov. 6 NAU (287, 291)
Nov. 10 ILLINOIS (105, 92)
Nov. 14 SAN JOSE STATE (341, 290)
Nov. 17 NEW MEXICO STATE (46, 80)
Nov. 21 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (99, 107)
Nov. 24 LONG BEACH STATE (238, 179)
Nov. 28, 29 and Dec. 1 Wooden Legacy, at Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center, bracket TBA. Participating teams: UCF, Charleston, Long Beach State, Penn, Pepperdine, Providence, Wake Forest. Collective 2018-19 NET: 130. Collective five-year rating: 144
Dec. 7 at Baylor (34, 24)
Dec. 11 NEBRASKA-OMAHA (178, 208)
Dec. 14 GONZAGA (2, 8)
Dec. 21 St. John’s (in San Francisco) (75, 102)
Jan. 1-5 Pac-12 season begins. Dates and times TBA.