In 2011-12, the Pac-12 was widely considered one of the worst conferences in the nation, and the non-conference schedule was part of the blame. The entirety of the league went 1-29 against the RPI top 50 in non-conference games, and the Arizona Wildcats and Washington Huskies both missed the NCAA Tournament partly because of how weak their non-conference schedules were.
That is not the case anymore. With the league back up and running where a major conference should be, the Pac-12 has plenty of non-conference games to highlight the national schedule.
Sean Miller tests his young team early
Arizona is pegged as the favorite in the Pac-12, but coach Sean Miller has scheduled quite the non-conference slate for his young team to make it through first. Arizona has Aaron Gordon and Rondae Jefferson coming in to take the reins, but it'll be a steep learning curve right off the bat.
It is without a doubt the toughest schedule Miller has put together since he started at Arizona. The Wildcats have four games scheduled against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year, and if all goes according to plan at the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament, the Duke Blue Devils will increase that magic number to five.
After an exhibition game, the Wildcats get pretty much one tune-up game against Cal Poly before the schedule kicks in. They host the consistently tough draw of Long Beach State, head on the road against San Diego State and then go to New York City for the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The Wildcats then return home to face Texas Tech, UNLV and New Mexico State before effectively closing out their non-conference trudge with a game at Michigan. Luckily for Gordon and company, Miller threw in games against Southern University and Northern Arizona before Pac-12 basketball gets underway.
Colorado and Washington learn their lessons
In 2011, there were arguments abound that Colorado got snubbed from the NCAA Tournament and the following year, Washington experienced a similar fate. Experts also referenced both teams' terrible non-conference schedules as reasons why the Buffaloes and Huskies weren't dancing. Both Tad Boyle and Lorenzo Romar got the notice and upped the ante on their non-conference schedules.
Colorado apparently tried to line up the entire Big 12 in its crosshairs, but ended up with just the top of the conference. The Buffaloes open their season against Baylor on a "neutral" court in Dallas, Texas. They also host the Kansas Jayhawks on Dec. 7 and take on Oklahoma State in Las Vegas on Dec. 21.
Romar isn't quite as bold as Boyle is in his scheduling, but this season's non-conference slate is still better than what Washington usually serves up. The Huskies head to Madison Square Garden to face Indiana and either Boston College or Connecticut in the 2K Sports Classic. They also have a road game against San Diego State and another scheduled game against Connecticut in December.
Oregon opens the season in South Korea
No really, the only team that probably has it worse than Oregon for its regular-season opener is its opponent Georgetown. The two teams will face off on Nov. 8 at Camp Humphreys, a military base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, which is about 45 miles south of Seoul.
After that, however, the Ducks' schedule leaves a little bit to be desired. Their next game on Nov. 13 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff is the first of six straight home games, with the most challenging draw being Pacific on Nov. 29. Once December hits, things get a bit more interesting for the Ducks. They travel to Ole Miss and host Illinois and BYU before Pac-12 play begins.
UCLA and USC ease in their new coaches
Both Steve Alford and Andy Enfield have a couple of tough tests in their first seasons at their respective California schools, but that is just it -- a couple.
The Bruins will head to Madison Square Garden to take on Duke on Dec. 19. They also have a potentially tough road trip to Missouri on Dec. 7, but that is about it. If you are looking for good basketball, don't check in with UCLA too early in the season. Its first five games come at home against Drexel, Oakland, Sacramento State, Morehead State and Chattanooga.
Enfield has USC floating in much of the same boat. The Trojans open with a test on the road against the Utah State Aggies on Nov. 8, but then it's smooth sailing until Thanksgiving and the Battle 4 Atlantis. USC's first game in the tournament is against Villanova, and after that it will either play Wake Forest or Kansas.
But just like with UCLA, there aren't many more noteworthy games for the Trojans. They also play on the road at Long Beach State, which should be a tough game. But home games against Cal State Northridge, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Bakersfield, Northern Arizona and Howard drag down the overall non-conference profile of the Trojans.