Though the Big East undeniably had a resurgence in 2014 with six teams making the NCAA Tournament and three teams finishing in the postseason Top 25, the rebuilt conference still has work to do if it is to establish itself as a preimer conference for the foreseeable future.
With that in mind, the out-of-conference portion of the schedule has been a hot topic of debate among Villanova fans who feel the Big East hasn't adequately prepared the Wildcats for the rigors of March Madness - as evidenced by second-round exits in back to back seasons.
|Opponent||Preseason AP Ranking||Postseason AP Ranking||Preseason RPI||Postseason RPI|
|St. Joseph's (PA)||NR||NR||N/A||179|
(Preseason RPI data couldn't be found -- if you have it, let us know)
It's always easier to play MMQB, but for argument's sake, Villanova entered last season with three opponents ranked in the Top 25. Syracuse was a tire-fire and Michigan went through an unexpectedly rough season after some key injuries. Only VCU really held true to their ranking, while Temple ended up playing better than expected.
There's no denying the postseason numbers though -- it's a weak schedule with just two Top-50 opponents and four from the Top-100 out of thirteen games. Let's take a look at what we know so far about the 2015 schedule
|Opponent||Preseason AP Ranking||Postseason RPI|
|St. Joseph's (PA)||NR||179|
Look familiar? The regular Big 5 slate is back, as well as Delaware who has been a regular on the schedule for several years. Throw those games out the window, since it appears it isn't changing anytime soon. Hopefully La Salle & St. Joseph's improve, as it looks like only Delaware and Penn will be RPI-killer type of games.
An exempt tournament in New York that featured (at the time) good games with VCU and Michigan will be replaced by another exempt event in New York, this time with two games against Arkansas, Stanford, and/or Georgia Tech. All three of those teams likely won't make much noise next season, so this appears to be a downgrade - but aside from Maui & Atlantis, these tournaments are typically a crapshoot. The preliminary games are basically a clean swap. Bucknell is replaced by Akron (not good, but not an RPI-killer either), with another likely low-RPI game still to be announced.
On the good side, a home-and-home arrangement with Syracuse was replaced by a home-and-home with Virginia, which is a clear upgrade, especially considering the Orange's situation for the coming years.
A neutral-site game with Illinois was replaced by a one-off game with Oklahoma, another clear upgrade with the Sooners expected to be in or near the Top 10 next year. We're all upset at being dealt a matchup with Nebraska for the Gavitt Games, but if it means taking a team like NJIT or Lehigh off the schedule, it's a clear upgrade most years with the quality of the Big Ten.
There's one more game left out there - rumors of a matchup with Duke appear to false - so expect a low-RPI game to be added to the mix. If it's something better, that's gravy.
While the season has yet to be played, it at least appears that Villanova has added a couple of high-level games to the schedule (and neither is at home) that should help them get some experience for March. If the Wildcats fail again next spring, it may be time to find another scapegoat.