Ranking Butler's nonconference Matchups

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

With three big-time games confirmed, and possibly three more depending on how the Battle 4 Atlantis plays out, Butler has the best non-conference schedule in the Big East

Earlier this month, Butler's non-conference schedule was completed with the announcement they would meet North Carolina in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. How does the rest of their non-Big East tilt fare?

1.     Wisconsin Badgers/Florida Gators (November 28; Nassau, Bahamas)

As shown in the B4A bracket above, this would have to mean Butler is in the championship game of the tournament. One would assume that one of these two teams would be joining them. As for why this game took the top spot; both of these teams went to the final four last season and getting a win over either of them would get the Bulldogs off on the right track. Of course they would first have to get through the second and third teams on this list beforehand.

2.     North Carolina Tar Heels (November 26; Nassau, Bahamas)

Butler's first opponent in the Battle for Atlantis is one they have some familiarity with in Thanksgiving week tournaments. This year's North Carolina team looks much better than the 2012-2013 squad though. According to 247Sports, North Carolina's 2014 recruiting class ranks third in the nation.

3.     UCLA Bruins (November 27; Nassau, Bahamas)

UCLA, like North Carolina, also had a top 10 recruiting class, coming in at #7. Games against teams like UCLA and North Carolina can sometimes favor a team like Butler, however, in that Butler has guys that have played together and thus will have no chemistry issues, while UNC and UCLA's squads may not have "gelled" yet.

4. Indiana Hoosiers (December 20; Indianapolis, Indiana)

In the fourth installment of the (recently extended) Crossroads Classic, Butler will face in-state rival Indiana. When these two teams met in 2012 at the Classic, a classic is what they delivered. With Indiana coach Tom Crean rumored to be on the hot seat, this game could go a long way in determining his future.

5. Tennessee Volunteers (December 14; Knoxville, Tennessee)

In only their second game against an SEC opponent since 2006, Butler will travel to Knoxville to face the new look Volunteers. Butler has generally fared well against the SEC, beating Vanderbilt 85-77 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last season, and upsetting Tennessee 56-44 in the semi-finals of the 2006 NIT Tip-Off.

6. Maine Black Bears (November 15; Indianapolis, Indiana)

Normally a game against a team that has achieved a winning record just thrice since 2002 would not be something worth celebrating. However, this is Butler's regular season home opener. More importantly, it will be the first regular season game in the newly-renovated Hinkle Fieldhouse.

7. Belmont Bruins (December 28; Indianapolis, Indiana)

Butler's final non-conference game may be one of their toughest. Belmont is coming off a 26-win season and a trip to the NIT quarterfinals, though many argued they should have made the NCAA tournament last season. Three of Belmont's four players to average 10+ points per game last season (Craig Bradshaw, Reece Chamberlain, and Drew Windler) are returning this season.

8. Northwestern Wildcats (December 6; Indianapolis, Indiana)

This game likely will mean more for the Wildcats, as it is their best out of conference game, but Butler should not overlook Northwestern. Chris Collins' first full offseason as head coach produced Northwestern's highest ranked recruiting class (53rd) since at least 2002, which is as far back as 247Sports' database goes. Though I do not see Northwestern posing much of a threat this season, Butler could be on upset alert next year when the series shifts to Evanston.

9. Indiana State Sycamores (December 3; Terre Haute, Indiana)

More often than not, Indiana State basketball only comes up when discussing Larry Bird or John Wooden's careers, but the Sycamores have had success of late, winning 23 games last year before falling to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the NIT. However, Indiana State lost their leading scorer and passer from last season, point guard Jake Odum, to graduation. If Butler does not come down from the emotional high they will be on after Battle 4 Atlantis, this could be a trap game for them.

10. Chattanooga Mocs (November 18; Indianapolis, Indiana)

The final four games on this list may have been the most difficult to place, because they are all home games against opponents Butler really should not struggle with. Chattanooga was able to make the CIT thanks largely to their 12-4 record in the Southern Conference, but East Tennessee State promptly ousted them. The one player on the Mocs Butler will have to stop is forward Z Mason. Mason nearly averaged a double double last season at 18.1 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game.

11. Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks (December 22; Indianapolis, Indiana)

Although Tennessee-Martin finished 8-23 last season, they were 81st in the NCAA in scoring at 74.3 points per game. This is thanks to their two forwards, Terence Smith and Myles Taylor, both of whom averaged 14.6 points per game. The problem with the Skyhawks falls in their defense. They finished 347 out of 351 teams in points allowed per game at 81.5, and also finished 342nd in defensive rebounds per game with 20.4.

12. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds (November 22, Indianapolis, Indiana)

As a team, Loyola might be worse than the last ranked team on this list, but what sets Loyola one rung higher is guard Dylon Cormier. Cormier led the team in scoring, by far, at 21.2 points per game last season. Even with that said, however, this should still be an easy game for the Bulldogs.

13. Kennesaw State Owls (December 8; Indianapolis, Indiana)

 

Kennesaw State is 15-80 over the last three seasons. Enough said.

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