On Monday Florida State basketball released their out-of-conference schedule for the 2016-17 season. Since FSU is an annual bubble team, getting the non-conference portion of the schedule right is critical. This means wins obviously, but more importantly it means gaming the terrible RPI system so that FSU looks their best come Selection Sunday.
So how did they do?
vs Charleston Southern (last year's RPI: 297): Hey, an RPI crusher right out of the gate, right? Well, not so fast. Coach Barclay Radebaugh has won the regular season in the Big South in two of the last four years, and is a multiple coach-of-year winner. CSU returns four starters and add three JUCO players, so I won't be surprised if they make a decent jump. Plus FSU will start the season 1-0.
vs Iona (85): The Gaels, since Tim Cluess took over, are the east coast version of St. Mary's, and not just because they have the same mascot - without even looking at their roster you can book them for 20+ wins. FSU fans will also get to see Sam Cassell Jr., and with Iona's uptempo attack, this promises to be one of the most entertaining games of the season. I love this matchup, though if FSU's freshmen aren't ready, this could easily become their first loss.
Pre-season NIT No. 1: The non New York City NIT opponents have not been announced, but last year's home NIT teams had RPIs of: 34, 85, 112, 298.
Pre-season NIT No. 2: See above.
Pre-season NIT: FSU will play two of Temple (68), Illinois (151), and West Virginia (11). Illinois should be much improved with the return of two talented bigs who missed last season, so all three opponents will be quality games.
vs Minnesota (264): Thanks ACC/B1G Challenge! The Gophers aren't quite the Boston College of the Big Ten, but they're terrible nonetheless. They have a decent recruiting class, but nothing that really moves the needle. The only hope is in their computer numbers which were significantly better than their RPI. The good scenario is that they're less bad.
George Washington (35): Technically a neutral site game, but with it in Washington DC it's pretty much a home game for the Colonials. GW rolled through a series of impressive teams to win the NIT last year, but they lost three starters. Jaren Sina, a talented transfer from Seton Hall, sat out last year and will ensure that George Washington remains solid.
Southern Miss (312): This game is probably a terrible idea. Southern Miss is going to be garbage again and will likely be the RPI anchor that FSU really doesn't need. They do return a decent player who missed almost all of last year with a broken foot, so that's hope they'll be better, I guess.
Nicholls State (316): Last year's RPI anchor makes a return trip to FSU. The good news is that they landed a former top-50 recruit in transfer Roddy Peters, the bad news is that is unclear whether he has to sit out this season per transfer rules. They do return three starters, add five JUCO players, and have a new coach, so there is hope, especially if Roddy Peters is eligible.
Florida (45): The Gators will be solid, and the Seminoles will be looking for 3-straight wins over their in-state rival.
Manhattan (229): The Noles and the Jaspers will face off in south Florida. After two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, Manhattan struggled last year. But Coach Masiello probably has them headed in the right direction.
Samford (253): Like Nicholls State, Samford landed a former top-50 recruit in Alabama transfer Justin Coleman. Unfortunately, he has to sit this year. There's not much reason to believe they'll be any better than last year.
Florida State did a great job arranging games with Iona and George Washington. The Gators are always on the schedule, and that's a good thing. The Noles pretty much got screwed by the ACC/B1G Challenge, and they doubled down on that blemish by scheduling too many teams that have potential to be RPI 250+. The schedule will get a huge boost if the two home NIT opponents are quality teams.
All things considered, this is a schedule that probably won't kill FSU come Selection Sunday, but certainly won't be doing them any favors either. The Noles will need to enter conference play at a minimum of 10-3 to not be playing catch up.