Seton Hall preview series: Ranking the non-conference opponents

In the same format that I presented last year for South Orange Juice, I will rank all of Seton Hall’s non-conference foes from weakest to strongest and then provide RPI projections – which I’ve been fairly accurate at doing in the past – for each.

No. 12 Troy Trojans

Troy loses three of their top four scorers from a team that went 10-19 last year. This late addition to the non-conference schedule should be Seton Hall’s easiest game of the season.

No. 11 Bradley Braves

The Braves could be just as bad as Troy, but they get the slight edge due to this potential matchup being on a neutral court instead of the Prudential Center. Bradley lost nine players to graduation/transfers, their head coach and seven of their top eight scorers from a 9-24 team. Ouch.

No. 10 Dartmouth Big Green

A middle-tier Ivy League team a season ago, Dartmouth loses their top two scorers and projects to be around the same level or perhaps a little worse in 2015-16.

No. 9 Wagner Seahawks

Wagner is around the same level as Dartmouth and loses Marcus Burton’s 17.5 ppg, but the Seahawks do add notable talent in Dwaun Anderson (injured last season), UPenn transfer Henry Brooks and junior college wing Michael Carey.

No. 8 Saint Peter’s Peacocks

John Dunne’s team joins USF and Rutgers in a middle-tier of non-conference opponents that will be a touch tougher than No. 9-12. Saint Peter’s loses three key guys that helped the Peacocks upset the Hall two seasons ago but the MAAC squad won’t roll over.

No. 7 South Florida Bulls

Like last season, USF is still in rebuilding mode. Orlando Antigua’s Bulls could be better in 2015-16, but that will certainly require a big impact from Maryland transfer Roddy Peters and the return of center Chris Perry from a mysterious illness.

No. 6 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

I don’t rate Rutgers at all, but the rivalry factor and home court advantage at the RAC gives Seton Hall’s in-state rivals the edge over USF and Saint Peter’s. Rutgers is destined for the Big Ten basement again.

No. 5 Long Beach State 49ers

This is Seton Hall’s first big test of the season. The Beach has a ton of turnover from last season but adds three key guys via transfer and AJ Spencer returns from injury. The Big West school should not be overlooked in Charleston.

No. 4 George Washington Colonials

GW loses two starters but also adds two key guys in Alex Mitola (Dartmouth) and Tyler Cavanaugh (Wake Forest). The Colonials should be just as stout as last season.

No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs

An NCAA team that gave Seton Hall a ton of trouble in Athens last season will be just as strong again this year. A seasoned and skilled four-guard backcourt is the Bulldogs’ strength.

No. 2 Wichita State Shockers

This marquee home game on Fox could be worth the price of admission and then some. Ranked No. 10 in the preseason AP poll, Wichita State is the best non-league team to come to Jersey in over a decade and could be even better than last year with the addition of Cleveland State transfer Anton Grady.

No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers

It was tough picking between No. 6 UVA and Wichita State, but the Cavaliers get the slight edge due to a better defense than the Shockers and this potential game being on a neutral court. Seton Hall has not played overly well against slower, defensively sound teams of late (see: Butler); Virginia was the best defensive team and ranked 349th in tempo last year.

Note: If I had to add Ole Miss and Oklahoma State to the fray (potential Charleston Classic opponents), I’d put both at No. 4 behind Georgia.

RPI category projections:

RPI 1-50 (great schedule): vs. Virginia*, Wichita State, Georgia

RPI 51-100 (good schedule):  @ George Washington

RPI 101-200 (neutral): vs. Long Beach State

RPI 201-250 (bad for RPI): @ Rutgers (-), South Florida, Saint Peter’s, Wagner

RPI 251+ (RPI killer): Bradley*, Troy, Dartmouth

* – potential opponent; (+) – potential to move up a bracket; (-) – potential to move down a bracket