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The Lady Bears' Non-Conference Schedule

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With the release of the 2014-2015 non-conference schedule for the Lady Bears, I dive in to see what games are must watch and what games you can wait for the recap.

Kim beating Kentucky when it mattered
Kim beating Kentucky when it mattered
Robert Rogers/Baylor Marketing & Communications

In his introductory post as a contributor for ODB, brolewis breaks down the Lady Bears' non-conference slate.  I hope all of you will join me in welcoming him aboard! -- Seymour

Date Opponent / Event Location 2014 RPI Final Rank
11/04/2014 vs. Midwestern State (Exhibition) Waco, TX
11/10/2014 vs. Tarleton State (Exhibition) Waco, TX
11/14/2014 vs. Oral Roberts Waco, TX 259
11/17/2014 at Kentucky Lexington, KY 10 11
BTI Classic
11/28/2014 vs. Marist Waco, TX 41
11/29/2014 vs. Stetson Waco, TX 60
11/30/2014 vs. Utah State Waco, TX 161
12/03/2014 vs. Texas-Pan American Waco, TX 248
12/07/2014 at Ole Miss Oxford, MS 157
12/10/2014 vs. Idaho Waco, TX 87
12/14/2014 vs. Stephen F. Austin Waco, TX 178
Florida Sunshine Tournament
12/19/2014 vs. Syracuse Orlando, FL 26 RV
12/20/2014 vs. Michigan State Orlando, FL 31 23
12/29/2014 vs. Prairie View A&M Waco, TX 224

The Schedule

Unfortunately, for as long as I can remember, the schedule is filled with teams I've never heard of or teams I know that aren't of the highest quality (sorry, Prairie View A&M). Kim has stated in the past that the Big 12 proves enough of a challenge and helps the team get quality wins, but i always hope that this year will be different, that this year will include not only marquee games but also ones that at least grab your attention and you recognize the name and respect the program. Unfortunately, this year follows the all too familiar pattern. The average RPI for our non-conference slate is 123.5. Three of our games are against teams with an RPI greater than 200 and half of our games are against teams with an RPI over 150.

While a few of these games I think will be must-see TV, overall, I think most of these games will be glorified practice games with a rotating cast of players. To put it into perspective, remove the BTI Classic and the average RPI of our home opponents is 199.2. Let that number sink in for a minute. Even when you include the BTI Classic the average only raises to 157.25. For reference there are 347 Division I Women's Basketball teams so the midway point is 173.5 and our home schedule is floating dangerously close to this point.

While it is nice to have a nice block of home games, this schedule has the team leaving Waco only three times. What's interesting is that all of the hardest games, at least on paper, will be away. This makes for an interesting schedule. I like that the Florida Sunshine Tournament is one of the last set of games before conference games begin. This will be a great way to make sure the team is ready for conference play. I've always felt that too many easy games before Big 12 starts can lead to a sluggish start to conference play and this tournament will hopefully get the team focused before conference play instead of during.

Key Games

Baylor at Kentucky - I both love and hate this game. I love this game because I feel that Baylor is forming a natural rivalry with Kentucky and several of our teams have caused problems for Kentucky in the post season. I have stated before that I would love to see Baylor and Kentucky formalize the relationship (maybe set up an annual challenge and the loser has to take Guy Morriss for a year). Specifically for women's basketball, I think these are two great programs and both matchups last year made for incredible games. I see no reason to believe that this year will be any different. However, having said that, I hate this game because it is the second game of the season. While an argument could be made that any team could struggle early in the season, I think that Baylor tends to struggle a little more with early tough matches, ala 2012 vs. Stanford and 2010 vs. UConn. Given that, I think this game will be entertaining and will probably keep you at the edge of your seat for most of the game. However, given how early it is in the season, I don't know how much about the team we will learn since there will be a bunch of growth in the coming months. Watchability rating: Does it go up to eleven? 10/10.

Baylor vs Marist - Win lose or draw, Baylor comes home after what will probably be a physically and emotionally draining game to face another Top 50 game. Granted, this game is 11 days after the Kentucky game, but it will still be telling to see how the team responds after both a game against a Top 10 opponent as well as after a long break. This game, I think, will be the game where we really start to see the team take shape, having been molded by the Kentucky game. Watchability rating: 6.5/10.

Baylor vs. Syracuse - This game will be interesting for several reasons. First, Syracuse is a solid team and so will be a good display of talent and ability for our team. Secondly, this will be only the third time the Lady Bears will be on the road this season. This game will be good preparation for conference since half the games will be away from home so it will be a good game for orienting to away game, even if it may not be as hostile as an away game in the Big 12. Finally, this will be the first game played against an RPI Top 50 team since 11/28, 21 days. I already expressed my concern about the home schedule so no need to rehash it here, but I think this game could and should be a good wake up call / test for the team in preparation for Big 12 play. Given all these factors, and the fact that it should most likely be on TV, I give this a watchability rating of 8/10.

Baylor vs. Michigan State - As a long time Baylor Lady Bears fan, there are certain teams that jump to mind when you think of opponents: Tennessee, UConn, LSU. Michigan State is one of those teams for me. I was one of thousands of fans that made the trek to Indianapolis to watch all three games of the Final Four and Championship Game. I watched Michigan State overcome a 16 point deficit to beat Tennessee. I watched as Baylor put on school for how to play basketball in the Championship Game. As a result, I think that I will always enjoy watching Baylor play Michigan State. However, regardless of my own history, this should be a great game. Michigan State should be another strong team and this will be our second game on the road. We will see how the team plays with back-to-back games against strong competition as well as back-to-back games on the road. This game will be probably the best "test" game in the non-conference slate and I think may give us the best picture of what to expect when conference play begins. As a result, I also give this game a watchability rating of 8/10.

Recap

In conclusion, I'm ok with this schedule. It is on par with schedules in the past. We get some interesting matchups and should have at least a few games that are entertaining as well as good preparation for entering non-conference play. I would always love better games, but at the end of the day, I love me some Lady Bears basketball.