In lieu of a preview of the James Madison game (and because I really like the word lieu), I've decided to make some predictions as to how our non-conference slate will play itself out. As many regular readers and contributors will know, I tend toward pessimism when playing out potential Wildcat scenarios. This post is not much different, in that I don't think the Cats make it through the non-conference portion of the schedule unscathed. Nor do I think they make it through "once-scathed." Or even "twice-scathed." Love this team, but we definitely have some areas of concern.
Click through the jump to see how many "scathes" I see our Cats taking during the non-conference portion of the schedule.
O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic: 3-2 -- #14
JMU, Va Tech, Presby, Gonzaga (KC); Duke/Marquette (KC)
I see the Cats beating James Madison tonight (crosses fingers hopefully), as well as Presbyterian, and losing to two of the combo-pack of Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, and Duke and/or Marquette. Given the distinct lack of confidence expressed by Frank Martin (and Jacob Pullen, for that matter) in the current players' leadership, I just can't see us getting out of these first 5 games with less than two losses. I hope I'm wrong. I also hope we don't screw around and lose to a tougher-than-most-think JMU squad tonight. If we lose tonight, my "First-5 prediction" drops to 2-3/1-4, with 1-4 being more likely. If we somehow make it through unscathed, though, it's hello #1 in the nation!
Soft-5 Portion of the Non-Con: 5-0 [8-2] -- #11
Texas Southern, Emporia State, @Washington State, Alcorn State, @Loyola (Chicago)
Not much to say about this set of games, other than that it includes our first two true road games, and that Washington State will be (like JMU) tougher than people think.
Last-5 Non-Cons: 4-1 [12-3] - #15
@Florida; UNLV (KC); UMKC; North Florida, Savannah State
I love that Frank is challenging this young team with such a brutal non-conference schedule. It will reveal the character (or lack thereof) of this squad very quickly, to be playing such a difficult schedule. In these last 5 games, I fully expect that the Cats will lose to Florida, win tough over UNLV, and use the last 3 games to make sure that everyone is prepared for the conference schedule.
To be honest, KSU has 6 very "losable" games on their non-conference schedule, including @Florida, UNLV, @Washington State, Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, and Duke/Marquette. That's not even including tonight's matchup, which worries me quite a lot. With the lack of maturity currently concerning Frank, I will be more than pleased if the Cats make it into conference play with "only" 2-4 losses. That will mean that we have 3 or 4 quality wins to point toward on our resume for seeding purposes, and that if we're able to pull something like a 12-4 record out of our conference schedule, we'd be able to set ourselves up for a high seed (somewhere between 2 and 4, depending on our non-conference results) in the NCAAs, and a chance at a conference title -- and another deep NCAA tourney run -- as well. But I'll take a look at the conference slate at some point between now and the end of December. For now, my non-conference prediction stands at 12-3. Make your own predictions, or just tell me why I'm an idiot (or brilliant, whichever you prefer) in the comments.