ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia Basketball’s 2015-16 non-conference slate announced Tuesday will be among the most challenging and balanced in the program’s history. The Bulldogs’ 11 non-conference opponents averaged 19.3 wins last season and finished 2014-15 with an average NCAA rpi of 115.
“Our goal was a non-conference schedule that would put us in a proper position with the strength of schedule numbers at the end of the year,” head coach Mark Fox said. “You never know what kind of season a team you play will have, but with the numbers from last year I think we’ve been able to establish the strength of schedule we need. It’s a little tougher numbers wise than it was a year ago. That’s important when you get to the month of March.”
The Bulldogs will open the season by hosting a three-game homestand featuring Chattanooga on Nov. 13, Murray State on Nov. 20 and High Point on Nov. 25. Georgia travels to Seton Hall on Nov. 28 before hosting a half-dozen games at Stegeman Coliseum during December. Matchups with Kansas State on Dec. 4, Georgia Tech on Dec. 19 and Clemson on Dec. 22 headline that stretch. A Jan. 30 trip to Baylor for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge wraps up the Bulldogs’ non-conference competition.
“One of the things Greg (McGarity) and I have talked about for several years is getting quality non-league opponents to Athens,” Fox said. “I think we’ve been doing a good job of that with teams like Colorado and Seton Hall last year and Kansas State and Clemson this season. We want to have an attractive schedule. I want our fans to come to Stegeman Coliseum to watch our team play, but I want them to see our team play against some real quality teams.”
Last season’s average rpi is the best by Georgia’s non-conference opponents since 2001-02. The 13 non-conference foes during the 2001-02 season averaged an rpi of 111 during 2000-01.
“You’ve got to cut your teeth early on to prepare yourself for the league,” Fox said. “Our league is very strong. One way to prepare your players for the league is to challenge them in non-league play.”
Georgia’s non-conference strength of schedule ranked No. 96 in each of the past two seasons. By comparison, the Bulldogs’ 2014-15 non-conference opponents averaged an rpi of 144 in 2013-14, while UGA’s 2013-14 non-conference foes averaged an rpi of 172 in 2012-13.
All told, Georgia will play 18 regular-season home games, equaling 2008-09 and 2012-13 for the most ever. The Bulldogs’ SEC schedule will be released next month; however, it was announced in May that Auburn, Florida and South Carolina will visit Athens every season as UGA’s permanent home-and-home opponents in the league’s new scheduling format.
Georgia is coming off consecutive 20-win campaigns for just the third time in the program’s 107 seasons of competition. The Bulldogs were 21-12 last season and lost to Michigan State, an eventual Final Four team, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In 2013-14, Georgia notched a 20-14 finish and reached the second round of the NIT. The Bulldogs posted three consecutive 20-win seasons in 1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98.