Other than that all-important exhibition game that always kicks things off, we know who Xavier is playing in the non-conference this season. Despite impassioned pleas from some corners of the internet (ok, this corner of the internet) to add Dayton or another Ohio team, it is North Dakota State and Eastern Washington that joined the ranks of Musketeer opponents. NDSU lands November 30th, Xavier's second opponent after Thanksgiving, and EWU will be the final non-conference game and take place the 20th of December. Both are, of course, home games.
Last season NDSU finished 143rd in the KenPom and bowed out in the Summit League final to South Dakota State. While they aren't a terrible team, they aren't quite at their peak like they were in 2014 when they knocked Oklahoma out of the NCAA tournament. The Bison are the kind of team that has recently begun to fill up Xavier's non-conference slate. Gone are the days of playing a team that will finish sub 300 in the Pomeroy rankings. Instead very solid mid-majors like NDSU keep the team sharp while also keeping the record relatively safe. A win in conference over SDSU was probably the Bison's top achievement last season.
Eastern Washington did play in the postseason last year, but it wasn't the NCAA tournament. It wasn't the NIT either. The 196th ranked Eagles got knocked out of the Big Sky conference tournament by Idaho and then landed in one of those multi-initial tournaments that serve mostly to get departing seniors one last chance at some hardware. It's well within the realm of reason to see the Eagles as the worst team on Xavier's non-conference schedule this year. Lehigh would be the next closest challenger, and even they finished some way up Ken Pomeroy's table. This game is that last deep breath before plunging headfirst into the cauldron of the Big East.
And so that is it. This year's tournament is the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the exhibition isn't set yet, and the pre-conference sacrificial lamb looks to be a team that will travel 2,067 miles for the honor of playing in the Cintas just before Christmas. There's still a long way to go, but what November will look like is finally becoming a bit more clear.