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Ranking Stanford basketball's 2016-17 non-conference schedule opponents

When it comes to Stanford non-conference slate, optimists will call it ambitious and pessimists will call it brutal. Either way, it is really difficult.

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The start of the Jerod Haase era at Stanford is going to be difficult.

Like last season, Stanford have a tough non-conference schedule for the 2016-17 season. Haase will be hungry to make his mark in Palo Alto, but with this non-conference schedule it may be difficult to do enough to convince and fill up Maples Pavilion with excitement in the early going.

Take a look at this year's non-conference slate:

Date Opponent Location
November 11 Harvard Shanghai, China
November 15 Cal State Northridge Stanford, CA
November 17 Weber State Stanford, CA
November 20 Colorado State Stanford, CA
November 24 vs. Miami (Advocare Invitational) Orlando, FL
November 25 Advocare Invitational Orlando, FL
November 27 Advocare Invitational Orlando, FL
November 30 Saint Mary's Stanford, CA
December 3 @ Kansas Lawrence, KS
December 16 Cal State East Bay Stanford, CA
December 19 @ SMU Dallas, TX
December 22 Idaho Stanford, CA

The Cardinal could conceivably make a trip to 3 different Disney Parks this season with non-conference games in Orlando and Shanghai to go along with their usual conference UCLA/USC road trip. With this in mind, the It's a Small World song keeps resonating in my head when I pour over the details of this non-conference schedule.

It's a world of laughter..

10. Cal State East Bay (9-18 in 2015-16) - The Pioneers will be Stanford's first game after their traditional two week layoff for finals. The Cardinal will be well rested and heavy favorites here. Jerod Haase has experience against CSUEB as his former team UAB defeated them last season, 99-59.

A world of fears...

9. Cal State Northridge (10-20 in 2015-16) - Under normal circumstances Reggie Theus' Matador squad shouldn't concern Stanford. However, this game comes on the heels of the season opener against Harvard in China. Here is what Stanford's travel schedule will likely be. Play in Shanghai on a Friday night. Travel back on Saturday. Rest and prepare on Sunday and Monday. Hope that jet lag has wore off by Tuesday night. It should be okay, but if Stanford football lost a game to Northwestern last season because they had to wake up earlier than normal then who knows what kind of havoc a trip to China may have.

8. Idaho (21-13 in 2015-16) - The Vandals are a frisky squad. The outfit from Moscow, Idaho beat Washington State last season on their home floor. Which would be more impressive if it weren't Washington State. Everyone beat Washington State. Even still, Idaho finished with a 20-win season and a 3rd place finish in the Big Sky. This may be a tougher game than people realize.

7. Colorado State (18-16 in 2015-16) - Larry Eustachy leads a Colorado State team that tends to beat teams they are better than and lose games when they are outmatched. I suppose that makes Eustachy -- Bizzaro Johnny Dawkins.

6. Harvard (14-16 in 2015-16) - Tommy Amaker's Crimson team had a down year, but were still able to pull off a couple significant neutral site wins over BYU and Auburn. The Cardinal front line will be in for a challenge against Zena Edosomwan. Edosomwan, a senior, scored 13.1 points per game while collecting 9.9 rebounds per game for Harvard last season. Add in the long trip to China for this game and Stanford's first competitve experience with a new coaching staff and it doesn't take much to get worried about this contest.

5. Weber State (26-9 in 2015-16) - The Wildcats were the champions of the Big Sky conference and qualified for the NCAA tournament. Weber State returns every player from this team except Joel Bolomboy who was selected in the NBA Draft. Weber State guard Jeremy Senglin can get hot from behind the arc. Senglin shot 43.3 percent from behind the arc last season, which was good for 21st nationally.

A world of hope...

4. @ SMU (25-5 in 2015-16) - NCAA violations kept the Mustangs out of the NCAA tournament last season. This was a legitimate Top 25 team last year. Larry Brown's team beat Stanford by 15 at Maples last November. In remembering this game, I was surprised that the score was even that close. SMU did lose 4 key seniors last season and Larry Brown isn't returned at the helm. Tim Jankovich takes over as head coach. Given that its a road game against good players, perhaps this game should be ranked higher, but Larry Brown fleeing at the same time as his 4 seniors makes me feel that the short lived days of elite college basketball at SMU are over.

3. St. Mary's (29-6 in 2015-16) - The Gaels are a formidable opponents as they smacked down the Cardinal by 17 in Moraga last season. This has the feel of a game that is going to be one that Stanford will have to have won if they want to make the Big Dance this season. If the Cardinal want to make a case on their tournament resume, here's a Top 100 RPI team on their home floor. Stanford must be able to get by either the 2nd or 3rd best West Coast Conference team at home or their bubble will certainly burst. Beating Randy Bennett's team is no small task. The Gaels didn't have a senior on their team last season meaning the talented backcourt of Joe Rahon and Emmitt Naar still have Dane Pineau to feed down low. This is going to be a big game in Maples Pavilion.

2. vs. Miami (27-8 in 2015-16) - The Hurricanes made the Sweet 16 in 2015-16. Stanford will see them in the 1st round of the Advocare Invitational. The Cardinal will do the famed west coast to east coast travel, will be playing a virtual road game in Orlando, and face a very good Miami team. That's a lot to overcome.

I couldn't rank the remaining opponents in the Advocare Invitational, but they will face either Iowa State or Indiana State in their 2nd game. Their 3rd game will be one of the following teams: Quinnipiac, Gonzaga, Seton Hall, or Florida. The Advocare Invitational seems like a 1-2 trip.

A world of tears...

1. @ Kansas (33-5 in 2015-16) - One of the top programs in the country and Jerod Haase's alma mater, Kansas is always a scary game -- especially in Lawrence.

It'll be a homecoming for Haase and like most homecomings, it'll be nice to see familiar faces and places at first before being reminded of all the reasons you left in the first place and being anxious to just get out of there.

If Stanford can go 7-5, it should be considered a very successful non-conference campaign.