# The Real ACC SOS – State’s The Toughest

Since the ACC plays an unbalanced conference schedule, it should be obvious that some teams will play a harder conference schedule than others.

Last year, we developed an analysis technique to which Atlantic Coast Conference squads played the toughest and the easiest conference schedules. This year, both Coach K and the N&O have already chimed in with their thoughts.

So, letâ€™s see if we can do a little more thorough job than they did. 🙂

NEW TECHNIQUE

Last year, I totalled conference wins by each teamâ€™s opponents and then ranked the various teamâ€™s schedules. The â€œtotal winsâ€ technique has one obvious flaw which was discussed in the comments to last yearâ€™s entry: The teams at the bottom of the conference â€œcontributeâ€ a lot of wins to everyoneâ€¦thus inflating their conference SOS.

This flaw is relatively minor as long as you donâ€™t try to compare the SOS of the regular season champion with the teams at the bottom of the conference. However, I did say last year that there was always the possibility of coming up with a new technique.

This year’s technique is not really new, itâ€™s always been used in the RPI formula. When calculating a given teamâ€™s SOS for the RPI calculation, the opponentsâ€™ winning percentages do not include the games against that given team. We can use that same principle and look at the opponentsâ€™ adjusted wins (now that Iâ€™ve figured out how to do it in a spreadsheet and not completely by hand.)

Hereâ€™s an illustration of the new technique using NC State and the two VA teams:

 Excerpt from NC State’s Opponentsâ€™ Win Totals Total Adjusted Wins Wins Virginia 11 9 Virginia 11 9 Virginia Tech 10 10 Virginia Tech 10 10

State played both Virginia teams twice, thus the Wahoos’ and Hokies’ conference win totals are used twice when calculating Stateâ€™s SOS. In last yearâ€™s system, the two VA teams would contribute 42 wins towards Stateâ€™s SOS. Using adjusted wins, Stateâ€™s two losses to UVA are not included when calculating Stateâ€™s SOS.

If Iâ€™ve confused anyone, either ask questions in the comments or just trust me.

RESULTS

So without further adoâ€¦here are the results for 2007:

 Opponents’ Adjusted Wins North Carolina St. 122 Duke 121 Clemson 117 Virginia Tech 117 Maryland 115 Georgia Tech 114 Miami FL 114 Wake Forest 113 Boston College 112 Florida St. 112 North Carolina 112 Virginia 111

DisclaimerThe total wins analysis had a built-in self checking technique, but this one doesnâ€™t. So, there is always the chance that Iâ€™ve fat-fingered something. If you find a problem then please let me know in the comments.

OBSERVATIONS

* Several weeks ago, I said that the team that finished highest in the conference among UVA, VT, and BC should win ACC Coach of the Year. But after seeing the conference SOS results, I would now vote for Seth Greenburg of Virginia Tech.

* Coach K was a little off on his projections. Iâ€™m not sure why he was even bringing up the conference SOS issue. He certainly canâ€™t be feeling any heat in Durhamâ€¦.do you think heâ€™s embarrassed by his teamâ€™s results this year?

* The N&O said that Duke couldnâ€™t have the toughest schedule because they canâ€™t play Duke. This yearâ€™s results donâ€™t support the assertion that playing Duke significantly contributes to anyoneâ€™s SOS. 🙂

A CLOSER LOOK AT STATE

– There are five teams that earned double-digit conference wins this year. State played nine games out of a MAXIMUM of ten potential games against these five teams.

– State only had six games against the other five teams at the bottom of the conference.

– Stateâ€™s three road-only opponents this year were GT, FSU, and Miami. These three teams won a combined 19 conference games but 15 of those wins were at home. This type of â€œbad luckâ€ can be obvious when you look for it, but is nearly impossible to quantify.

– Bottom line – Stateâ€™s conference schedule was clearly the toughest in the conference and nearly as hard as theoretically possible.

From my perspective, I would rather for State to have the toughest schedule when their post-season hopes were minimal than during a bubble year. It would really be tough for your conference schedule to play a major role in going to the NIT. If you look at last yearâ€™s results, it would be easy to make the argument that UMD might have made the NCAA Tournament with an easier conference schedule.

CONCLUSIONS

We have to be really careful about the conclusions drawn from the conference SOS. The HSSS used to try and wave their hands to make losses disappear. I ridiculed those attempts in the past and will not hesitate to do so in the future.

That does not mean that this type of analysis is meaningless. Iâ€™ve already mentioned one potential use for these results in analyzing coaches – Seth Greenburg and VT both deserve major props for outstanding results against a difficult schedule. If you go back to last yearâ€™s entryâ€¦I said the same thing about Roy Williams and UNC-CH then. Tough schedules reveal good teams; and VT has earned the title of a good team this year.

– Several VT grads that I work with have pointed out that they would have won the regular season title if it werenâ€™t for NC State. It makes me chuckle when they say that they hope that someone else can beat State on Thursday.

– Itâ€™s always difficult to evaluate a coach when circumstances beyond his control leave him with a depleted team. However, itâ€™s hard to imagine any coach doing substantially better than Sidney Lowe has done this year. When you throw in Stateâ€™s recruiting class for next year (and the one after that); it shouldnâ€™t be hard to see why most fans are extremely optimistic about the future.

– One word of caution, coaches should be evaluated for winning more than expected; not losing less than expected. If youâ€™re confused about the difference then look up Pete Gillenâ€™s record and see when he was given a 10-year contract extension.

– With one of the easiest conference schedules, Florida State has still managed to lose enough games to land squarely on the NCAAT bubble. Where would they be if they had played a tougher conference schedule? (Donâ€™t forget that FSU had a three-game losing streak BEFORE they lost anyone to injuries.)

– Before anyone accuses me of needless Seminole bashing then realize that FSU has managed to stay on the bubble through two different losing streaks because they substantially upgraded their OOC schedule versus last yearâ€™s. I suspect that this yearâ€™s ACCT is essentially the NCAAT play-in game for FSU.

RUNNING TOTAL

Since I used last yearâ€™s results to work out the spreadsheet formulas for adjusted wins, I might as well post the results from both years of unbalanced schedules with 12 ACC teams.

 CONFERENCE SOS 2006 2007 UM 123 NCSU 122 UNC 123 Duke 121 VT 120 CU 117 UMD 119 VT 117 WF 119 UMD 115 FSU 115 GT 114 Duke 114 UM 114 UVA 114 WF 113 GT 112 BC 112 NCSU 112 FSU 112 BC 106 UNC 112 CU 103 UVA 111

I find it interesting that the spread from easiest to hardest is much closer this year than last year. I attribute the difference to the fact that the top of the ACC is both deeper and bunched closer together this year. Because of this, Iâ€™m resisting the temptation to total the adjusted wins for each team.

Itâ€™s also interesting to see that Virginia Tech had one of the toughest schedules both years while Boston College had one of the easiest. This would be the perfect place to insert something witty about ACC expansion. but nothing comes to mind. Iâ€™m sure that our readers can come up with something for me.

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

### 34 Responses to The Real ACC SOS – State’s The Toughest

1. class of 74 03/05/2007 at 6:14 AM #

Nice piece, especially the point about Greenberg. Funny thing is when I was growing up we could not get enough ACC games. The season always left us wanting more and now with expansion we are unwilling to play the four extra schools home and home. With 30 plus games now annually lets play ’em all home and home and put this SOS crap to rest. Eight or nine OOC games are enough outside competition if properly scheduled.

2. VaWolf82 03/05/2007 at 8:13 AM #

Not to nitpick….but it would take 22 games (or six more) for a complete round-robin. This would take three home games away…..ie ain’t never going to happen.

I haven’t completely thought this through, but a complete round robin would likely hurt the RPI ranking of most ACC teams several ways. More losses….lower RPI. More losses for your ACC opponenets would also reduce your opponents’ winning percentage….which lowers your RPI.

More losses…..lower RPI…..worse NCAAT seeds. Not that the schools need any excuse beyond finances to kill the regular season round robin.

3. Rochester 03/05/2007 at 8:15 AM #

Stateâ€™s three road-only opponents this year were GT, FSU, and Maryland.

Fixed….thanks!
VaWolf 82

4. vtpackfan 03/05/2007 at 8:16 AM #

I wish the ACC would round robin it, like the Pac-10. It’s a great conference and we shouldn’t leave it up to unbalanced schedules to get to the bottom of it. It would mean losing some very important OOC games (ECU, Wofford, UNCG) but the sacrifice could be tolerated.

5. RickJ 03/05/2007 at 8:25 AM #

â€œ(Donâ€™t forget that FSU had a four-game losing streak BEFORE they lost anyone to injuries.)â€

FSU only had a 3 game losing straight before the injury to Douglas. In January they lost to Clemson at home and at UNC and Ga. Tech.

You’re right…..they lost three in a row and four of six.
VaWolf82

Another small point of bad luck â€“ Boston College played five conference games with Dudley and Williams in the line up â€“ Maryland, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia & Miami. They won all five games by double digits except for Virginia (by 5).

6. noah 03/05/2007 at 9:15 AM #

I wish the ACC and Big East and the TV networks would shake hands and agree that expansion was a tremendously bad idea.

I’m someone who supported expansion initially…and I was completely wrong.

Big east basketball is improved, probably. Big East football is dramatically worse (unless you’re WVU). The ACC is just a big ball of suck, IMO.

7. Trout 03/05/2007 at 9:29 AM #

You will never see the ACC play 22 conference games for a complete round robin. However, there has been talk of the ACC going from 16 ACC games to 18 ACC games. I am in favor of that. It would push the ratio of twice/once from 5/6 to 7/4. I do think you should play over half the teams twice. Seth Greenburg, in a VT coaches show a couple of weeks ago, said the ACC coaches are against it, but the league and TV wants it.

The closer you get to a complete round robin, the fairer the schedules become. Moving from 16 to 18 ACC games is doable. It takes away 2 crappy OOC games, but replaces them with 2 quality ACC games.

8. Mr O 03/05/2007 at 9:54 AM #

Is that good for the conference in producing the highest amount of NCAA bids?

9. Trout 03/05/2007 at 10:18 AM #

^ I dont know. I dont think going to 18 games will impact the ability to get more teams into the NCAA, but I have no basis to for that opinion.

In terms of this year, if the ACC aims to get 8 teams in, then the league should hope Clemson beats FSU in the 8/9 game. Current RPIs are Clemson 36, FSU 47. Clemson is 6-8 versus RPI Top 50, while FSU is 4-11. Clemson is 3-7 in their last 10 games, while FSU is 5-5. I think Clemson has the stronger resume, and a win against FSU would help, although either would probably have to beat UNC to make it.

GT is in. RPI 34, 8-8 in the #1 RPI conference, 7-3 in their last 10 games. If they werent so young, I think they are team that could actually win 4 games to win the ACCT. MD has the best shot to win 4, IMO.

10. GoldenChain 03/05/2007 at 10:19 AM #

Your analysis is excellent as always. However since it looks at data at the end of the season, there really is no way to insure that equal schedules are made in advance. Who would have expected UVa & VATech to be where they are? Of course you point is (I think) that some schools deserve consideration in post season play based off of this type analysis.
Questions:
1) Does sharing an arena with a pro-sports team cause scheduling conflicts (ie road games) are we forced into some road matchups due simply to scheduling that wouldn’t happen otherwise?
2) What are other scheduling scenarios that could give a more balanced SOS as in the past (I guess one is league contraction, but that won’t happen)?

11. Mr O 03/05/2007 at 10:48 AM #

Interesting numbers Trout. Though, I could see either FSU or Clemson making it without beating UNC. Obviously, if they win two games, then there is no doubt.

Anyone who doesn’t like the expanded ACC tournament is crazy IMO.

Miami/Maryland – IIRC, Miami beat Maryland this year.

FSU/Clemson – loser likely to the NIT

NC State/Duke – for obvious reasons(GH, Tobacco Road, etc…)

Wake/GT – two teams split, who wins on a neutral court?

And obviously, Friday gets even better. I hate missing this years tournament.

12. BJD95 03/05/2007 at 10:57 AM #

This does shape up to be a really great, balanced tournament. I could see any team (other than Wake and Miami) winning 2 games or more. Even those 2 could be dangerous in the first game (but have very tough draws playing the 2 hottest teams in the conference).

13. VaWolf82 03/05/2007 at 10:59 AM #

there really is no way to insure that equal schedules are made in advance.

And there is no effort put into making equal schedules. The ACC has a “system” and a rotating schedule format has been finalized. It is what it is.

I just wanted to see if anyone “benefited” or “suffered” because of the current system. I doubt seriously if anyone looks closely at conference SOS in connection with post-season consideration. At best, the increase/decrease in overall SOS due to a team’s conference schedule will play some role.

14. Mr O 03/05/2007 at 11:04 AM #

I almost forgot, but nice work Vawolf82. Figures that in a year where we need an easy schedule that we get one of the toughest in the league.

15. Texpack 03/05/2007 at 11:12 AM #

Any move closer to a complete round robin would be a good thing. To me the most ironic part of the State schedule was the composition of the road only portion of the schedule. Those three games, if played in the RBC, would have been a probable wins/even money games.

As for the evaluation of Sidney Lowe, the only cause for concern I have from this year is our ability to no show. It could be youth/inexperience, but it really didn’t get any better as the season went on. This may be an adjustment from the NBA back to college that Sidney needs to make. The occasional mail-in in the NBA is going to happen. With only 30 games in college, you have to show up every night. I was very encouraged on balance and I’m still a believer in Sidney returning the program to it’s proper spot in the conference/nation. The performances against UNC-CH, Wake & Duke were a big improvement over recent history.

16. tractor57 03/05/2007 at 12:38 PM #

For a lot of reasons I don’t get into the statistics much anymore (my issues not an issue with the stats) but I’m wondering if anyone has a feeling on what a point difference in this analysis really means. Before anyone gets the wrong idea this isn’t a criticism of the analysis or the protocol used – just a curiosity.
And Mr. O I would much rather have the most difficult schedule now as opposed to when the SOS might make a difference in an NCAA bid. Gotta love this years team for what they have done – Soon I see time for those shades 🙂

17. choppack1 03/05/2007 at 12:49 PM #

Interesting stuff here…It’s worth noting that our timing has stunk too. As someone else noted, we played BC and Clemson before their Sendekian collapses. BC’s is more personell related while Clemson lost their confidence.

It’s also easy to see why I thought that we’d be in good shape in the second half of the year. In the first half we played 6 games against teams that would finish .500 or better – in the second half, we played 4 games vs. teams that finished .500 or better. Our record against the top shelf – UNC, UVa, VaTech, UMd, and BC – a respectable 3-6…our record against the bottum shelf – a respectable 2-1 (miami and WF)….our records against the middle tier (Duke, GaTech, FSU and Clemson) – 0-4.

This is something to watch for in the future…A team’s perforance against the middle tier of the ACC will ulimately make it or break it. We were unfortunate in the way the schedule broke out – that we had 9 games vs the top shelf and 7 vs the middle and lower tiered. The key to our success next year will be the performance against this middle tier group. Hopefully, we’ll have more than 4 games against them.

18. Mr O 03/05/2007 at 12:54 PM #

Good points Choppack: Not only did we get Clemson and BC early when those teams were hot, but we got Maryland and GT late when they were desparate for wins and rolling towards an NCAA bid.

19. GoldenChain 03/05/2007 at 1:23 PM #

Choppack, interesting notes, almost the opposite of herb. Herb would lose to the top and also the bottom but beat the ones in the middle thus insuring a NCAA berth but no big wins to energize the base.

20. choppack1 03/05/2007 at 1:50 PM #

O – Yea, we definitely faced UMd and GaTech at the wrong time. (Well, facing GaTech at home this year was the wrong time.)

I really wonder how our season would have turned out if we were able to hold vs. GaTech, I really believe that we would have had this bubble talk about us…Oh well, it’s like my golf game, when you whine about how good your score could have been, you tend to forget all the GOOD BREAKS you got.

GC- That was Sendek’s mode of operandi. For the most part, he did very well against the middle-tiered group his last 5 years. If you trade some of those wins for wins against good Carolina teams, an ACC tourney title, a final 4 or final 8 trip, things would have been much different. I do know this though, you can’t have a losing record against the middle tier and expect to go dancing on a regular basis.

21. Trout 03/05/2007 at 1:52 PM #

^ Just for fun, let’s say NC State had beaten Miami, one of the UVA games and held on to beat GT. We would be 8-8 in the ACC, and 18-11 overall. I still think we would be on the wrong side of the bubble, because our OOC SOs is so bad. We played something like 7 teams who have an RPI 250+, with at least 4 being in the 300s.

22. choppack1 03/05/2007 at 2:16 PM #

Trout – I think the key would have been us beating GT and Miami – if we had done that, we would have gone into the ACC as 7-9, w/ a record in our last 10 games of 6-4 (going into the ACC tourney).

If we were to have won our 1st tourney game, the committee would be hardpressed to leave us out w/ 4 of our first 5 conference losses coming w/out Atsur (not counting the embarassing OOC losses that occurred during this time frame.)

23. the_phisherman 03/05/2007 at 2:50 PM #

I am just wondering how our record would have turned out if we did not have the toughest schedule in the conference. 3 out of our 5 wins came from our 6 games against some of the best teams in the league.

24. GAWolf 03/05/2007 at 3:52 PM #

I’m terrible at statistics… terrible. But if you flip that list and take out the outliers of Duke, Wake and Miami, you almost have the final standings of the league.

In other words, wouldn’t it make sense that as one of the worst teams in the conference we have the toughest “strength of schedule” despite the varying schedules? I appreciate all the work here, but except for Duke, Wake and Miami the list flipped over is pretty close to the final standings in the league.

25. wufpack 03/05/2007 at 4:21 PM #

You make an excellent point. If the conference season were only 11 games, a single round-robin, our opponents would still have 6 more wins than UNC or UVA even though the schedules would be perfectly balanced. It’s kind of “rewarding” bad teams for being bad and “punishing” good teams for being good.

The better way to look at it would be to only look at the 5 games where teams play for a second time, which is the part that makes the schedule unbalanced. I imagine that this year we would still have the toughest schedule since the 5 teams that we played twice have 11, 11, 10, 10, and 5 wins, but I imagine that the spread would be smaller. It really shows you that Wake and Miami simply weren’t very good this year since they had pretty easy schedules and still sucked, and Duke really did suffer by playing a tough schedule.