Normally I kick back on New Year’s Day, watch football, and contemplate the meaning of life; which for the next several months is better known as the RPI Ranking. However, an ugly stomach bug killed any desire for blogging, and hence my late entry to start the basketball season.
In round numbers, the OOC games comprise roughly 40% of the regular season schedule. So while there is a lot of basketball left to play and there are plenty of questions left to answer, we do know a few things and it’s nice to summarize those things that we do know and highlight those things that are worth watching for as the season unfolds.
So let’s start with that most misunderstood and maligned calculation of all time – the Rating Percentage Index and more importantly, the RPI RANKING.
Top 50 wins are highlighted because of their importance in picking through the Bubble region for the last teams to make the NCAAT.
For new readers we use RPI rankings 1-40 as “IN” and 41-75 as “Bubble”. As the season winds down, the ACC results will also be considered because the Selection Committee has shown their disdain for teams that finish below 0.500 in conference play.
It’s quite a bizzaro universe when FSU and Clemson lead the ACC in Top-50 wins.
11 of 15 ACC teams in the RPI Top 40 have to be a record (at least for the ACC). While there might be enough wins for this many teams to keep a high RPI ranking, I’m not going to hold my breath.
NC State and WF are my picks as the first two teams who have had high rankings throughout December to stumble downward. (Obviously a VT loss in Raleigh on Wed would likely drop them back to the Bubble.) Neither State nor WF has a top 50 win and State has looked bad in every game against decent competition.
One nice thing about waiting to do the first entry is that Saturday’s results moved ND (road win at Pitt) and VT (shellacking of Duke) from the Bubble to IN.
At first glance, it would seem to be surprising that UNC has the 40th ranked OOC SOS while playing only one Top-50 team (Kentucky). However, this falls perfectly in line with what we’ve been saying for years: You don’t have to play the best OOC teams to improve your SOS. Just eliminate the real dogs from your schedule. For reference, UNC only played three OOC teams ranked 150+.
Clemson has dramatically improved their OOC SOS for the first time in a while. VT and Miami have questionable OOC SOS which we will keep an eye on as the season unfolds (if their results warrant).
State’s OOC SOS seems high for the lackluster group of teams played. But it is what it is. However, the OOC SOS can be prone to huge swings between now and Selection Sunday:
During the Sendek and Lowe years, I used to start the season with a diatribe on the stupidity of scheduling a weak OOC schedule. But that hasn’t been an issue with Gott:
I restarted the averages after Gott was hired. While that’s not necessarily fair to anyone else, who cares? Here’s what we used to see:
I just realized that I haven’t heard recently from all of those State fans who used to claim that OOC SOS was just a matter of luck. Oh well, I can’t say that they’re missed.
NC STATE ACC SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
Chronologically, here’s State’s Schedule:
I hate Monday games so I highlighted State’s only one.
State’s mid-season break is shown with the gap between Louisville and Duke.
State starts the year with three of four on the road. Not a great schedule for a team with so many new pieces. Just to be fair(?), State also ends the year with two of three on the road. All in all, not a good split.
State has three sets of back-to-back road games. But in each instance, one of the road games is in NC, so not a horrible setup. The toughest set of back-to-back road games is probably Louisville/Duke so it’s nice to have State’s break show up between those two games.
Ending the year with Clemson…..really?
I hope that most people know that State plays UNC and WF twice each year. This year’s two other home/home opponents are GT and Miami. Which is a nice segue into the next breakdown of State’s schedule:
ACC SCHEDULE DIFFICULTY
For the last several years, I’ve ranked the ACC schedules based on the four home/away opponents of each team. It’s not a perfect system, but it doesn’t suck either. For my money, it looks like State’s schedule difficulty will hinge on how good/bad WF and Miami turn out to be.
In general, your best chance at an upset would come if you play your toughest opponents at home. But based on today’s info, State doesn’t look to have a good split between the Home and Away opponents.
SUMMARY ON NC STATE
State didn’t have many chances to notch a note-worthy win in the OOC schedule and certainly didn’t get one. (St Joe’s at #60 is State’s best win to date). On the other hand, State didn’t dig any holes since they had a decent OOC schedule (based on RPI – not watchability) and no embarrassing losses. So as normal, State’s chances of getting an at-large bid are all tied to the conference results.
I read back through several years’ worth of my opening basketball entries and found a comment that I found interesting (name withheld to protect the guilty):
Most long time Pack supporters such as myself will tell you they share a similar “hopeful” feeling at the start of every season. But, by season’s end, we collectively are reminded that, in fact, hope is indeed a bitch.
Hopefully, this will turn out to be just my normal pessimism. But I always say that the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is experience. So I’ll need to see some of the wild optimism on message boards turn into impressive performances on the court before I change my mind. The team that got hammered by Creighton, Illinois, and Miami will not make the NCAAT. Let’s hope that the horrible version of the Pack gets replaced soon.