Well it’s that time of year again where we attempt to keep track of the comings and goings of a conference that has grown beyond my ability to keep track of without some help. The ultimate goal is to keep track of which teams can expect an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday.
While there is obviously a lot of basketball to be played over the next two months, the OOC games amount for roughly 40% of the regular season schedule. So while we certainly don’t know everything, we do know enough to pick out which teams are headed in the right direction….and which ones aren’t.
Before we get to the RPI Summary Table from ESPN, let’s review the criteria I use for determining NCAAT status:
IN – RPI Ranking in top 40 and at/near 0.500 in conference play
OUT – RPI Ranking >75
Bubble – Everything else
I first came up with these criteria during the long-past days of the Great Herb Debate and continue to use them because they have proven to be quite useful. The underlying assumption is that Bubble Teams from the Power conferences are going to be better than the large majority of the mid-majors. Thus what was good enough in the past for power teams will be good enough again this year. The selection process isn’t really that simple…but it has proven to be more than good enough for keeping track as the season unfolds.
One more preamble….what is normally referred to as “RPI” is actually the RPI Ranking. I point that out because some people attempt to predict a change in ranking based on the results of just one game. But what matters is not only whether or not a given team won or lost…but what all of those teams around them did as well. So I am happy to leave the detailed math to those who are actually getting paid to do it. I’ll just stick with analyzing what the math actually means. So here’s the ACC summary as calculated by ESPN:
Let’s start off with some pleasant changes from last year:
- Syracuse fell off the back side of the bubble last year and this year dramatically improved their OOC SOS as well as the results to date.
- Likewise Clemson moved up and is solidly in the upper tier of the conference.
- BC moved from the bottom of the conference to near the middle for the first time in a long time.
To the best of my memory, I’ve never seen a team move from triple digit RPI ranking at the start of conference play and then make the NCAAT. Last year, both GT and Syracuse came close to accomplishing that feat, but ultimately both fell short.
I highlighted OOC SOS for those teams that currently rank >200 because we’ve seen in the past where weak OOC schedules have come back to haunt Bubble teams on Selection Sunday.
The OOC schedule wasn’t one of those areas that we had to worry about with Gottfried. But we’ll have to wait and see if this year’s OOC schedule becomes the Keatts standard or not. Scheduling seven games against some of the worst teams in college basketball serves absolutely no useful purpose:
I’m not going to belabor this point because State’s OOC schedule this year was never going to serve any higher purpose. But this crap brings back bad memories from the Sendek and Lowe eras.
One more note before moving on from OOC schedules…we’ve seen that the OOC SOS rankings can change quite a bit from where they are today. This change over the last several years is summarized below:
Last year, the ACC had 11 teams ranked in the RPI Top 40 in the preseason summary. This year, only eight teams made our initial cut for the NCAAT. That fact sent me looking up the Conference RPI ranking…which showed a drop from #1 conference last year to #4 so far this year. This change will be most significant for the Bubble Teams, who will have fewer opportunities to get the Top-50 wins that are one of the keys to ultimately getting an NCAAT bid.
Beyond Conference RPI rankings, there is another way to illustrate the overall drop in the ACC this year compared to last. If you take the Top 100 wins from last year’s preseason summary and compare to this year’s Top 100 wins, you get the following breakdown:
Remember the RPI is a measure of who you played and how well you did. So the drop in conference RPI ranking makes sense because the ACC as a whole played fewer Top 100 teams this year compared to last and did worse against the Top 100 teams they did play.
In my initial entry last year, someone asked me what I thought State’s chances of making the NCAAT were. I didn’t have a good answer for them because I’m not good at making anal extractions to arrive at a percentage chance on anything. But that question got me wondering if maybe some number-cruncher somewhere would climb out on a limb and make those types of projections. So I’ve linked that site in the section heading and here’s how their predictions from the first ACC game last year to the final standings fared:
My conclusion is that teamrankings.com got 2/3 of the conference within two ACC wins of their final win total. I didn’t know what to expect which is why I kept an eye on this site all of last year. Overall, I don’t think that they did too bad.
With those caveats out of the way, here are their current projections:
Strange note: Last year TR.com thought much more of Syracuse than their RPI led me to think. This year is just the opposite with the TR.com simulations not thinking too much of Syracuse. There’s nothing that we can do with those observations, I just found it strange.
I expect that most people realize that the ACC schedule is unbalanced, meaning that you don’t play every team twice. Every team has two defined rivals that they will play home/home every year (UNC and WF for State) and two rotating opponents to play home/home. The rest of the conference schedule breaks down into five ACC road games and five ACC home games. Here is how State’s schedule breaks down:
At the end of year, I usually break down the conference SOS based on the four teams that you played twice. Right now, I would guess that State’s conference SOS will rank somewhere around the middle of the conference. The Home and Away games seem to favor State a little bit with more projected NCAAT teams at home than away.
Here’s the chronological schedule with several things noted by highlighting:
It seems a little strange to me to play the same team twice over a two-week span. State has two of those pairings this year with both Clemson and UNC.
Last year, all of State’s back-to-back road games had one of the games in NC. This year they get to start the ACC season with a medium distance and a long distance road game back-to-back. Given the temperature outside, I would hate to have back-to-back with any combination of ND, Syracuse, or BC.
If I scanned the calendar correctly, State has no Monday games this year (thank goodness) but do have three Sunday games.
After starting the ACC season with two road games, State will get a little break with four of the next five in Raleigh. But it looks like State’s roughest stretch of games will be the first five games to start the ACC schedule.
State’s mostly road stretch comes next with five of seven games on the road. It’s good that State’s break falls in this road stretch. Then State ends the regular season with three of four at home.
Preconceptions and Conclusions
Often, scientific studies will disclose any potential conflicts of interest. What would be of equal interest in many studies is to disclose preconceptions the researchers had at the beginning of the study so that the reader could look for possible confirmation bias. While I have no conflicts of interest, I do have preconceptions since before fall practice started of what I expected out of this year:
When a bad team loses its top three scorers, I don’t look for big improvements the next year. You’re free to disagree with my logic/conclusion but so far I haven’t seen much that would make me change my mind. I hate the thoughts of another “wasted” BB season as much as any State fan, but sometimes you have to take a step back before you can move forward. Time will tell whether or not Keatts can be a successful ACC coach. But I’m not going to use any of this year’s results to conclude that he can’t.
Back in the Les days, I just about quit watching ACC basketball. I couldn’t watch State because they were so bad and I couldn’t watch anyone else, because it just reminded me of how bad State was. I must have mellowed in my old age because watching other games doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ll watch the State games until they become embarrassing and then turn the tube/tablet to something else.
UPCOMNG ACC SCHEDULE