“Minnesota’s nonconference schedule may prove to be the strongest of all teams in the Big Ten.”
Indeed, the RPI is fundamentally flawed and closely following current RPI figures for a team any time before February (or later…perhaps ever) is wasted time. Would you be impressed if a friend from Bryant University called today and said to you, “I’m so thrilled that our 4-2 team has the 26th best RPI in D1 college basketball”?
Nonetheless, projecting the end of the regular season RPI (i.e., the one that matters) can be a worthwhile exercise. To do so, one piece of data that should be estimated is the nonconference strength of schedule.
Minnesota’s nonconference schedule may prove to be the strongest of all teams in the Big Ten. If not the strongest, the Gophers should have one of the top nonconference schedules among their peers. Combined with the fact that the league will likely carry the best nonconference strength of schedule as compared to all other D1 conferences, the Gophers’ schedule projects to help boost their RPI nicely when it comes time for NCAA tournament selections and seeding.
The Gophers aren’t playing a number of exceptionally challenging teams, although Duke certainly qualifies. That’s just fine, because the key is who the Gophers are not playing. A team’s strength of schedule and RPI can get beaten down quickly if they play several teams that have a very poor RPI (i.e., well into the 200’s).
Last year at this time the Gophers had a string of such opponents including USC, Appalachian State, Saint Peter’s and Central Michigan. This season, the only opposing squad that looks to be a lock for an incredibly ugly RPI is Lafayette.
Watching your team battle tough competition is fun for fans, but the RPI is more concerned that your team not steamroll through the worst of the worst.
Sure, Indiana has some challenging games on their schedule such as Georgetown, North Carolina and Butler; however, it’s the uglies who they also play that will beat down their nonconference strength of schedule (for example, Bryant – even though they are currently #26, Sam Houston St., Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville).
Wisconsin will point to games against Florida, Creighton, Virginia, California and Marquette as being tough contests. However, the flawed RPI will be irate that the Badgers played the likes of Southeastern Louisiana, Cornell, Presbyterian, Nebraska-Omaha, UW-Milwaukee and Samford.
Do we like the RPI? No, we don’t. However, it’ll be heavily considered by those making important decisions in March.
Although things can change, we think Minnesota’s schedule will help them quite a bit in terms of RPI. That said, as long as the Gophers win half of their Big Ten games they should not have to sweat much as brackets are revealed.
Whether or not they get to nine conference wins is a different discussion.Sharing Options: