February 23, 2013
Nonconference Schedule: Strength vs. Difficulty
We all know the RPI is flawed and silly (right?). Therefore it should be no surprise that the RPI’s nonconference strength of schedule (NCSOS) calculation produces some ridiculous results.
The NCSOS is simply a calculation. It doesn’t think. It just does as told. However, for being such a simple and strict measurement, people sure love to add qualitative descriptions to the NCSOS.
If a team has a strong NCSOS their schedule is often referred to as being “tough” or “difficult”. The goal of basketball games is to win them. Unfortunately an impressive NCSOS calculation does not indicate that a team played a lot of games that were “tough” or “difficult” to win. It just means that a team has a strong NCSOS calculation for purposes of the RPI.
A closer look is needed to understand how difficult a team’s schedule was and to make much of a statement past “well, that simple and shortsighted calculation produces a strong NCSOS!” Whether you’re playing an opponent that “isn’t good” (less sweet cupcake) or “really awful” (super sweet cupcake) doesn’t make much of a difference in the likelihood of your team winning the game. However, the NCSOS loves if you’re dieting on the less sweet cupcakes instead of the super sweet variety.
With that said, below is some food for thought. For the seven Big Ten teams currently projected by most to make this year’s NCAA tournament, we’ve listed nonconference games against Top 50 RPI opponents (approximate RPI rankings through games of February 22, 2013) and against 200+ RPI opponents. The Big Ten teams are listed in order of their NCSOS rank (best NCSOS to worst).
Would you rank the nonconference schedules of these teams in the same order if you were ranking based on the difficulty of winning as many game as possible?
|206||St. Francis NY||Home|
|200||Arkansas Pine Bluff||Home|
|230||Sam Houston St.||Home|
|292||Missouri Kansas City||Home|
|Note: OSU had its game vs. 14 Marq canceled.|
|22||North Carolina St.||Home|