Tag Archives: schedule

Minnesota’s RPI Faces SOS Challenge in 2017-18

A year ago, Minnesota’s RPI (20 on Selection Sunday) benefitted from their strong strength of schedule (as defined by the RPI – not as any rational human would define it). Their opponents’ strength of schedule (“SOS”), worth 50% of the RPI, was .5953 as the NCAA tourney field was being finalized.

The Gophers enjoyed a well-constructed schedule under which they faced a number of relative easy games against beatable competition who happened to finish the year with good win-loss records.

For example, no one was concerned about hosting Mount St. Mary’s. Minnesota won 80-56. But, for purposes of Minnesota’s Selection Sunday SOS, Mount St. Mary’s had a record of 19-14 (.5758).

Last year’s lid lifter vs. Lafayette wasn’t scary, but the Ragin’ Cajuns were 19-11 (.6333) on Selection Sunday for purposes of Minnesota’s SOS calc.

Things will not be the same in 2017-18. The Gophers SOS will be considerably weaker.

Late Night Hoops projects an SOS on Selection Sunday of just .5520, or .0433 less than 2016-17. If we adjust last year’s RPI of .6109 for only the impact of the lower SOS (e.g., 50% of .0433), the Gophers would have had a Selection Sunday RPI of 39 instead of 20.

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Improved Scheduling Helped Marquette Reach 2016-17 Tourney

Improved Scheduling Helped Marquette Reach 2016-17 Tourney

On Selection Sunday, Marquette had an RPI of 61. If the largest component of RPI – opponents’ win-loss performance against all D-I teams except MU – would have been the same as 2015-16, Marquette would have had an RPI that was .0224 lower, slotting them at 82 in the RPI and likely out of the NCAA tournament.

The Warriors’ strength of schedule ranked them 219 of 351 teams as of Selection Sunday this season. This was a sizable improvement from 326 in 2015-16.

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Marquette’s Schedule Improved in 2016-17

Marquette’s Schedule Improved in 2016-17


Based on our current projections of the 2016-17 win-loss records (excluding games vs. Marquette) of Marquette’s opponents, we estimate a .0189 improvement in the RPI OWP component (50% of the RPI calculation) as compared to 2015-16.

A year ago, MU played 11 games against teams with sub-.300 winning percentages (on an OWP calculation basis). Those games were: St. John’s (x3), DePaul (x2), Chicago State, Grambling State, San Jose State, Maine, Stetson, and Presbyterian. Chicago State and Grambling State were especially bad at 1-27 and 4-23, respectively.

Had the Warriors’ OWP component been .0189 better a year ago, their Selection Sunday RPI ranking would jumped from #110 to #86. To further illustrate the magnitude, last year’s #50 RPI team on Selection Sunday would have jumped to #27 with an additional .0189.

It’s possible that in 2016-17, MU will play ZERO games against sub-.300 winning percentage teams (Western Carolina at .310 is the lowest projection we have).

While a team like St. Francis (PA) has a preseason KenPom rank of #326, the reality is they’re still projected to go 8-10 in their conference and we project them to finish 10-18 (,357) for MU’s OWP purposes.

Ultimately, Marquette needs to win a lot of games in order for the improved schedule to matter. But, without a doubt, they’re in a much better position than they were a year ago from an RPI-potential perspective.


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Gophers Must Improve Record to Dance in 2013-14

Gophers Must Improve Record to Dance in 2013-14
October 31, 2013

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

The Minnesota Golden Gophers made the 2013 NCAA tournament as an 11-seed thanks in large part to their (perceived) strength of schedule. Today LNH attempts to give readers a feel for the difference in the 2013-14 schedule compared to last year and what it might mean for this year’s team.

The RPI is a flawed and overly simplistic ranking system in terms of its output. However, the actual calculations involved are more complex than most people realize. Although we don’t care for the RPI as a tool to measure a team’s past success or to predict their future, we recognize it’s a ranking system which does get looked at by the tournament selection committee.
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Minnesota’s 2012-13 RPI: Skill vs. Luck

June 5, 2013
Minnesota’s 2012-13 RPI: Skill vs. Luck

The Minnesota Golden Gophers had the nation’s 34th best RPI on Selection Sunday. Despite the RPI’s inherent flaws, Minnesota’s RPI ranking likely was a significant aid in making a case for an invitation to the 2012-13 NCAA tournament.

Many have noted the Gophers’ top-5 strength of schedule (“SOS”) ranking and called it “difficult” and “impressive”. How much of the SOS should be attributed to intelligent scheduling as opposed to factors at least partially out of the team’s control?
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Big Ten Single Plays Announced for 2013-14

May 14, 2013
Big Ten Single Plays Announced for 2013-14

The Minnesota Golden Gophers won’t travel to Indiana or Illinois in 2013-14. The Gophers beat Illinois in Champaign 84-67 on January 9, 2013 and were the only team in the nation to win at Indiana during the 2011-12 season. A road game at Indiana would be difficult to win, but Illinois projects to be somewhat down this coming year.
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Nonconference Schedule: Strength vs. Difficulty

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?

RPI Minnesota Loc
1 Duke Neutral
21 Memphis Neutral
260 American Home
231 North Florida Home
RPI Illinois Loc
11 Gonzaga Away
29 Butler Neutral
35 Missouri Neutral
206 St. Francis NY Home
207 Gardner Webb Home
247 Colgate Home
252 Western Carolina Home
RPI Michigan State Loc
2 Miami FL Away
5 Kansas Neutral
28 Connecticut Neutral
42 Boise St. Home
200 Arkansas Pine Bluff Home
212 Loyola Chicago Home
228 Louisiana Lafayette Home
246 Bowling Green Away
267 Nicholls St. Home
RPI Indiana Loc
16 Georgetown Neutral
26 North Carolina Home
29 Butler Neutral
203 Central Connecticut Home
222 Florida Atlantic Home
230 Sam Houston St. Home
235 Jacksonville Home
266 Ball St. Home
310 Coppin St. Home
RPI Wisconsin Loc
4 Florida Away
14 Marquette Away
45 California Home
47 Creighton Neutral
215 Cornell Home
265 Samford Home
287 Nebraska Omaha Home
303 Wisconsin Milwaukee Home
340 Presbyterian Home
RPI Ohio State Loc
1 Duke Away
5 Kansas Home
277 Winthrop Home
278 Northern Kentucky Home
292 Missouri Kansas City Home
321 Chicago St. Home
 Note: OSU had its game vs. 14 Marq canceled.
RPI Michigan Loc
18 Kansas St. Neutral
22 North Carolina St. Home
40 Pittsburgh Neutral
208 Cleveland St. Home
217 Eastern Michigan Home
255 Central Michigan Home
309 IUPUI Home
338 Binghamton Home

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Minnesota’s Nonconference Scheduling and Attendance

A Lonely December in Minnesota

On New Year’s Eve when they face Michigan State, Minnesota will have gone the first 30 days of December without playing a game during which their win probability dropped below 77%.

The Golden Gophers have been rolling over competition, but in the 19 days from December 12 through December 30 the team plays just one game.

During the slow stretch, the only competition the nationally ranked Gophers have is a home date with Lafayette (a school in Pennsylvania not to be confused with the stronger Louisiana-Lafayette basketball program).

As we wrote a few weeks ago, the projected RPI for Minnesota looks excellent thanks in large part to playing few teams that are anywhere near as bad as Lafayette. In fact, even with a 9-9 Big Ten record Minnesota’s RPI could be in the 20-25 range (or better) and we would project them being comfortably in the NCAA tournament just by winning half of their conference games. However, the nonconference schedule is not without some negatives.

First, the Gophers have not welcomed any teams of great interest to Williams Arena. This has meant less television exposure for the folks wanting to watch at home, grumbling from those at the Barn and may be partly responsible for another drop in attendance.

As for the large break in scheduling, there are pros and cons but overall Minnesota’s schedule is not set up how most teams would prefer. The team is transitioning from 12 games (excluding exhibitions) in just over one month to a single game over the course of nearly three weeks.

True, the schedule gives injuries time to heal and in the case of Austin Hollins that may be significant. On the other hand, Wally Ellenson has just 4 minutes of career playing time, Mo Walker has been used sparingly and Trevor Mbakwe has not played as much as he’ll need if the Gophers are going to have a great season.

While many teams have some pieces that need fine tuning before the start of the Big Ten season, Minnesota has some potentially key parts that haven’t been tested much. Unfortunately, the main shop – i.e., real game competition – is closed.

This is the longest stretch of playing just one game in Tubby’s tenure at the U and is also an outlier when compared to other Big Ten teams as they gear up for conference clashes. Every other team plays at least 3 games between mid-December and their first conference game.

Realistically, the negatives can be mitigated by a good practice plan and we’re not too worried about time away from competition. However, it’s far from ideal and it’s not the norm.

A summary of teams’ schedules leading up to the start of Big Ten competition is below.

Key: “Opener” = date of conference opener; “Days off b4” = off days between last nonconference game and conference opener; “Days off b4 -2” = off days between second to last nonconference game and last nonconference game; “Dec 15, on” = nonconference games from December 15 until conference opener.

 Team Opener Days off b4 Days off b4 -2 Dec 15, on
Minnesota 12/31 8 10 1
Michigan St. 12/31 8 3 3
Indiana 12/31 2 6 4
Iowa 12/31 8 2 3
Illinois 1/2 3 6 3
Purdue 1/2 3 10 3
Ohio St. 1/2 3 6 4
Nebraska 1/2 3 6 4
Wisconsin 1/3 4 6 3
Penn St. 1/3 4 5 3
Michigan 1/3 4 8 3
Northw’n 1/3 10 1 3

LNH Expects Attendance to Improve

Late Night Hoops looked at attendance for the first seven games of each season since Tubby Smith has been at Minnesota. Thus far in 2012-13, attendance is down by 4.0%. As illustrated below, attendance has declined for a fourth consecutive year.

Average Attendance

With only 7 games being analyzed, we also considered whether there were certain “big games” that drew fans to campus and contributed to the trend seen above. We did not find that to be the case. The chart below illustrates not only average attendance, but also the high and low game each season.


According to numbers published this week by the Star Tribune, non-student season ticket sales are down more than 1,200 this year. However, we believe that a number of former season ticket holders are still attending some games, opting to make single game purchases instead of paying a preferred seat fee.

Despite the 4.0% decline in attendance so far this year, there are reasons to be optimistic. Based on last year’s weak comparable, the strength of the current year’s team and promotional activity by the school, we believe the ‘U’ can top last year’s Big Ten attendance numbers.

The revenue numbers may not be aligned exactly with attendance due to the cost of promotions, but an improvement in attendance would be a welcomed change for the team and fans alike.

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