Unbalanced: Big Ten Records vs. Top Six

Unbalanced: Big Ten Records vs. Top Six
March 9, 2014

There are many ways to measure and argue true strength of schedule (and many ways not to – for example, claiming that the RPI’s “SOS” is a good measurement of the toughness of a schedule is a poor argument).

With unbalanced conference schedules like the Big Ten has, it’s worthwhile to look a bit deeper at the conference standings. As an example, here are the records of Big Ten teams against the top six finishers in the conference this season (listed from best to worst win percentage):

Games Wins Losses Win %
Michigan 9 7 2 0.778
Wisconsin 7 4 3 0.571
Ohio St. 8 4 4 0.500
Nebraska 7 3 4 0.429
Indiana 10 4 6 0.400
Michigan St. 8 3 5 0.375
Iowa 9 3 6 0.333
Penn St. 9 3 6 0.333
Minnesota 10 3 7 0.300
Illinois 11 3 8 0.273
Purdue 10 1 9 0.100
Northwestern 10 1 9 0.100

Several things stand out, including that Michigan State and Iowa have poor records against other teams who finished in the top half of the conference.

Another view some may find interesting follows. We’ve listed the number of wins and losses of each Big Ten team against the top half of the conference, broken down by home and road records.

The teams are listed in order of best to worst adjusted winning percentage. The adjustment made (See the columns to the right of the home & road records) is the same as that made in the RPI’s adjusted winning percentage calculation (i.e., a weighting of .6 for a home win or road loss and 1.4 for a road win or a home loss).

Home Home  Road Road
Wins Losses Wins Losses Adj W Adj L Adj Win%
Michigan                 3                 1                 4                  1             7.4             2.0         0.787
Wisconsin                 2                 2                 2                  1             4.0             3.4         0.541
Ohio St.                 2                 2                 2                  2             4.0             4.0         0.500
Nebraska                 2                 1                 1                  3             2.6             3.2         0.448
Michigan St.                 2                 2                 1                  3             2.6             4.6         0.361
Indiana                 4                 2                –                  4             2.4             5.2         0.316
Iowa                 2                 3                 1                  3             2.6             6.0         0.302
Penn St.                 2                 3                 1                  3             2.6             6.0         0.302
Illinois                 1                 5                 2                  3             3.4             8.8         0.279
Minnesota                 3                 1                –                  6             1.8             5.0         0.265
Northwestern                –                 4                 1                  5             1.4             8.6         0.140
Purdue                 1                 4                –                  5             0.6             8.6         0.065

Only two teams – Michigan and Wisconsin – had better than .500 adjusted winning percentages against the league’s top six. Every Big Ten team lost at home to at least one opponent from the top half of the conference this season. No exceptions.

The facts won’t people from claiming “it’s so hard to win on the road in the Big Ten” again next year… and realistically, you’ll probably hear it next week during the Big Ten tournament and a few more times during the NCAA tournament. However, the truth is that in all Big Ten games this year, the road team was victorious 42.6% of the time and the conference had a lower home winning percentage as compared to most other conferences.

That’s OK – it’s made for an entertaining and interesting season. Now it’s time to prepare for the Big Ten tournament. #7 Minnesota will face #10 Penn State on Thursday (~5:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2) for the right to face #2 seed Wisconsin on Friday (~5:30 p.m. CT on BTN).

We continue to believe the Gophers have a decent shot at being invited to the NCAA tournament if they just beat the Nittany Lions on Thursday, but it won’t be a given. As you can see from above, the Gophers sit in 10th place when considering the adjusted win-loss percentage against the top half of the conference (not that the committee will consider this unique view).

If some forgiveness is granted for Dre Hollins’ injury, the Gophers will be in fairly good shape. Nonetheless, two wins would brighten the outlook substantially.

@LateNightHoops is on Twitter.

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