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Author Topic: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers  (Read 750 times)

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Adam Stokes

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Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« on: August 22, 2017, 10:13:21 am »

***Backdrop***

Last year our staff put together a great non-conference schedule to help a team that was rebounding off of a sub-par year. As an RPI nerd, I've come to learn that the best non-conference schedules aren't those loaded with top-heavy teams. You have to find the right mix between winnable games and strong records. Last year many were upset that our schedule featured only one team with a Top 25 RPI (Minnesota), and also finished the season with just a #53 ranked OOC SOS. Many on here complained that we scheduled poorly when the rest of the SEC "scheduled better." Our non-con OOC SOS ranked only #8 in the conference.

The reason it was so good however, is that we were able to win, and a lot. We went 11-2 against that #53 OOC SOS, so at the end of the day our total OOC RPI sat pretty at #14. Where did that rank among the SEC? #2 behind only Florida, and 11 spots higher than Kentucky. I think we can all agree that we weren't a top 15 team during the season. The fact that the staff was able to pull out that #14 OOC RPI was due to savvy scheduling.

Our non-conference slate featured only three Top 50 teams, but the bread and butter was that it didn't have any bottom feeders weighing us down. We didn't have a single team with a sub-300 RPI, and only three sub-200 teams. It also featured 7 games in the 50-200 range, which is the sweet spot due to the teams being pretty good and also being easy wins, (we went 7-0 in those games, while only 1-2 vs the Top 50.)

A team who didn't schedule well last year was Michigan State. MSU always schedules top dogs, but their team wasn't up to the challenge. They had 4 Top 11 teams, in which they went 0-4. 4 of their other games featured teams that were sub-250. They finished with a #15 OOC SOS which is nice and all, but because of their poor 8-5 showing, their OOC RPI sank to a pitiful 64. Izzo actually publicly issued an apology to the university and fans for their schedule. They clawed their way back with a good showing in conference, but still only mustered a 9 seed. It isn't a stretch to think that we would've fared just as poorly as MSU with their schedule, and had such been the case, our year-end #28 RPI would've been sitting around the 40 mark. And instead of sitting comfy as an 8 seed, we would've been bubblicious without any quality wins.

***This Season***

So what do I think of the scheduling this year? I was hoping for something more similar to last year. I think our team is still right around the same place it was last year; maybe slightly better, but not by much. Did the staff still do a good job of scheduling quality cupcakes and staying away from bottom feeders? Why yes, yes they did. But they might've done it too well.

In the below stats, I'm assuming that we beat Oklahoma in round 1 of the PK80 and play UNC in the 2nd round.

Last Year RPI Rank of Upcoming Opponents

5 UNC
20 Minnesota
40 Oklahoma State
54 Houston
64 Bucknell
66 Colorado State
75 CS Bakersfield
76 Fresno St
147 Troy
168 Oklahoma
170 Samford
292 Oral Roberts

& one in the Third round of the PK80 (9 Oregon, 50 Michigan St, 118 UConn, 238 Depaul. Oregon should be worse, everyone else should be better)

This staff found the sweet spot and kept pounding away. The biggest thing that sticks out to me is that we have six opponents in the 40-80 range. There only appears to be one bottom-feeder in Oral Roberts, and the other sub-100 games should all be wins. How would our OOC SOS stack up if we had played all these teams last season? The difference between playing Oregon vs DePaul in the third round is quite a big difference, but we'll still be looking solid either way. If we were to play Oregon our OOC SOS would finish at #5, while if we played DePaul it would finish at #24. If we can avoid DePaul we'll be looking at Top 15 for sure. This is a solid schedule with few guaranteed losses.

So our ceiling IMO is how well we performed last season with our schedule, finishing at #14. What would our OOC RPI look like this season with our SOS? Probably something like this if our SOS is just inside the Top 15.

13-0 - #1 (Mail-order bride turns out to actually be Megan Fox-unlikely)
12-1 - #3
11-2 - #5
10-3 - #9 (Good example here, Wake Forest went 9-3 with the #14 OOC SOS, and finished with the #10 OOC RPI)
9-4   - #22
8-5   - #55 (This is about where Michigan State finished last year at 8-5 with the #15 OOC SOS)
7-6   - #85

Hopefully we won't do worse than that.

So moral of the story? 9-4 this year is the same as 11-2 last year due to the improvement on the schedule. If you weren't upset at the 11-2 mark last year, don't be upset with a 9-4 this year unless you think the team is actually drastically improved, which I don't think they are. I would've preferred the staff to bump those 55-75 teams with ones closer to 125, as they would be more winnable and the SOS wouldn't take a big hit. Last year we went undefeated against teams outside the Top 50, I don't see that happening this year. That's really my only knock though, and it isn't even that big of a deal because I obviously have no clue where these teams are actually going to finish up.

***My Prediction for our OOC***

Tack on UNC as one loss. Oregon should be worse this year as they are losing some firepower, Uconn and MSU are all beatable, and we get both Minnesota and OSU at home. I think we are more likely to win 2 of those 3 versus only winning one. After that we have the RPI 54-76 club, with Houston on the road. I think between those 5 games we drop one, possibly two. Shouldn't lose to Oklahoma, Oral Roberts, or Samford.

So my prediction is that we are slightly more favorable to go 9-4 vs 10-3, though it's a coin flip if anything. That will put our OOC RPI around the same spot as it was last year. This schedule lends to a higher ceiling and higher floor, albeit our record will be more likely to hover around the floor of our expectations. The pro's is that this year we will be more battle tested headed into SEC play (not to mention the SEC's RPI should be better), and our non-con slate is going to be x500 more entertaining to watch.

My parting note: DON'T BE UPSET WITH 9-4!

Should be a fun season.


« Last Edit: August 22, 2017, 10:25:15 am by Adam Stokes »
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gmarv

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2017, 10:37:36 am »

Well done Adam, good thoughts.I am kind of the mind we will be a little better this coming year.Our record could be about the same as last year but we get a little higher seed in the tourney as our sos will be better.
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MakingPlays

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2017, 11:16:11 am »

I think with the team this year 9-4 would be disappointing despite the teams not being that bad.  Expectations IMO should be to go at least 2-1 in PK80, win all the home games, and Houston game is a toss-up on the road.  And with the Houston game, it may not even be that bad, they have a new arena being built, it's very possible we play them in the Toyota Center which would essentially be a neutral site game. 

And I say those expectations knowing the schedule is much stronger, but none of these teams should be capable of beating us on our home court with MAYBE the exception of Minnesota, and even with them we should be the favorites at home.   Oklahoma St. lost their best players, plus they have a new coach, that should be an easy home game for us, they'll probably finish at the bottom of the Big 12.   And the rest of the schools are mid-majors, We have 6 seniors and a top 25 recruiting class, we should be able to handle all those mid-majors at home, no matter what their RPI was last year, we have more talent, more experience, and home court advantage. 

I think 12-1 is possible, 11-2 most likely, 10-3 a small let down but still decent.  9-4 something went wrong.

As far as the SEC portion, going 10-8 may be good enough to make it in the tournament.  SEC may end up being the strongest conference this year.  I could see 7-8 SEC teams making it. 

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thehill1414

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2017, 11:29:55 am »

Wow, this is a fantastic write-up by the OP. Great job analyzing our schedule and comparing to last year's.

When I was looking at this yesterday I was thinking 9 wins would be really good, and I'm still convinced of that. Unfortunately, Oklahoma will be much improved, and even was at the end of last year. I don't think that is a sure win. I also am leary of Bucknell and Troy, both solid teams, and wouldn't be shocked to drop one of those. That being said, I think we get revenge on OSU and Minnesota this year.

I am thinking if we can get to 9 non-con wins and go 9-9 in an improved conference, 18 wins will get us on the bubble, if not solidly in the field. I think that is our floor and would still be a good season. However, I think we end up with somewhere around 21-22 wins and get a 6-7 seed come tournament time.
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Atlhogfan1

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2017, 12:17:25 pm »

I think the criticism for last year's schedule was more in terms of lack of interesting opponents especially at home.  It was a horrible home schedule as far as appeal.  From an RPI standpoint, it looked to be fine and it was.  Stay away from the SWAC and MEAC and you can build a decent RPI schedule which is what we have done.

Bakersfield appears to be this year's SFA.  Last year, SFA's previous success was touted even though they weren't going to be the same level of team.  You can't just look at last season's RPI or previous success like "Austin Peay" made the NCAAT in 2015 as some did in last year's preseason.

There will be some good mid major competition from teams like Bucknell, Troy and Fresno. 

The real opportunity in this schedule is the tourney.  Finally, the program gets a branding opportunity from its schedule.  We may not fare well in the tourney but it is great to have the opportunity again.  Have some success in it and bring real interest and respect back to the program.  This lack of opportunity has been a criticism of recent schedules (plus the touting of win totals with no context of who the wins came against).  It hasn't been criticism of the RPI manipulation worthiness of recent schedules. 
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HogBeliever625

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2017, 12:55:54 pm »

If we play North Carolina, we will beat North Carolina. Book it
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HawgsPolo

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2017, 05:58:45 pm »

I think the criticism for last year's schedule was more in terms of lack of interesting opponents especially at home.  It was a horrible home schedule as far as appeal.  From an RPI standpoint, it looked to be fine and it was.  Stay away from the SWAC and MEAC and you can build a decent RPI schedule which is what we have done.

Bakersfield appears to be this year's SFA.  Last year, SFA's previous success was touted even though they weren't going to be the same level of team.  You can't just look at last season's RPI or previous success like "Austin Peay" made the NCAAT in 2015 as some did in last year's preseason.

There will be some good mid major competition from teams like Bucknell, Troy and Fresno. 

The real opportunity in this schedule is the tourney.  Finally, the program gets a branding opportunity from its schedule.  We may not fare well in the tourney but it is great to have the opportunity again.  Have some success in it and bring real interest and respect back to the program.  This lack of opportunity has been a criticism of recent schedules (plus the touting of win totals with no context of who the wins came against).  It hasn't been criticism of the RPI manipulation worthiness of recent schedules.

Ark fans would rather watch losing football than winning basketball. That's just the way it is.
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ShadowHawg

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2017, 08:25:52 pm »

Ark fans would rather watch losing football than winning basketball. That's just the way it is.

Hardly. There is actual evidence to the contrary. When Nolan was here the saying by fans would be oh well, when does basketball season start?
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The_Iceman

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2017, 06:30:58 am »

If we play North Carolina, we will beat North Carolina. Book it

And that may not even be a great win by the end of the year. UNC losing a ton.
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Pig Power

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2017, 08:25:34 am »

Should be a fun team to watch and I agree with OP that 9-4 would be achievable.
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UNCLE BACK

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2017, 10:24:14 am »

Ark fans would rather watch losing football than winning basketball. That's just the way it is.
Best Quote I've ever read on the Ville!
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Ham Sandwich

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Re: Non-Conference Schedule by the Numbers
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2017, 02:55:31 am »

Ark fans would rather watch losing football than winning basketball. That's just the way it is.

That's bc a lot of our fans are stupid. We have no chance to be in football what we could be in basketball. If they were smart they'd put more support into showing up for bball. Other schools like us have figured this out, but we just aren't very smart collectively.
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