Marquette Sees Improvement in Non-conference Strength of Schedule
- Marquette’s non-conference RPI strength of schedule projects to show improvement compared to 2013-14
- Even at 8-4, MU’s non-conference adjusted winning percentage would be worse than last year, but the better strength of schedule more than offsets the lower winning percentage
- Tuesday’s game against Arizona State game looms large
- Eight non-conference wins plus a 10-8 record in conference play would put MU solidly in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid
The RPI’s strength of schedule (“SOS”) is simply a component of the RPI that considers wins and losses of opponents and opponents’ opponents. It does not logically or reasonably measure how difficult or challenging a team’s schedule is.
For example (one of many), most humans believe that playing on the road against a team would be more of a challenge than playing the same team at your home arena. The RPI’s SOS doesn’t pay attention to where a game is played.
One-half of a team’s RPI is based on the winning percentage of their opponents. This measurement also makes up two-thirds of SOS and is where we’ll focus our attention today.
In general, the opponents’ winning percentage calculation is simple to understand, but there are some nuances. For example, results from the games against Marquette are not included. In addition, the measurement is an un-weighted average of the winning percentages of opponents, not simply calculated after the summation of wins and losses of all opponents. There can be meaningful differences between teams in the number of regular season games scheduled, results of conference tournaments and non D-I opponents faced.
Marquette’s Non-Conference Opponents’ Winning Percentage
Last season’s non-conference schedule was poorly constructed from an RPI SOS perspective. MU had a challenging schedule, but the SOS didn’t show it. Five of 13 non-conference games were against teams with winning percentages of 72.7% or higher and a sixth – Arizona State – was a healthy 64.5%. (Percentages reflect the nuances described in the preceding paragraph.)
|San Diego State||26||4||86.7%|
In 2013-14, Marquette’s non-conference opponents’ average winning percentage used in the RPI SOS calculation was .4954. Current projections for 2014-15 show .5242, an improvement of .0288. Of the six teams above, Marquette only played one of them (Ohio State) at home. Again, while the game’s location is important to a human’s understanding of strength of schedule, the RPI’s SOS ignores it. Nonetheless, the winning percentages of these teams were excellent and therefore helped SOS.
In 2014-15 there are only three non-conference opponents who project to have a winning percentage better than 57% (all Big Ten teams: Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State).
Despite last season’s schedule being more difficult in terms of earning wins, the RPI will tell us that Marquette’s schedule is stronger in 2014-15. For the reason behind this conclusion we’ll look at the lesser opponents in each year.
This season there are only three non-conference opponents (of 12 total) projected to finish the year having won less than 40% of their games (Morgan State, North Dakota and Alabama A&M). The worst of that bunch – Alabama A&M – projects to finish around 8-20 (28.6%).
In 2013-14, MU’s scheduling of buy games diluted the RPI boost coming from the more difficult games. Not only did six opponents finish with winning percentages under 40%, but the bottom four were about as awful as you can get:
|Cal State Fullerton||11||19||36.7%|
To put into context, remember that half of a team’s RPI is based on opponents’ winning percentage. If we assume Marquette will play 32 games prior to Selection Sunday, the non-conference schedule has a weighting of approximately 37.5% (12 / 32 games). We can estimate the benefit to 2014-15 RPI of the non-conference opponents’ winning percentage improvement over last year to be around .0054 [.0288 x .50 x .375].
Is .0054 meaningful? It certainly can be. Last March, Minnesota was the #1 overall seed in the NIT. Their RPI ranking of #50 would have been #44 with an extra .0054. Another NCAA snub, SMU, would have moved from #53 to #49.
Non-conference Opponents’ Opponents
- The record of MU’s opponents’ opponents accounts for 25% of RPI and one-third of SOS
- Subject to the outcome of thousands of games, but does project better than 2013-14
- Marquette benefits from playing three Big Ten teams
- Tennessee and Georgia Tech both project to win only around half of their games this season; Arizona State just a bit better. However, their respective conference affiliations will help MU’s opponents’ opponents’ win-loss component
Non-conference Adjusted Win-Loss Percentage (“Adj Win%”)
- Marquette’s Adj Win% accounts for 25% of RPI
- RPI Weighting (for this component only): 0.6 for a win at home or loss on road; 1.4 for a win on road or loss at home; 1 for all neutral site outcomes
- Marquette finished last season with 8 non-conference wins and 5 losses (unadjusted)
- Currently 4-4 with 4 games to play, but MU’s Adj Win% will be worse this year even with 4 more wins
- MU was 6-4.6 (.5660) on an adjusted basis last year
- With 4 wins to close out the 2014-15 non-conference schedule, MU will be 5.6-4.4 (.5600)
- Two home losses at 1.4x hurt; a loss to Arizona State would put the team in a very difficult position heading into conference competition
- [.5660 – .5600] X .25 = .0015, but the ultimate impact on this year’s RPI depends on where games are won and lost during conference play