18 December 2014

On the Ramifications of the Imbalanced 2015 B1G Schedule

We've heard the talking heads, bloggers, and fans lament that NU drew the short stick when the B1G 2015 conference schedules were determined.  Is it Fact or Fiction that NU was a victim of the B1G schedule makers?

Astute sport fans are right to point out that because a team can not play itself (or at least it can't in an official game kinda way) that it is a matter of consequence for the weaker teams to have more difficult schedules and stronger teams to have easier schedules.  This is true.  However it is also true that until the time comes when the powers that be decide to shelve the current 18 game B1G schedule in favor of a true 26 B1G round robin schedule, imbalances in the schedules can and will exist.  And it is because of these imbalanced schedules that there will be beneficiaries and victims from the schedule makers.  Which teams fall into each bucket is not self evident and requires further analysis.  The kenpom.com data will show us the way out of these woods.

The first column of data shows the average ranking of a team's B1G opponents as the schedule makers have set it up for 2015.  The second column of data shows the average ranking under the hypothetical round robin schedule.  The differences between these two average rankings are one way -- and a good way in our opinion -- for determining which teams have benefited from the 2015 schedule makers and which teams have not.

This differences have been computed in the third column of data and color coded in green to denote the beneficiaries and in red for the victims of the schedule makers.  For example let's talk about Maryland.  As the schedule makers have set it up Maryland's B1G opponents have an average ranking of 65.3.  Under a true round robin schedule Maryland's average B1G opponent rank would be a more difficult 59.5.  Thus Maryland on average will be playing an opponent that is about 6 rungs worse during the B1G slate than it would have under a round robin schedule.

As you can see Northwestern is a decisive victim of the schedule makers.  This winter NU will be playing an B1G opponents with an average ranking of 43.8 while under the round robin hypothetical the average B1G opponent ranking would have been 6 rungs worse at 49.8.  If NU fans want to lament this fact then look no further than Rutgers -- the worst B1G team according to kenpom.com -- only appearing once on the schedule.

But while there is reason to make some hay about the B1G schedule NU fans ought not go too with the bellyaching.  Or at the very least please don't use it as an excuse if and/or when NU finishes with a worse B1G conference record than last year (a 6 win benchmark).  Why not?  Because the average 2015 B1G opponent this year is ranked 43.8 which is roughly the same as it was in 2014 (42.2).  That means should NU fail to achieve 6 wins again then NU ought to look in the mirror for the reason why and not the schedule makers.

One last anecdote about this analysis.  Despite the fact that Rutgers only plays NU once the Scarlet Knights can lay claim to being the 5th biggest beneficiaries of the B1G schedule makers. Playing each of the three highest ranked teams in the conference only once really helps to offset their misfortune of getting to play NU only once.