13 November 2015

On the Imbalanced 2016 B1G Schedule

With college basketball tipping off today (four games are already in the books: congratulations are in order for Columbia, E Michigan, LA Monroe, and Yale who have kept their dreams of an undefeated season alive) we are keen to take a preseason snapshot of projections for the season.  This post is the first of an undetermined number of such snapshots.

We were digging around our archives from last year for ideas and noticed that around this time last year Northwestern fans were up in arms about the unfairness of the B1G schedule.  At the time we took an analytical look at the bellyaching and found that 1) NU did get the short end of the stick, but 2) that the B1G stick wasn't nearly as imposing as in prior years.  See the post here including a discussion of our methodology.

Nary a word has been whispered about NU's 2016 B1G slate.  That got us to wondering whether this was because NU caught a break from the schedule makers this year.  If you look at the kenpom rankings data, you find a pretty uniform and packed distribution from the best team (#9 Wisconsin down through #72 Northwestern).  Therefore the beneficiary/victim analysis is most affected by how many times #117 Penn State, #138 Nebraska, and especially #221 Nebraska appear on the schedule.  Behold our 2016 analysis:

Nebraska -- the only team that got screwed by the B1G schedule makers worse than Northwestern last year-- projects to be the biggest beneficiary this year.  Call it good karma, poetic justice, law of averages, whatever.  The second biggest beneficiary is Sparty (like they need it!).  But after that Northwestern is basically in a tie with Ohio St, Rutgers, and Minnesota as the third most likeliest school to have bribed the B1G schedule makers this year.

Interestingly -- except for Rutgers -- each of this year's major beneficiaries was victimized last year.  Rutgers -- some may be jealous of your good fortune but we are happy for you.  You needed and will continue to need a break for the foreseeable future.  But -- on a more serious note -- it is frankly hard to believe the dumb luck that the inequities in the B1G scheduling have more-or-less balanced out within just a year's time.

One last little NU-centric anecdote.  NU's B1G schedule is the easiest it has been during CCC's tenure.  Although NU modestly outperformed expectations last year with six B1G wins -- and even though Northwestern's prospects suffered a significant blow with Vic Law's season ending injury -- this year's schedule sets up favorably for an improvement in the W column.  To wit Northwestern is projected by kenpom to win 8 games.