21 December 2015

NU Projections: Pre-B1G Slate Edition

Earlier we posted about how things have evolved in the B1G since the preseason.  We interspersed some info about NU's performance there, but we wanted to dig into more detail for NU here.

Currently NU sits at 10-1 with two gimmes coming up this week against Sacred Heart (tonight) and Loyola MD on Sunday. More than likely NU will be 12-1 when it opens up B1G play in Lincoln on Wed Dec 30.  Sure 12-1 certainly sounds good on the surface, but what does it really say about what kind of team CCC has put together this year?

For the most part fans appear satisfied with NU's performance to date.  You can count us among them here at Coach C Court. The skeptics rightfully point out that NU's 10-1 performance to date is akin to holding serve against this cream puff schedule (kenpom has NU's strength of schedule at #330 out of 351).  However one can also take it a step further and credibly say that NU has achieved that record in better-than-expected fashion.  This is because NU's kenpom rating has improved from 72 in the preseason to 51 as of the time of this post.

In the larger B1G context NU has had the fourth or fifth best non-conference performance.  Couple this with an underwhelming B1G performance as a conference and NU's favorable B1G schedule, and we find that NU now stands in 7th place in the B1G pecking order.  It's hard to believe, but NU is now ahead of Ohio State despite their upset victory over Kentucky and Wisconsin where the wheels have fallen off the preseason bandwagon.

With a successful non-conference performance and a down B1G the Wildcats are now most likely staring at 21-10.  NU has a 64% shot of finishing 9-9 or better, and a 42% shot at a winning B1G record.  This would be a marked improvement over the 6 B1G win campaigns in CCC's first two seasons.  If it happens then we would consider this season a success regardless of whether or not NU makes it into the NCAAs this year.

Final thoughts: the best argument we've seen from the schedule cynics is that NU's non-conference schedule hurts its NCAAs prospects.  Although NU has done reasonably well in the non-conference schedule if NU winds up on the bubble, NU will not win any tiebreakers with its weaker-than-weak schedule.  If NU were to make the NCAAs it would need to play itself off the bubble discussions in B1G play.

With how down the B1G is this year and NU's playing MSU and Purdue - the cream of the B1G crop this year - only once we think that even a B1G record of 10-8 would lead to heartache in Evanston.  That would suck were it to happen, but even then getting back to the NIT would still be a big step in the right direction.