Thursday, March 01, 2007

The perfect non-conference schedule

At work we call this a "thought experiment". At home we call this "bullsh!tting." Six of one, half dozen of the other. Anyway, I was thinking - what's the perfect non-conference schedule? Part of the problem, obviously, in building a schedule is that you don't know in advance how good teams are going to be. I'm pretty sure when this season's schedule was set that people weren't thinking that Southern Illinois would be significantly better than Connecticut. Plus you also don't know how good Indiana is going to be, and there are pre-existing contracts and unknown games in the ACC-B10 Challenge and pre-conference tournaments. So I thought, what if it were up to me to build next season's pre-conference schedule, knowing what I know now about how good Indiana will be, with the following conditions:
1. I get a clean slate - no pre-existing obligations matter
2. I assume that every team will be exactly as good as they were this year (using Pomeroy's RPI Ratings)
3. There are 13 pre-conference games
4. There are no pre-conference tournaments
5. Every team will agree to play Indiana wherever I tell them to

Here's what I came up with (order matters):

Detroit (RPI:197) - Home
Toledo (RPI:87) - Home
Bradley (RPI:46) - Road
Duke (RPI:9) - Home (ACC-B10 Challenge)
Butler (RPI:33) - Conseco
Kansas (RPI:15) - Road
Indiana State (RPI:142) - Home
Wright State (RPI:81) - Home
Kentucky (RPI:11) - Home
Southern Illinois (RPI:5) - Home
Valparaiso (RPI:155) - Conseco
Kent State (RPI:78) - Home
Western Michigan (RPI:143) - Home

Here's the reasoning I used:
1. My best guess is that Indiana will be approximately the 15th best team in the country next season.
2. The purpose of the pre-conference schedule is to a) prepare the team for the B10, b) build a resume for the NCAA tournament, c) make money for the school, and d) provide positive exposure for the program.
3. Don't schedule anyone under 200 in the RPI. Beating Western Illinois by 52 points does absolutely nothing for the team. The worst B10 team are generally ranked between 150-200, so having a few of those games still prepare you for the B10, yet they don't crater your SOS.
4. Make sure you are scheduling enough "should win" games to build a good record for the NCAAs. You could schedule road games against the top 13 teams in the country and guarantee yourself the best SOS ever, but we wouldn't even be a bubble team in that scenario because we'd head into the B10 with a 3-10 record.
5. The schedule should be tough. It should challenge the team with a variety of different opponent strengths and styles.
6. Indiana has a regional recruiting base in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. Schedule games against teams in those states. First, it means the college kids on your team don't have to spend unnecessary time traveling. It ensures regional interest. Potential recruits will watch your games. And your own fans will have a better opportunity to travel to away games.
7. Road experience is important, but shouldn't be overdone. Schedule a couple tough road games, but have most of the games at home. Home games for Indiana generate extra income that the athletic department desparately needs and they make the fans happy. This season the only marquee home game we had was Southern Illinois - and most people didn't know it was a marquee game at the time.
8. Start the season with a couple easier games.
9. Do not, under any circumstance, schedule a fricking non-conference game during the B10 schedule.

There you go - the perfect non-conference schedule!

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