Among the surest signs that we’re nearing the middle of December;
1) The Bengals just suffered a devastating injury
2) The Cubs have found the missing pieces to finally end the World Series drought
3) IU fans and critics alike are pointing out once again that IU’s non-conference schedule sucks.
This last point leads to equally annoying statements like, “Back when Bob Knight was coach we played a real schedule,” and “Sure they can beat McNeese State, but what about a real opponent.”
To the first point I say, “Shut up. He’s not coming back.” To the second point, I say, “HEY. That’s THE McNeese State University. Show some respect.”
But if we’re to get to the heart of IU’s scheduling problem, it’s important to look at it in the context of the rest of the conference as well as the other large conferences. Note all the rankings are from Ken Pomeroy’s fantastic site, kenpom.com.
IU ranks 13th out of 14 but the schedule strength is pretty much in line the bottom third of the conference. If we expand to the 6 conferences I’ve arbitrarily declared “major” conferences, (ACC,B1G,Big 12,Big East,SEC, ACC) then the Hoosiers are 59th out of 75 teams.
The average NCSOS ranking of these six conferences is 202 and the average NCSOS Pyth is .488.
So how does IU make it so the schedule is no longer an embarrassment? They don’t have to necessarily play what I’d call a “tough schedule.” I think it’s important to point out that even Michigan State, which routinely gets credit for it’s tough non-conference schedule checks in right around the B1G average right now.
Of course the coaching staff can’t control how good an opponent ends up being, and they don’t have control over all aspects of the schedule. So to focus on “controlling the controllables” I’m going to look at the 6 games that weren’t set up as a tournament, cross-conference promotion, etc…
These six opponents are all in conferences that had one bid to the NCAA tournament, and the automatic bids produced three fifteen seeds, a 12th seed, and a 16th seed. I understand the need to play these glorified scrimmages. But in order to keep the negatives to your collective schedule strengths from outweighing the benefits gained, the coaching staff must be wiser in who they choose to play.
There are two important rules I’d suggest to vastly improve IU’s schedule strength.
- Don’t play more teams from a conference than they received bids in the tournament.
- Because IU was already locked into playing Austin Peay from the OVC in the “opening round” of the Maui invitational, this would knock Eastern Illinois and Morehead State off the list.
- When playing a team from a one bid conference, aim for the best team from last year.
- While this won’t be 100% effective, it’s rare that a team will go from best to worst over the course of one season. Alcorn State is 9th out of 10 teams in the SWAC. Kennesaw State is last in the 8 team Atlantic Sun. McNeese State is 10th out of 13 teams in the Southland.
If IU followed these guidelines, the resulting schedule could look something like this;
You’ll notice I didn’t add any big name programs to this list. And I doubt this is a schedule that would wow anyone. But this would accomplish two big things. 1) It would remove the absolute black holes on IU’s schedule. 2) It would improve the average opponents ranking from 173 to 108. That’s enough for it to move from bullet used against IU to completely neutral .
Of course with my proposed schedule, IU might be 7-4 or even 6-5. At that point though there’s other issues with the team and at least you have a clearer picture.