This list is completely arbitrary and not a genuine analysis of the relative merits of state fossils.
Scheduleballin' Basketball's 2012 Lineup
Trey Burke does not approve
I made some disapproving noises last year around tourney time about Michigan's nonconference schedule, not because it was easy but because it was decent to good but RPI and Kenpom didn't think so:
Each of these teams went 9-3 in the twelve games listed. Losses are in italics. Tourney teams are in bold with their seed in parens after:
26 Virginia (10) 24 Purdue (10) 9 Memphis (8) 65 Saint Joseph's 65 Saint Joseph's 17 Duke (2) 82 Cleveland St. 74 Marshall 26 Virginia (10) 89 Princeton 78 Denver 30 Iowa St. (8) 104 Fairfield 105 Richmond 48 UCLA 202 Rider 112 Nevada 133 Arkansas 213 Norfolk St. (15) 120 Vermont 156 Oakland 237 Niagara 124 Maryland 174 Western Illinois 257 Winthrop 165 Long Island 268 Bradley 268 Bradley 181 Western Michigan 327 Arkansas Pine Bluff 308 St. Francis PA 221 Hofstra 338 Towson 343 Binghamton 287 William & Mary 340 Alabama A&M
Which of these teams has by far the strongest nonconference schedule? Michigan. Drexel and Iona played one team capable of acquiring an at-large bid each; Michigan played four plus a middling Pac-12 team and not so good SEC team. From the perspective of the good teams that expect to get in the tournament, any differences at the bottom are meaningless.
Is Michigan's nonconference SOS a lot better than both these teams? No.
Is it better than Drexel's atrocious number? Barely. Michigan has the #181 nonconference strength of schedule to Kenpom, #173 to the NCAA($).
From the perspective of a tourney aspirant, that schedule was much more difficult than either Drexel or Iona—last year's big "team X got screwed" controversy—but was judged far worse than Iona and barely better than Drexel. The reason for this was the end of the schedule. Michigan played five teams in the Kenpom top 50 and five in the bottom 100; Iona played one and one. In both Kenpom and RPI the results were bad.
I thought of this Friday when Luke Winn posted an analysis of the folks doing the best job of exploiting the RPI's quirks. Because the RPI overvalues teams with excellent records against iffy competition, teams like Pitt have been able to get nice seeds even when their resumes are lacking:
But in 2010, when Pitt earned a No. 3 seed despite having zero marquee wins outside the Big East, it was in part due to Dixon's manipulation of the 158th-best efficiency NCSOS into the 49th-best RPI NCSOS.
What Dixon likes to do for his home guarantee games, he says, "is play the teams that we think are the best picks to win the non-BCS conferences." These are the best "gap" teams, because they're beatable despite having high RPI returns. In 2010, Dixon beat five of them in Wofford (69 RPI), Wichita State (43), Kent State (47), Ohio (95) and Robert Morris (129). He only had one 250-plus RPI opponent (Youngstown State, at 271), either, and so it didn't matter that he played just one marquee game (against Texas) and lost it; the Panthers were in good standing due to their choices of non-BCS opponents. Despite their efficiency profile suggesting they were the quality of a 7-8 seed, they were a No. 3 on the strength of their RPI.
How does Michigan's schedule stack up?
Not D-I so is essentially another exhibition.
IUPUI was a 14-18 Summit team that loses a guy who took almost 35% of their shots. Thumbs down. The second round against Cleveland State or Bowling Green will probably be much the same. CSU was pretty good last year(22-9, 12-6 Horizon, NIT bid) but loses their three most important players and is projected sixth in the league by SBN. BG was 16-16 last year, 9-7 in the MAC. They do return their top two usage guys.
Michigan of course had little control over who their initial opponents were going to be in a preseason tournament.
If Michigan reaches the finals at MSG, they are likely to play Pitt in the semi followed by either Kansas State or Virginia. Pitt was terrible last year; they add a couple of big recruits. K-State and Virginia are probably going to be middling members of their Big Six conferences. Those games should be properly evaluated by RPI.
If NC State lives up to their elite billing this is a necessary showcase game for any team hoping to get a one or two seed.
Arkansas, WVU @ Brooklyn
Arkansas is poised for a major leap forward as they were extremely young last year—316th of 345 in experience—and return everyone except a backup post. It's hard to predict what will happen with WVU after they lost efficient minute vacuums in Darrly Bryant and Kevin Jones, but they'll at least be a bubble team. You might get a slight RPI boost from Arkansas relative to their quality since the SEC is not too good at basketball.
A terrible idea from a competition standpoint as the Braves were 7-25 last year and 12-20 before that, but this is a favor Beilein is paying Geno Ford for hiring his son. Also it's a road game, which helps mitigate the RPI hit.
These are the wrong MAC teams and the wrong Michigan teams. Western loses their top three usage guys from a team that went 6-10 in the league; Central just fired Ernie Zeigler and lost the star player off a 5-11 MAC team. Eastern managed a winning MAC record at 9-7 but was 14-18 overall.
To maximize the return from playing these guarantee games, Michigan should be squaring up against Oakland and Detroit, who will be pursuing bids in their leagues and figure to have relatively shiny overall records.
At least these games are better than last year's double SWAC/Towson binge. There's only one team on the docket this year like that…
The one really bad idea on the schedule. Binghamton was 2-29 last year, the third-worst team in the country according to Kenpom. They are one of the anchors that kept Drexel out of the tournament last year. Michigan would be much better off playing a D-II team instead of this collection of Tony Kornheisers. (They are literally all clones of Tony Kornheiser grown in a lab.)
It's an improvement. Michigan's not going to look at their schedule at the end of the year and see three teams in the 300s of the Kenpom rankings, and I doubt any of their major opponents end up 6-10 in their league like Arkansas was last year. Their Preseason NIT opponents are probably out of their hands.
Downers: You'd still like to see them schedule some of the local small schools that project to be good and the Bradley thing is pretty weird. There is absolutely no upside to scheduling a Binghamton.
Michigan's nonconference schedule should be more helpful to them than last year's as long as they make the NIT final. Five power teams is a lot to go with an 18-game league schedule, and they don't have as many anchors as last year.