Wednesday, February 17, 2010

All records are not equal

Too many basketball pundits and fans take as self evident that all league records are equal. In the post expansion era of ACC basketball nothing could be further from the truth and to evaluate a team you have to look at who they played and where they played them.  Here is a breakdown of the opponent’s conference records as they stand right now for ACC teams:


ACC games only Record Opponent’s
W-L record
Opponent’s Win. %
Duke 9-2 82-94 0.466
Virginia Tech 8-3 74-101 0.422
Maryland 7-3 87-89 0.494
Wake Forest 8-4 77-98 0.440
Clemson 6-5 91-85 0.517
FSU 6-5 85-91 0.482
Georgia Tech 6-6 92-84 0.522
Virginia 5-5 89-88 0.502
Miami 3-8 93-83 0.528
UNC 3-8 96-82 0.539
Boston College 3-8 95-81 0.539
N.C. State 2-9 95-80 0.542


Duke suffers in this analysis because they don’t have the opportunity to play themselves and it makes their schedule appear less impressive. In a similar manner it would make sense that some teams at the bottom have their numbers inflated because they don’t have the chance to play themselves and drag their schedule down. It is obvious that Wake Forest and particularly Virginia Tech have the records they do because they play the easiest schedules in the league by a wide margin. The Hokies sitting at 8-3 are probably the best example of the unbalanced schedule helping a team to a record that probably doesn’t reflect their true quality. Virginia Tech doesn’t play a home-and-home with a single team in the top six of the conference standings an unbelievable stroke of luck for a team that had a weak non-conference slate and didn’t have a single noteworthy win coming into conference play. Furthermore the Hokies get home games for the only meeting of the season against three of the top four opponents in the current standings. It isn’t much mystery that the Hokies are 8-3 after playing six home games. They have failed to prove themselves capable of winning on the road with their best win coming in overtime against a slumping Virginia squad. They have already lost on the road to UNC and Miami who are a combined 6-16 in league play yet the record of the road opponents in league play is a horrendous 37-51. They have two legitimate road test left on their schedule at Duke and Georgia Tech so it will be worth watching how Virginia Tech performs in those venues. Wake Forest also has reason to be grateful to the schedule maker as their record is only slightly easier than the Hokies. The Deacons only face Duke, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State once but do have a tougher road schedule than Virginia Tech. There isn’t much the league can do about the scheduling since expansion had nothing to do with what was best for basketball. The ACC should change the tie breaking procedure for the ACC tournament seeding. A team should not win the tiebreaker for beating their opponent only once on their home floor. Instead the higher seed should be given to the team with the better record against opponents who finished higher in the league standings. If two teams were tied and one beat the other on the road in the only meeting of the season then I could see giving the team that won a tiebreaker on that basis.

It has become clear since expansion that ACC basketball has not been the same as when every team had an equal schedule. Their are still great teams and great programs but a winning league record used to be proof a team had a good season in the ACC, not so any longer. It probably makes the ACC tournament even more significant than in past years. At least there all the teams are on a level playing field, though I’m sure Gary Williams would disagree with that assessment in Greensboro.


ak said...

Excellent point, particularly about VT's weak schedule.

Did you see this article by Katz?

Do you think the ACC will ever see a balanced schedule again?

Esquire said...

Don't see any way the ACC can balance the schedule again unless they get so big through further expansion that "divisions" become the size of the old league. Problem is the 12+ team football model simply doesn't work for basketball. It never will. There was talk of an 18 game schedule for the ACC but I don't see that solving anything.

Regarding the Katz article I don't think Greenberg is smart enough to have done that on purpose. It is worth noting that he doesn't play Old Dominion, Richmond or VCU anymore since he had real trouble beating any of them in past seasons.

The issues with Virginia Tech are more than just their weak schedule. They have three OT wins (including against 7-20 Delaware) and only barely beat terrible Big Ten squads in Penn State and Iowa who are a combined 4-23 in league play. The strength and quality of the their wins isn't impressive. They are probably less safe in regards to the NCAA tournament than people think. In 2006 FSU had a better schedule and better wins than what VT has at the moment and was left out at 9-7. If VT goes 10-6 without beating Duke or GT on the road and then drops their first game in ACC tourney it could get interesting.