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Indiana Hoosiers' "Soft Schedule" Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

Much has been made about the schedule so far. A large contingency of critics who are still uncertain about Indiana basketball point to the schedule for a crutch. They will tell you Indiana hasn’t played anyone outside of Bloomington or their cupcake schedule is providing all of those wins. This however is merely a meme and not the true case. Indiana has played an above average difficulty of schedule and many just don’t see it or want to admit it. Currently according to Pomeroy, IU has played the 68th toughest schedule in the nation. That is good enough for fifth in the conference, behind only Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska.

Don’t like Ken Pomeroy? Jeff Sagarin’s chess style ranking, which ranks teams solely on who they’ve beat has Indiana third in the nation behind Syracuse and Baylor. In other words, Indiana is the third best team in the nation if you go solely on who they’ve played and in turn beat in the first 16 games. Take away performance in games and look at IU solely in terms of who they’ve gone toe-to-toe with and they are a top five team. So actual competition and results should kill a lot of the criticism, because you know it isn’t actually true.

Sure Indiana had a weak non-conference schedule but it was no more weak than most major conference teams play. Indiana’s non-conference schedule (NC) is 278th in the nation. That is poor enough to finish 9th in the B1G. However, only two schools in the conference, MichiganState and Northwestern, even break the top 200 barrier. In fact, the average NC strength of schedule for the B1G is sitting steady at 245. In essence, NO ONE in the conference plays a hard NC. If Indiana adds a pre-season tournament to their resume instead of two-three of its current games, it lands pretty easily in the top half of the conference and likely in the top five.

The true gauge of how good Indiana is in the end not their schedule and who they have played. The true gauge of ability is how they have played. It took Indiana eight games before they played a game where they won by less than 11 points and that took the number one team in the nation and a final four favorite to come to Bloomington to end that streak. In fact, of the 15 wins Indiana has, only 4 of them can be considered close games. The rest were blowouts of other teams.

That leads us to another point on the schedule. Doesn’t making a decent team look bad show how good Indiana is and not how bad the opposing team is? Indiana had an off night and beat a Notre Dame team who is 2-1 in the Big East and has played the 4th hardest schedule of that respective conference. They went into Louisville and beat a top 10 team and were the kindling of the current dumpster fire that is Pittsburgh. Indiana soundly trounced a retooling Butler team that can still on any given day knock off a major opponent (Purdue and Stanford). Indiana’s schedule hasn’t been the hardest but even the teams they have played have not looked great. Doesn’t Indiana get credit for that? Kentucky is pasted for lack of execution in Bloomington, Ohio State for not accomplishing their game plan, Michigan for playing outside of their abilities. Does IU get no credit for those things? According to many bloggers and pundits, Indiana doesn’t win, the hard teams lay down and quit.

In the end, Indiana can only play who they are scheduled to play. The have the second hardest schedule to start off Big Ten play and are 3-1 as a result. I think it is high time that people quit focusing on a "weak schedule", it isn’t, and start looking at the results. Indiana is pasting teams they are supposed to paste (minus PennState) and show signs of being human against top flight teams. Instead of the criticism they are catching, the Hoosiers should be getting credit for achieving much greater heights and competing for a conference title (so far) in a year they were expected to only be OK.