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Indiana Hoosiers Strength of Schedule is Stronger than First Glance

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There is no shortage of schedule criticism throughout Indiana's recent history, but this season's non-conference schedule is actually strongest where it matters. At the top.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Controversial opinion of the day. Indiana’s non-conference basketball schedule isn’t really that bad. It feels like this topic is discussed ad nauseam and rarely does anyone offer opposition to the fact that Indiana’s schedule is pretty darn soft. Scan the rest of the power conferences and you’ll see your share of cupcakes and creampuffs. But everyone is insistent that IU’s are more numerous. Heck, even Pomeroy says that this year Indiana’s schedule is the fifteenth easiest schedule in the nation. And I wouldn’t argue that those numbers are wrong. What I would argue is those numbers don’t matter.

When we get down to the wire, the NCAA tournament committee (the group that truly matters when discussing strength of schedule) looks at your resume and asks, "well who’d you play?" The question isn’t "well who did you play besides the good teams?" Which is why Indiana has no worries this NCAA season about being snubbed from the tournament because of scheduling.

The Hoosiers when all is said and done will have played 1 top 10 opponent (these are all according to Pomeroy), 4 (to 5) top 50 opponents and 6 top 100 opponents. Who else in the Big Ten can tout that many top 100 opponents? None save Wisconsin and Iowa. In fact, only Kansas, Baylor, NC State, and North Carolina in the top 6 conferences in basketball put together a non-conference schedule that features more than 6 top 100 opponents.  The Hoosiers strength of schedule for who matters is doing just fine.

The selection committee doesn’t really care if you play a team ranked 150 or 351. All of these types of games are played in your home gym despite a few exceptions here or there. In that instance the probability difference between a team fighting for a bubble spot (like Indiana would be today) and a team ranked 150th/351st is 15 percentage points. Playing the 150th team at home is an 84% likely win by 12 points. Playing the 351st (last place team) at home is a 99% win probability with a 21 point victory. Now I wouldn’t say those numbers are negligible but in the real world, if you played the 151st team 7 times of Indiana’s 7 remaining non-top 100 games, IU would likely only come away with 1 extra loss than the almost guaranteed 100% winning record against the worst team. 25% of the time they wouldn’t even lose that.

It just doesn’t really matter in the bigger picture if the teams you play outside of potential tourney teams are just not good or really really bad. No one on the committee says, "yeah, but they played Lamar when they could have been playing Youngstown State." What Indiana can run in front of the committee is an attempt to play similar skilled or better teams throughout the non-conference. Now of course the Hoosiers got a little lucky that the "cupcake" they did lose to appears to be a leading candidate for "mid-major you want nothing to do with in the tournament" but even outside of that they’re going to have at least 4 tournament teams and one weak bubble team as things currently stand on the schedule.

It now comes down to the records. As things stand the Hoosiers are 2-2 against those Strong SoS Six. These final 2 against Butler and Georgetown on neutral floors are crucial. Get wins against both and a .500 record in the Big Ten should easily have them on the good side of the bubble. 1-1 will have them nervous and 0-2 is going to require a scramble to make up ground in conference. To state it plainly, if you don’t want to have to drink during every Big Ten game this year, we have to beat them both.