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Purdue owes the schedule makers a thank-you card

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Okay not really, but how else am I gonna get you to read something about basketball scheduling?

From: Purdue To: B1G Schedulemaker

Big Ten basketball scheduling is crazy. There are way too many teams to do a true round robin, but you still need every team to have an equal number of home (lol Maryland) and away games, but you also need to play everyone at least once. The result is each team plays a bunch of teams twice, a few teams once at home, and a few teams once on the road.

The schedule is also what gives us the most interesting non-Signing Day day in the offseason: The Day The Conference Schedule Comes Out. This is a big day! Sure it’s overblown largely because it’s An Offseason Day Where Something Happens, but fans like to pick apart the schedule, separate conference teams into Home only, Away only, and double plays, and make pronouncements about how good or bad the season is going to be.

The final thing the unbalanced weird ass schedule in B1G basketball gives us is an excuse for when our favorite team doesn’t win the conference. I vaguely remember discussion about Indiana’s super weak conference schedule a few years back, leading to its championship over better teams. I don’t remember the year.

And because my favorite team isn’t going to win the conference this year, it’s time to look for an excuse (easy schedule) that Purdue’s gonna win and an excuse (hard schedule) that Wisconsin didn’t.

My hypothesis: While important, the schedule is really only going to bump teams up or down a single tier. Great, good, okay, ehhh, and terrible. Oh and Rutgers. If your team is slotted to fit in one of those tiers based on talent/coaching/whatever, the schedule is only going to move you a single tier at most.

My experiment: Looking at just the top 6 teams in the conference (Purdue, MSU, UM, Wisconsin, Maryland Iowa), because (i) they’ve separated themselves from the rest of the conference and (ii) I don’t want to write about 14 schedules, I’ll totally objectively evaluate them fairly to determine if any team’s schedule made a difference.

Oh and I’ll take a look at OTE’s preseason top 6 teams, if any are different, and do that schedule magic.

My observation:

PRESEASON OTE RANKINGS

  1. MSU - t1
  2. Purdue - t1
  3. UM - t1
  4. Indiana - t2
  5. OSU - t2
  6. Maryland - t2

t3: Wisconsin, Nebraska

t4: Iowa, PSU, Minnesota

t5: NW, Illinois

tRutgers: Rutgers

PROJECTED ACTUAL SEASON RESULTS

1. Purdue - t1

2. MSU - t1

3. UM - t1

4. Wisconsin - t2

5. Maryland - t2

6. Iowa - t3

t4: OSU, Minny, Rutgers, Illinois

t5: Indiana, PSU, Nebby

tRutgers: Northwestern

Alright, boring things with numbers out of the way. Here’s who each of the top 6 teams (pre- or post-season) had to play:

PURDUE

Home: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Double: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

  • This schedule had some good and bad luck. The good? Only two double plays against top 6 teams. The bad, though meant two away-only games against the top 6. Still, there are far worse things than getting two games against almost the entire bottom half of the conference. Did this schedule give Purdue its championship? Yup. Anyone who says otherwise is simply afraid of arguing with the endless Purdue basketball fans we have on OTE.

MICHIGAN STATE

Home: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern

Away: Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers

  • Yikes. Double plays against three of the top 6, plus having Wisconsin away only. Ignoring all of MSU’s injuries, it’s pretty easy to say MSU’s schedule cost Izzo another banner of some sort. But really, it was the injuries

MICHIGAN

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

  • Three top 6 double plays, plus an away-only game at Iowa probably during the part of the season when Iowa was good, and really, Rutgers and Illinois turned out okay. The schedule didn’t help UM’s championship chances, but neither did their offense so

WISCONSIN

Home: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State

  • Home-only games against the two best teams and the best Rutgers team the past couple years were a pretty lucky break. Even luckier? All three away-only teams were...not good at all. Sure, double plays against three top 6 teams is tough, but they also had three double plays against bottom 5 teams. Wisconsin played a lot better this year, but it moved up from a preseason tier 3 team to a postseason tier 2 team, and that fits my hypothesis, so I’m saying the schedule did it.

MARYLAND

Home: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

  • Ouch tough schedule. Three double plays against top 6 teams, and away-only games at the other two (if you’re counting to 6, don’t forget to count Maryland!). Plus, DJ would want me to point out that the “Home” game against Illinois was in Madison Square Garden. Tough schedule, but Maryland finished right where OTE predicted (tier 2)

IOWA

Home: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan

Away: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

  • Man did Iowa blow it. Only two double plays against the top 6, and only one away-only top 6 opponent. Or did they? If you’ll remember, Iowa was predicted as a tier 4 team in the OTE preseason predictions predictions, and they’ve finished on the fringes of tier 2! Did they easy schedule bump Iowa up a level? I’m saying yes, because it confirms my hypothesis. And did I put Iowa in postseason tier 3 all alone just so I could count this as a good data point? Yes. Still, easy schedule, better-than-predicted finish.

OHIO STATE

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

  • Remember when Ohio State got off to a really hot start and then fell apart during the conference season? The schedule is why. Double plays against 4 of the top 6 teams, plus an away-only against Michigan. Ohio State fell two tiers, though, so minus one for the Beezpothesis.

INDIANA

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

  • So Indiana’s schedule was Ohio State’s but worse. Double plays against the top 3 teams in the conference and against Iowa, plus an away-only at Maryland. Indiana fell from tier 2 to decidedly not that tier, though, so by the Beezpothesis, it can’t be attributable only to the hard schedule.

My Conclusion: There’s obviously more that goes into assessing schedule difficulty beyond what I’ve done above. This analysis is limited for a bunch of reasons, mostly because I don’t want to write all that and/or get too invested in proving Purdue “deserved” a title, but the conclusion to be drawn is clear: The quirky Big Ten basketball scheduling absolutely gave Purdue the conference title this year, just like Indiana that one other year.

You can disagree if you want, but remember two things. First, I used the scientific method (PHEOC!), so good luck proving me wrong. Second, you’re wrong.

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