Hindsight View of the Non-Conference Schedule

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Tom Nemitz

Before the season, Creighton’s non-conference schedule was praised by some and derided by others, but the prevailing opinion seemed to be that it was a solid group of opponents that would put them in a good position come March if they took care of business.

Well, the Jays went 11-1 against those teams, so they took care of business (the trip-up against Boise State notwithstanding). Did the schedule actually shake out the way we thought, however? A couple of wins that looked great at the time have since lost a significant amount of luster *cough* North Texas *cough*, as the teams have underachieved against the rest of their schedule. So I thought it might be interesting to look back at the entire non-conference slate and see how everyone has done since they played the Jays, and what that might mean come March.

Note: RPI data courtesy of InsideRPI on ESPN.com

North Texas

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 71-51
  • Record: 5-7
  • RPI: 276
  • Non-Conference RPI: 244
  • Signature win: Jackson State (only win against a team with a sub-250 RPI, at 215)
  • Bad loss(es): Alabama-Huntsville (DII)

The Mean Green were believed by many — including myself — to be a legitimate threat to upset the Jays on opening night, and a team that would be among the top mid-major teams this season. Everyone who thought that feels pretty damn stupid now, because this is a bad basketball team. They lost to a DII team in the opening round of the NIT Tip-Off, are 0-5 against the RPI Top 150, and have just four wins against Division 1 opponents. Their best win came against Jackson State, an unimpressive team in their own right. At the moment, the Mean Green are one of several anchors on the Jays’ schedule — and I don’t mean the good definition of that word.

UAB

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 77-60
  • Record: 6-6
  • RPI: 137
  • Non-Conference RPI: 69
  • Signature win: Prairie View A&M (only win against a team with a sub-200 RPI, at 198)
  • Bad loss(es): TCU (200 RPI)

UAB is a rebuilding project, and they’ve had a completely non-descript season in which they’ve beaten the teams they’re supposed to while losing to the ones they’re supposed to lose to. They have zero wins against the RPI Top 150 (0-5) and are 5-1 against the rest with the loss coming to a borderline team in TCU. Among their losses are Creighton, Illinois State, and North Carolina, which is the reason their NCSOS is as high as it is. The best Creighton can hope for is that the Blazers use the C-USA schedule to stay inside the RPI Top 150 (they’re at 137 currently).

Presbyterian

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 87-58
  • Record: 2-10
  • RPI: 336
  • Non-Conference RPI: 226
  • Signature win: Zero wins against D1 teams
  • Bad loss(es): Let’s be honest, no losses are bad losses when you’re as bad as the Blue Hose

One of the two “cupcakes” sent to Omaha as part of the Las Vegas Invitational, Presbyterian has not disappointed in terms of expectations — they’re precisely as terrible as advertised. Both of their wins have come against DII teams, making their official record for RPI purposes 0-10. They have a hideous minus-22.40 scoring margin, meaning very little bad luck has gone into their bottom-ten RPI ranking. They’re simply bad. Let’s move on.

Longwood

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 105-57
  • Record: 3-10
  • RPI: 275
  • Non-Conference RPI: 88
  • Signature win: They have only one win against a team from D1, and it was a three point victory over Florida A&M, one of the worst (RPI of 322)
  • Bad loss(es): See Presbyterian

The other “cupcake” sent to Omaha as part of the Las Vegas Invitational. Longwood has a slightly higher RPI at this point due in large part to actually having a win over a D1 opponent, but otherwise they’re just as bad as Presbyterian, and just as likely to be a drag on the Jays’ overall RPI. As a matter of fact, they might be worse — their scoring margin is minus-24.80, a full two points worse than the Blue Hose, and their adjusted scoring margin of minus-28.3 is the sixth-worst in America.

Wisconsin

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 84-74
  • Record: 8-4
  • RPI: 135
  • Non-Conference RPI: 212
  • Signature win: California (81-56 win in Madison)
  • Bad loss(es): None

The Badgers currently have the 11th best RPI in the Big Ten (only Purdue is worse), but they figure to get better as the year goes on — both on the court and in the RPI. Bo Ryan’s teams typically play their best basketball later in the year; their ranking is currently weighed down by that ghastly 212 strength of schedule, and the fact that six of their wins have come against teams with RPI’s of 150 or lower. Given the ridiculous strength of the Big Ten this year, it’s still possible the Badgers could finish as a Top 100 win for the Jays even if they finish in the second division.

Arizona State

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 87-73
  • Record: 10-2
  • RPI: 48
  • Non-Conference RPI: 133
  • Signature win: #56 Cal State Northridge
  • Bad loss(es): Only other loss is at home to DePaul, currently 190 in the RPI

At first glance, the Sun Devils are the best win Creighton has this season — they’re a Top 50 RPI team, and they have the fourth-best RPI in the Pac12. Digging deeper, it’s alarming that they’ve loaded up on bottom-feeders, going 8-1 against teams with RPIs of 150 or lower. Given that Creighton has been the only real challenge they’ve faced this year (unless you believe Cal State Northridge is as good as their RPI currently indicates), it’s anybody’s guess how they’ll perform even in a weakened Pac12, and therefore hard to project how this win will look in late February. At a minimum, my guess is this should be another Top 100 win come Selection Sunday; if they can win 10 games in the Pac12, they should finish safely inside the Top 50.

Boise State

  • Result vs Creighton: W, 83-70
  • Record: 9-2
  • RPI: 43
  • Non-Conference RPI: 206
  • Signature win: Creighton (ugh), #39 UC Santa Barbara (72-56 win), #68 LSU (89-70 win)
  • Bad loss(es): Only two losses are at Michigan State (32 RPI) and at Utah, currently 95 in the RPI; neither are “bad” losses per se

As the only non-conference loss, and one that came at home no less, the Broncos might be the most pivotal game from a resume standpoint on the Jays’ slate. Creighton needs Boise State to continue to play well and surprise people in the Mountain West so that this doesn’t go from “loss” to “bad loss”; so far, they’ve continued to play well, with their only off night coming on the road against a Utah team that for the moment resides inside the Top 100. The fact that the loss came at home is obviously bad and immensely frustrating, but if the Broncos keep it up, it will hardly be a loss to a “bad” team. It seems likely that this is no worse than a Top 100 loss come Selection Sunday, minimizing the collateral damage for Creighton.

St. Joseph’s

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 80-51
  • Record: 5-4
  • RPI: 80
  • Non-Conference RPI: 57
  • Signature win: #74 Notre Dame
  • Bad loss(es): None; all four losses are to teams inside the Top 150

Before coming to Omaha, the Hawks were a solid Top 50 team that looked like one of the top squads in the A-10. Since their blowout loss to the Jays, they’ve lost two of three, beating Coppin State while losing to Villaova (#103) and Fairfield (#87). Their NCSOS should keep their overall RPI inside the Top 100 if they can rebound to play as expected once conference play starts; otherwise this will be a disappointing win resume-wise come March.

Nebraska

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 64-42
  • Record: 8-4
  • RPI: 41
  • Non-Conference RPI: 31
  • Signature win: #88 Southern University (a team that will likely finish outside the Top 150)
  • Bad loss(es): #174 Kent State

Nebraska has played better than expected this year, but once conference play starts their record — and their RPI — will plummet back down to earth. I’d guess by March the Huskers (41) and Badgers (135) will essentially swap places in the RPI, giving the Jays the same number of Top 50 wins then that they have now. But it would surprise no one if the Huskers drop into the 200+ range, once again making this a game that offers nothing for the Jays other than bragging rights.

Akron

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 77-61
  • Record: 6-4
  • RPI: 92
  • Non-Conference RPI: 107
  • Signature win: #55 Middle Tennessee State (a team that will likely finish outside the Top 150)
  • Bad loss(es): #259 Coastal Carolina

The Zips are the second-highest-ranked team in the MAC, with three of their four losses coming to teams inside the Top 100 (Creighton, #21 Oklahoma State and #99 Detroit). It seems likely that if they finish in the top three in the MAC, their RPI should stay inside the Top 150 even with the drop they’ll suffer due to the strength of schedule going down. However, if they have another disaster like the loss to Coastal Carolina, they could easily drop into the 150+ range, making the win essentially irrelevant resume-wise, other than a notch on the overall win total.

Cal

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 74-64
  • Record: 8-3
  • RPI: 45
  • Non-Conference RPI: 77
  • Signature wins: #39 UC Santa Barbara, #85 Georgia Tech, #91 Pacific
  • Bad loss(es): None

None of their three “signature” wins inspire confidence — UCSB is 4-7 and Pacific is 6-6, with both having a weak Big West schedule ahead of them to weigh down their RPI; Georgia Tech is an NIT team at best. They’re currently third in the Pac12, and that seems to be a good prediction for where they’ll finish. A Top 100 win in a true road game is nothing to sneeze at, even for the Selection Committee; hopefully the Bears can win enough to stay in the Top 50 and make this a truly marquee win.

Tulsa

  • Result vs Creighton: L, 71-54
  • Record: 7-5
  • RPI: 144
  • Non-Conference RPI: 149
  • Signature win: #132 Oral Roberts
  • Bad loss(es): #168 Arkansas Little-Rock

Tulsa, like UAB, is a rebuilding project that at the moment is a middle-of-the-road team. They’re 5-0 against teams with RPIs of 200 or lower; their only other D1 win is against Oral Roberts, who has an RPI of 132. It would take some serious overachieving for this to be even a Top 150 win come Selection Sunday; it’s more likely that it’s simply a win in the overall total, and not a bullet point on the resume.

***

So what does Creighton’s resume look like, after those 12 games? Not great, but because they (mostly) took care of business, it looks like the type of resume that will bolster their seed line come March, rather than hinder it.

  • Record: 11-1
  • Vs RPI Top 50: 3-1
  • Vs RPI Top 100: 5-1
  • Vs RPI Top 150: 8-1
  • RPI: 18
  • Non-Conference RPI: 68
  • Signature wins: #45 Cal, #48 Arizona State
  • Bad loss(es): None

Two of the three Top 50 wins (Arizona State and Cal) stand a better-than-decent chance of remaining Top 50 wins come March, and the other, Nebraska, could well be replaced by Wisconsin. St. Joseph’s and Akron, the two additional wins against the Top 100, will likely not be Top 100 wins by March, but should be replaced or even surpassed by wins against Top 100 MVC teams such as Wichita State, Illinois State or UNI. Same goes for the Top 150 wins over UAB and Tulsa.

My best guess is that in March, the Jays will still have a 3-1 record against the Top 50 (and could add to it if someone in the Valley sneaks up into the Top 50), and will have six or seven wins against the Top 100. That’s a more-than-respectable resume, and one of Creighton’s best tournament resumes in a long time — more than giving them an at-large safety net, it should allow them to get a good seed in the NCAA Tournament, if they play as expected in the conference.

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