I like Eric Angevine’s writing. I think that the Storming the Floor account is one of the most entertaining college basketball follows on Twitter. But I just can’t get behind a Mid-Major Power Ranking (ESPN Insider $$) that tries to tell me that Tulane, even at 11-1, is the best team in the nation. Especially when it uses a contorted form of efficiency margin.
The problem here is that while efficiency margin is being used, it’s taken completely out of a context because strength of schedule isn’t included. That’s why Tulane leads the pack. It’s also why Illinois St. and Georgia St. are hanging around the Top 5.
Those three teams all have one thing in common. They’ve played terrible schedules thus far this season. (All are in the bottom 25 in Non-conference SOS according to Pomeroy.) In fact, Tulane has played the worst schedule in the nation this season. It’s not even close either.
The Green Wave are a nice story at 11-1, but here’s who those 11 wins have come against: five teams ranked 330+ in Pomeroy’s ratings, two non-Division I schools and two more ranked between 270-300. That leaves one 57-52 win at home against Georgia Tech as Tulane’s shining beacon of competence. Let’s not forget also against whom that one loss came either. That’d be Wofford.
The cases against ISU and GSU are similar. The Redbirds are 6-3 and have one decent win amongst the six (over Rutgers on a neutral floor). They’ve also lost to UNC-Wilmington in the past two weeks. The Panthers are a great story, but their seven-game winning streak has been built on the back of paper tigers. Ron Hunter’s team doesn’t have a single decent win and lost to Portland and Florida Atlantic earlier this season.
All of this just illustrates why strength of schedule is so important, especially early in the season. There’s a reason I only use EM when talking about conference games. It’s against (theoretically) your peers, which makes the comparison valuable amongst teams. I think you get the point, but let’s compare two rankings systems to each other. Here’s the Top 6 mid-majors according to Ken Pomeroy (which is SOS adjusted among other tweaks) and then the Top 6 mid-majors according to Angevine’s EM.
2. Wichita State
4. St. Mary’s
5. Northern Iowa
3. Middle Tennessee
4. Wichita State
5. Georgia St.
6. Illinois St.
Throw out the Shockers, because they appear in both lists. Let’s play the Pomeroy-Angevine Challenge. Who you got? My money’s on the guy who uses strength of schedule in his rankings.