Loyal Cougars

Hoops Temperature Check: Dec 16

It’s early, but BYU’s strength of schedule gives us some indicators. Time for the first temperature check of the 2013-14 season.

This early in the season, it can be hard to put your finger on where just about any team stands (except a few — like, UMass is a really good team.) Several rating systems can help us get an idea, however — and such systems play a key part for the selection committee. So as the season progresses, the “Hoops Temperature Check” becomes less of a thermometer and more of a “bubble watch.”

RPI (ratings percentage index) is the most well-known and prominent rating in college basketball. It may not always be the best rating, but it seems to be the most prominent one involved in the tournament selection process. So it’s important.

But to give us some more depth, we’ll look at ratings from the savant Ken Pomeroy and from Jeff Sagarin, long-time ratings calculator (and whose football ratings have been part of the BCS formula since the beginning). For a big picture number, I’ve averaged the three ratings in some places — but for the time being, RPI still remains the most important for tournament selection.

The committee also likes to see how teams play away from home, so the combined road/neutral record is also something to watch.

Twelve games into the season, here’s BYU’s profile:

Record: 8-4
Home: 4-1
Road 1-2 | Neutral 2-1 | Combined 3-3

RPI: 22
KenPom: 49
Sagarin: 27

RPI: 5
KenPom: 65
Sagarin: 20

BYU’s profile still doesn’t look bad, even after the loss to Utah. The RPI is very favorable to the Cougars. Based on those numbers alone, BYU would be a tournament lock right now.

Now, a look at BYU’s opponents, individually and in an overall tournament-resume profile:

Weber State W 282 138 189 203
@ Stanford W 63 46 55 55
Mt St Mary’s W 241 262 276 260
Iowa State L 7 22 4 11
Texas (n) W 25 65 64 50
Wichita St (n) L 12 14 9 12
Utah State (n) W 53 76 70 66
North Texas W 193 254 234 227
@ UMass L 1 24 11 12
Prairie View A&M W 270 324 323 306
@ Utah L 115 78 54 82

(Colorado Mesa, non-DI, excluded)

vs. Top-50
RPI: 1-3
KenPom: 1-3
Sag: 0-3
AVG: 1-3

vs. Top-100
RPI: 3-3
KP: 3-4
Sag: 3-4
AVG: 3-4

vs. < 100
RPI: 4-1
KP: 4-0
Sag: 4-0
AVG: 4-0

BYU’s record against the Top 50 — a key resume point to the selection committee — doesn’t look great right now, but one win is better than zero. BYU’s problem, similar to what football experienced in 2012, is that every good team BYU plays is really good. All four of BYU’s top 50 opponents are top 25 opponents in RPI — and as you can see, UMass and Iowa State are top-10.

The good news for Dave Rose’s squad is that the committee can see how well BYU competed in those losses. While 2-2 would be better than 1-3, BYU has acquitted itself well.

The other two resume considerations aren’t fantastic, however. In the cause to prove yourself a top-68 team for the tournament, a record above .500 against top-100 opponents is key.

Losses against sub-100 teams are black marks on a tourney resume. BYU has done well in that category except for the RPI — again, the most popular measure — where Utah is sub-100. The Utes are playing well, however, and may very well end up in the top-100 this season.

Into the future, BYU’s schedule is crazy. Though such numbers are unlikely to survive an entire season, with four games against RPI top-25 teams completed, the Cougars have five more such games against the RPI top-25: Oregon (15), Gonzaga x2 (17), and Saint Mary’s x2 (9).

Looking backward, the win over Utah State seems like it may be in jeopardy of dropping out of the top 100 as the Aggies announced an indefinite suspension of Jarred Shaw — leading scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker — this morning. If it lasts 3-4 games, it shouldn’t be horrible, but if the Ags go several weeks without Shaw, that could hurt BYU.

How Texas and Stanford fare in conference play will also be something to watch. BYU will need at least one (can we have both?) finish in the top-50.

Overall, BYU is still in decent shape, but wins must come. Beating Oregon and splitting with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s should be plenty good enough — which would make BYU’s top-50 record a respectable 4-5 (assuming all teams involved remain in the top-50).

My prognosis? Saturday’s loss stunk, but BYU is far from panic mode right now. The schedule is light year’s different from last season’s, which seems to be informing panic from BYU fans a little too much right now. The Cougars aren’t gunning for a three-seed this year. There are still a lot of opportunities to prove themselves a solid squad.