UW Health Sports Medicine 

Truth or myth... Badgers top 10 non-conference schedule?

| 1 Comment
Every year when schedules are announced, fans and experts alike quickly analyze the lineup of games and make judgments about the schedule's toughness.

It's a natural reaction and we all do it. We go down the list game-by-game and say: "easy win, tough game, easy win, easy win, tough game, toss-up, no chance, easy win, etc."

081223MBB-6210-30_sm.jpgWe all try to determine whether the schedule is easy, hard or somewhere in the middle. That's how we pass the time and fill our water cooler discussions when we're still two months from tip-off.

The thing that often goes unrecognized, is that this preseason ritual is based off of the previous' results and hype surrounding each opponent. The real measure of a schedule should be done after the season when you can analyze how each opponent performed instead of how each opponent was supposed to perform.

"Schools can never really be sure how their non-league opponents will fare in a given season," ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi wrote recently. "Teams can schedule so-called "up" games in tournaments, home-and-home series, one-way road trips, etc., and said opponents can underachieve for any number of reasons."

Using Wisconsin as an example, last season provided two terrific examples of how unpredictable scheduling can be. At the time UW faced Notre Dame in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic, the Irish were not even receiving votes in the AP poll and were largely predicted to finish anywhere from seventh to 10th in the Big East. Notre Dame went on to go 27-7 and finish second in the rugged conference.

On the flip side, UW's dance partner in the 2010 Big Ten/ACC Challenge was NC State, an up-and-coming team that entered the season with a returning all-conference pick, a top-ranked recruiting class and as a lock for a top-half finish in the ACC. Instead, the season unraveled quickly (including an 87-48 loss at the Kohl Center) and led to head coach Sidney Lowe's resignation and a 15-16 record.

Notre Dame or NC State from 2011 illustrate that predicting the future is a difficult exercise. The real analysis of a schedule should come when the nets are being cut down at the Final Four.

With that in mind, Lunardi recently examined the schedules of every BCS team over the last four seasons based on results, not predictions. He ranked the schools that have played the toughest non-conference schedules over that span and revealed that Wisconsin has played the ninth-toughest slate on that list.

So... truth or myth, Wisconsin plays weak non-conference schedules? The proof is in the numbers:

Nonconference SOS (Last four seasons)

School (Avg Rank) 2011 2010 2009 2008
1. Tennessee 19.50 3 71 1 3
2. Georgetown 33.50 2 4 7 121
3. Arizona 36.75 46 20 77 4
4. Duke 44.50 47 42 50 39
5. Michigan State 47.50 17 105 22 46
6. Connecticut 52.00 38 6 105 59
7. Syracuse 52.00 126 34 28 20
8. Michigan 55.75 52 103 53 15
9. Wisconsin 59.00 111 29 42 54
10. Pittsburgh 61.50 94 47 15 90
West Virginia 61.50 4 26 60 156

1 Comment

I think it comes down to perception, and I think most non-Badger fans perceive Wisconsin as a school that dodges big-time non-conference match-ups. Unfortunately for the basketball program, which I believe has attempted to add one or two games of "intrigue" recently, this national perception is partially driven by the football schedule. Wisconsin has proven itself in football and basketball as a national power, but they get little-to-no exposure outside of Big Ten or post-season play because they don't/won't play Texas, Notre Dame, USC or Florida in football, or Kentucky, Kansas, UConn or UCLA in basketball. If it weren't for the Big Ten/ACC challenge, it is doubtful the Badgers would play Duke or North Carolina, either. Regardless of computers and S.O.S.'s, casual fans respond more to beating a horrible Indiana team than they do beating a great Virginia Commonwealth team.