Joe Rexrode of the LSJ notes that MSU’s nonconference strength-of-schedule appears to be on the upswing, with BYU’s upset over Louisville and near-upset over UNC, Texas’ victory over Tennessee, and NC State’s win over Villanova.
Izzo is, of course, known for scheduling tough nonconference opponents to try to prepare his team for the Big Dance. My gripe in the past (when the gripes occurred in my inner monologue only) was that Izzo would schedule a few top-20 opponents and then a whole string of big-time patsies. The lack of competition against teams that were “just right” would leave them unprepared for playing vs. Big Ten teams, most of which would fall in the range of 21-100 among the 300+ Division 1 basketball teams. Additionally, the large number of patsies would drag down MSU’s RPI (and other computer ratings) at the end of the year, muting the effect of playing the top-20 teams when the NCAA selection committee took a look at the team’s resume.
So how’s the nonconference schedule look right now? Here’s how MSU’s 13 nonconference opponents (past and future) stack up under the Sagarin ratings. (Technical note: The Sagarin ratings are not yet “connected.” That is, they still rely, to some extent, on information from last season. But they should still be a pretty good gauge of the overall strength of our nonconference foes.)
1-20: 2 (UCLA, Texas)
21-50: 3 (BYU, NC State, Missouri)
51-100: 1 (Bradley)
101-150: 1 (UW-Green Bay)
So we’ve got two games vs. top-20 types and another four vs. my “just right” group. Throw in UM-Green Bay, and seven of the 13 games are against teams deemed by Jeff Sagarin’s computer to be among the top half of Division 1 teams. I’m not going to go back and look at previous schedules using this methodology, but I’d wager this is a more balanced nonconference slate than in past years. I think that will serve them well going into the Big Ten season. Of course, it also means they have seven games they could lose without a huge shock. (Hopefully, they got the big shock thing out of the way in the exhibition season.)