Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Schedule Strength and Bench Depth

With a couple days before the opener in the Virgin Islands, I've decided to take some time to research the two biggest complaints about Coach Brey this season: non-conference schedule strength and an eight-man deep bench.

Overall, I am not too concerned with the non-conference schedule. It presents a problem if, and only if, the Irish fail to convince the committee through a strong performance in the Big East slate. If this team finishes 7th or lower in the Big East standings, they will have larger problems than an unimpressive string of games before January. In addition, the lack of top competition out of conference guarantees wins and minimizes the chance for an embarrassing upset here and there. You can fully expect Notre Dame to carry no more than two losses and a continued home winning streak into 2008.

That said, let's break down the opponents. In-season tournaments are withheld.

Team- Final 2007 RPI- Conference Prediction (Sporting News)-
  • Long Island- 310- 11th Northeast Conference
  • Youngstown State- 173- 9th Horizon League
  • Colgate- 261- 6th Patriot League
  • Eastern Michigan- 234- 4th MAC West
  • Kansas St.- 56- 3rd Big XII
  • Northern Illinois- 301- 5th MAC West
  • San Francisco- 162- 4th WCC
  • Brown- 230- 5th Ivy League
  • North Florida- 333- 9th Atlantic Sun
That's three games outside the top 300, with only one top 100 team. Although Kansas St. is currently in the Top 25, not an impressive slate. Let's look at two other Big East schedules, Pitt (ranked 4th in my preseason ballot) and Syracuse (ranked 6th).


  • NC A&T- 271- 2nd MEAC
  • St. Louis- 74- 8th A-10
  • Mississippi Valley- 200- 5th SWAC
  • Buffalo- 238- 6th MAC East
  • Boston U- 210- America East
  • Toledo- 94- 3rd MAC West
  • Duquesne- 222- 9th A-10
  • Washington- 81- 8th Pac-10
  • Oklahoma State- 51- 5th Big XII
  • Duke- 15- 2nd ACC
  • Dayton- 75- 4th A-10
  • Lafayette- 284- Patriot League


  • Fordham- 108- 5th A-10
  • UMASS- 61- 6th A-10
  • Tulane- 145- 6th C-USA
  • Virginia- 55- 5th ACC
  • Rhode Island- 109- 3rd A-10
  • E. Tennessee State- 123- 1st Atlantic Sun
  • Colgate- 261- 6th Patriot League
  • Cornell- 169- 1st Ivy League
  • Northeastern- 184- 8th Colonial Athletic Association

Pitt and Syracuse display two very different styles of scheduling. The Panthers will play a very hit and miss non-conference schedule, with 6 teams out of 12 ranked 200+ and the other half in the top 100. Syracuse has a less ambitious, but equally effective schedule, with only one opponent out of the top 200 and two top 100 teams.

Pitt will certainly lose the most games before the Big East season starts, with Duke, Oklahoma St., and a trap game at Dayton coming up. If you're looking for a good way to improve Notre Dame's schedule, Boeheim has compiled a strong list. No 300+ cupcakes, only two top-100 contests. The Orange should escape their nonconference schedule with few losses and an added boost to their strength of schedule.

The second subject for tonight's post comes from a variety of complaints I overheard during yesterday's game. With such a cupcake schedule, why not deepen the bench and give more playing time to freshmen and walkons? I can't speak specifically for yesterday, but I did a little research into the use of bench players over last season overall. If Coach Brey's unwillingness to go more than 8 deep is such an irregularity, certainly other top coaches around the country must use their substitutes with more frequency.

One large part of this equation is the tempo at which a team plays. That is hard to determine, so I used a variety of teams in my research. The first 4 schools are Big East teams who lost two top players before this year. The other two are the defending champs and one of the most talented squads from year to year.

Notre Dame-
  • Carter- 30.4 MPG
  • Falls- 34.3
  • Kurz- 28.0
  • Jackson- 27.8
  • Harangody- 20.6
  • Hillesland- 19.6
  • Zeller- 12.4
  • Ayers- 11.9
  • Peoples- 6.4


  • Chandler- 31.7
  • Mejia- 33.5
  • Burns- 25.9
  • Clarke- 20.7
  • Currie- 19.0
  • Walker- 14.9
  • Clinkscales- 11.9
  • Green- 11.7
  • Handler/Moses- 4.3
South Florida-
  • Buckley- 35.7
  • Mattis- 32.7
  • Howard- 31.1
  • Bozeman- 30.6
  • Gransberry- 28.5
  • Verdejo- 23.1
  • Williams- 17.6
  • Saaka- 17.0
  • Lovett- 5.6

West Virginia-

  • Young- 32.0
  • Summers- 21.6
  • Nichols- 34.8
  • Ruoff- 33.2
  • Alexander- 25.0
  • Butler- 23.3
  • Smalligan- 14.4
  • Bawinkel- 9.0
  • Mazzula- 8.7
  • Smith/Talkington- 7.8


  • Brewer- 28.7
  • Green- 33.1
  • Horford- 27.7
  • Humphrey- 30.0
  • Noah- 25.8
  • Hodge- 17.7
  • Richard- 18.0
  • Werner- 8.9
  • Mitchell- 6.2
  • Speights- 5.7


  • McRoberts- 35.3
  • Scheyer- 33.7
  • Paulus- 32.4
  • Nelson- 31.9
  • McClure- 21.7
  • Henderson- 19.3
  • Thomas- 14.9
  • Pocius- 7.1
  • Zoubek- 7.3
In 2006-07, Notre Dame had eight players with double figure minutes per game (the numbers are a little low due to Kyle McAlarney's 12 games). DePaul and South Florida also had eight. West Virginia, the national champion Gators, and super-talented but young Duke Blue Devils, who had four four-star recruits and five five-stars to choose from, only had seven players with double digit minute averages.

So what does all this mean? While the non-conference schedule is quite weak, especially when compared to similar Big East teams, Coach Brey's use of the bench is overall quite normal for top-level college hoops teams. Even Coach K, with a more talented team in Durham, was content with a short bench over the course of the year.

Whew. This post was supposed to be done an hour ago. Sorry if the delay inconvenienced you at all. Tomorrow we'll talk about the Paradise Jam...


Unknown said...

Irish could add a couple of good opponents in the tournament they are playing in. From Irish Eyes: Following the game against Monmouth, the Irish will play the winner of the Baylor-Wichita State game on Sunday evening. Monday’s opponent could be Charlotte, Georgia Tech, Illinois-Chicago, or Winthrop, the program that ended Notre Dame’s season a year ago in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Irishfan70 said...

Great posts! keep up the good work.

BlackandGreen said...

You certainly have to think that competing in an in-season tournament played in Coach Brey's scheduling decisions.

Baylor and Georgia Tech would both be major conference opponents while Charlotte (146), Illinois-Chicago (159), Winthrop (70), and Wichita State (100) all finished with decent RPI rankings. In Monmouth, we play the worst team by far in the tournament in the first round, but even they outrank many of our other non-conference opponents.

Three wins in the Virgin Islands would certainly add to the resume.

BlackandGreen said...

And Irishfan-

Thanks for the support. Hope you keep enjoying the blog!

Craig said...

You say that the only way we need to worry is if the Irish are on the bubble, but that's not entirely true. Even if ND is solidly in the field, we could be punished by a bad seeding, as happened last year where we were slotted lower than we should have been and caught the toughest opponent in that band on top of that.

BlackandGreen said...

That certainly makes sense and maybe I'm too trusting of the committee. If the Irish play well in a conference as difficult as the Big East, that should outweigh our poor nonconference schedule. We get quality wins through our conference games and no bad losses.

However, what should happen and what will happen are two completely different things. You're absolutely right to mention last year...

ND67Aquajock said...

I have heard on other blogs that the seeding committee does us no favors partially due to the Football TV contract. Several last year predicted we would get Winthrop.

I don't know if I completely buy that, but the Women's soccer team just got seeded to meet North Carolina in the 3rd round! Not at all consistent with what they did during the season.

BlackandGreen said...

I'd hate to believe that there's an overriding anti-ND bias for committee members. I'm sure it does play on the minds of some, however, which is ridiculous.

As for women's soccer, I haven't followed the sport nationally enough to know what a good seed would be for the Irish. However, to take the 13th ranked team who is 12-1 since September and possibly match them up with the #2 team in the country seems a bit harsh. Both schools still have to win twice, however.