You Say Tomato, I Say Differential...
Though every team not named Pittsburgh or Notre Dame took a loss (or two?) last week, the the conference race actually tightened up, with the net efficiencies of both Pitt and DePaul "regressing" (however modestly) towards the mean. West Virginia, pummeled twice last week, did tumble towards the pack, a rather spectacular shift given that 63% of the conference slate is in the books. A check of the SOS and the Pythagorean Winning Percentage gives me the sense there is more shaking out in store over the next two weeks, most teams should be past the point where a blowout win or loss will scramble their individual differential, or significantly realign the rankings.
Sorted by net efficiency, the upper division seems to be merging into one continuous six team line that includes Georgetown with the lowest net (0.032) and Marquette with the highest net (0.060). St. John's continues to defy definition, though they do fall in line at the bottom of a list of four (of the five) conference teams who share 6-5 records going into weekend play. The offensive/defensive conference average stayed at the 1.04 (points per possession) level, still above the Division 1-wide average of 1.01. The largest standard deviation among efficiencies is still among conference defenses.
The Great Divide...
The conference continues to show an uneven division between the number of teams with positive net effficienies (10) and those with negative efficiencies (six). The same 10 teams continue to show above that point, with Cincinnati, in place of a fast "rising" Notre Dame, now sitting at 0.004, closest (either positive or negative) to the neutral (0.000) point. DePaul (and maybe South Florida?) have absorbed the beatings that keep several teams above the neutral point.
While the Panthers and Demons made modest movements back towards the mean last week, the upper and lower divisions of the conference form a pair of continuous lines (albeit moving in opposite directions). In the upper division, Villanova is alone on the level below Pitt. How convenient, given the two will face off Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. Should the Wildcats win, they will not take a share of first place (the Panthers have two losses on their nearest rival, the Irish), but they should get a boost after the debacle in Piscataway last week, and will inch closer to Notre Dame (currently in sole possession of second place). Notre Dame's streak as the most paradoxical team of the week is broken this week as the Irish appear to behave, their net efficiency (and conference SOS) is starting to line up with their conference record. Looking ahead one would expect to see Mike Brey's charges consolidate their position among the bye teams. A look ahead however suggests otherwise. The Irish have played seven of their nine home games. With six games left to play, most (four) will come on the road. Notre Dame's road record is 2-3, and their net efficiency for their road games (all but one is a Big East conference game) is -0058. Holding to three losses may be tough.