Friday, June 10, 2011

Wash, Rinse, Repeat -- The 2012 Atlantic-10 Conference Pairs

The Flip Side of 2011
Though at least one fan blog hinted at the pairings for the 2012 Atlantic-10 Conference regular season back on June 1, the conference did not officially release the pairings until June 6. Rather than build the conference mirror opponents and home/away games from scratch for 2012 (or roughly based on the 2011 conference results), the schedulemaker apparently decided to keep the 2011 mirror opponents and flip each team's 2011 home and away opponents for 2012 -- Saint Louis played Fordham, George Washington, Richmond, St. Bonaventure and Temple on the road in 2011, so they will host those teams at Chaifetz Arena in 2012. Was this a backhanded attempt at a balanced (over a two year period) schedule? For those interested in the complete listing, visit the Conference announcement here.

Fair and Balances?
I had noted last June when looking over the Atlantic-10 conference pairings that a balanced schedule may be only one of many objectives a conference schedulemaker may have satisfy...and a lower priority objective at that. Since the conference kept the same mirror opponents for 2012 as 2011 for each team, I decided to take the average of the conference Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) for each team's mirros and compare them. Mirror games constitute 37.5% of each team's 16 game schedule. These pairings can provide a team with a big advantage (or a huge challange)...

Mirror Opponents
Charlotte0.735GWU, Rich, XU
St. Louis0.726Day, Duq, XU
Dayton0.724Duq, SLU, XU
Saint Joseph's0.670Mass, Rich, TU
Fordham0.612URI, Bonas, TU
La Salle0.582GWU, Mass, TU
Duquesne0.475Day, Bonas, SLU
St. Bonaventure0.453Duq, Ford, URI
George Washington0.438Char, LSU, Rich
Xavier0.380Char, Day, SLU
Massachusetts0.353LSU, URI, SJU
Rhode Island0.308Ford, Mass, Bonas
Richmond0.305Char, GWU, SJU
Temple0.208Ford, LSU, SJU
Std. Dev..0.171

"Protecting" a rival clearly still holds for the coming season, as Xavier and Dayton will renew their in state rivalry, Temple will face both Big 5 rivals (La Salle and Saint Joseph's), while Massachusetts and Rhode Island will extend their regional (New England) rivalry with another home & away series this season. Travel appears to have played a role as well, as Charlotte, Richmond and George Washington have all managed another season with mirror games. Television match-ups, Xavier/Dayton aside, appears to be a minor consideration. Looking at the average of the PWPs, it may seem the schedule maker created a "balanced" set of mirrors conference-wide, the standard deviation (and a visual inspection of the list highest to lowest) would strongly suggest otherwise.

Notes & Observations
A blend of regional rivals may help Charlotte's travel budget, but George Washington was stronger than anticipated last season, and with new coach Mike Lonergan at the helm in place of the departed Karl Hobbs combined with the return of well regarded (but red shirted last season) Lasan Kromah, the Colonials should be an even tougher challange in 2012. The Spiders lost Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper (and Dan Geriot), but Coach Chris Mooney has a deep squad at Richmond, which suggests the 49ers will again post a losing record in these six games.

Duquesne and Xavier account for Dayton's high PWP average for 2011, but Coach Rick Majerus returns over 90% of the minutes from the Bills' 2011 squad, and also bring back suspended Kwamain Mitchell, an All-Conference player in 2010. If Duquesne can regain their early 2011 momentum, Dayton may be hard pressed to come away from that six game set with even one win.
Xavier's mirrors seem to be a good balance of rivals and travel, but Saint Louis may be a tougher opponent this time around.

St. Bonaventure may benefit from a down year at Rhode Island and continued slow progress at Fordham. Like Xavier, the Bonnies appear to have drawn a traditional rivals schedule (Fordham and Duquesne) with travel (Rhode Island) as a consideration too. Coach Schmidt's squad went 4-2 against those three in 2011, and, given the 25% returning minutes at Kingston in 2012, may do even better in 2012.

Massachusetts, like St. Bonaventure, earned a 4-2 record against their mirror opponents in 2011, but if Saint Joseph's, the beneficiary of a an above average percentage of returning minutes (69%), improves as anticipated, Coach Derek Kellogg may be pressed to repeat that record in 2012. For a coach already feeling a bit of heat, that may well be the tipping point in his tenure.

Coach Jim Baron will see only 24% of his 2011 minutes return for 2012, so even with a rather light set of mirror opponents, the Runnin' Rams may take a step back from their 2011 3-3 mirror record.

Temple's 6-0 mirror record last season was due, in large measure, to the weakness of their three opponents who managed a collective 11-37 record in conference play last season. Collectively Fordham, La Salle and Saint Joseph's will absolutely improve their record next season, but expect Coach Fran Dunphy's squad to post another 6-0 record versus those three. That is a huge advantage when putting together a conference record.

No comments: