Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Big East's 2012 Mirrors

Pairing Up for 2012
Looks like the Big East schedule maker earned his (her?) pay, as the pairs for 2012 do indeed reflect changes based on the 2011 conference results and the coaches poll taken in May. The 2012 release was actually a bit later in the off season than the 2011 schedule. Though I have been writing about other events over the last 2+ weeks, I developed a profile of each team's home, away and mirror opponents, looking for a moment to review the results and post an analysis. Mirror games constitute 33% of each team's 18 game schedule. These pairings can provide a team with a an advantage (or disadvantage) in conference standing. And a make or break should a team find itself on the bubble...

Connecticut0.6116.0NDU, SHU, Cuse
West Virginia0.6105.3NDU, Pitt, RU
Rutgers0.5757.0NDU, SHU,WVU
Cincinnati0.5638.7MU, St. John's, Nova
DePaul0.5556.7Ville, St. John's, SHU
Louisville0.5517.0DPU, Pitt, Cuse
Marquette0.5498.0Nati, GTown, Nova
South Florida0.5438.3Pitt, PC, Nova
Pittsburgh0.5048.3Ville, USF, WVU
Syracuse0.4878.7UConn, Ville, PC
Notre Dame0.4859.7UConn, RU, WVU
Villanova0.47610.7Nati, MU, USF
Providence0.4689.0GTown, USF, Cuse
Georgetown0.46710.0MU, PC, St. Johns
St. John's0.39910.0Nati, DPU, GTown
Seton Hall0.30712.7UConn, DPU, RU
Std Dev.0.0801.89

Note the table contains each team's mirrors. I averaged the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) and Big East Tournament seed for each team's mirror opponents.

When developing the schedule, the conference polls the coaches for their conference ranking, as usually a first step to organize the conference into tiers. ESPN and CBS will typically weigh in with ideas for televized games and the conference has a standing commitment (which varies from year-to-year) to maintain traditional rivalries. Coaches poll results are not made public until Basketball Media Day (usually the third week in October), though occasionally a coach may reveal parts of his ballot early. On paper the objective of the mirrors is balance (the mix of mirrors should produce a "middling opponent"), the potential for more TV eyeballs can leave that

While the conference schedule maker preserved a few of historic rivalries ("The Backyard Brawl" -- Pittsburgh and West Virginia, "The Battle of New Jersey" -- Rutgersand Seton Hall...), others have been put on hiatus...for next season anyway. Cincinnati's and Louisville's annual home-and-home dating back to their CUSA (and Metro Conference?) days is gone. And the Orange Nation and Hoya Faithful seem torn between apoplexy and mild indifference (not a strong opponent) that Georgetown and Syracuse will meet only once (in the Dome) in 2012. The single game drew (generally unfavorable) reactions from several mainstream media sources. Syracuse travels well, probably the best in the conference, encountered severe problems getting tickets, above the visiting team allotment, to the Verizon Center (Georgetown's home court) for last season's game as the Hoya Athletic Department made a concerted effort to sell out the arena to the Georgetown fanbase.

Connecticut seems to have drawn the short straw for mirros next season, appropriate given their National Championship (not to mention Big East Tournament title) in 2011. Given that Coach Calhoun can anticipate about 60.8% of his 2011 minutes back in 2012 (the conference average right now is 56%), perhaps it is justice. Or maybe not, as the Huskies will return only 53% of their scoring. Among the Huskies' mirrors Notre Dame brings back 49% of their minutes (ouch...), Seton Hall brings back 61% and Syracuse brings back nearly 71%. The Orange have to be favored for the regular season title next season; the Hall will return Herb Pope and Jordan Theordore. Despite Notre Dame's lack of experience next season, the Huskies hardly have a walk over in their mirror slate.

Seton Hall's favorable draw (from a PWP standpoint...) may go unexploited given the Pirates lost Jeremy Hazell, Jeff Robinson, Eniel Polynice (graduation/exhausted eligibility) and Jamel Jackson (transfer). They do bring back enough that should Patrik Auda make progress and the bigs recruited by Coach Willard develop, the Pirates could go 3-3 against that slate.

St. John's presents and interesting case study for next season. The Johnnies return <5% (not a typo) of the minutes from the 2011 squad that stormed back into the conference elites with a 12-6 conference record (good for a threeway tie for third place, though the Johnnies took the #5 seed in the BET). Advice to the Johnnies' mirrors (Cincinnati, DePaul and Georgetown) -- get them early (before they gel) or late (freshman fatigue).

If, as I suspect, the Cardinals, Panthers and (mostly) the Orange are the class of the conference, Louisville's Coach Rick Pitino may again be barking at the schedule maker. Louisville is slated to meet both Syracuse and Pittsburgh next season (that is four ready-for-TV matchups), while Syracuse and Pittsburgh will meet only once (at the Dome). The Orange do have to face Connecticut, while the Panthers drew traditional foe West Virginia, as their second mirror. The Mountaineers bring back all of 33.9% of their minutes for 2011, however. The Backyard Brawl may well turn out to be less competitive than previous seasons.

Expect DePaul to improve their record next season, but Coach Oliver Purnell's squad has struggled against the better competition offered in their mirror draw. The opponents they drew, on paper, look like one of the more competitive sets in the conference going into this season. The Blue Demons will better their 1-15 conference record from 2011, but do not be shocked/disappointed if they go 0-6/1-5 against Louisville, St. John's and Seton Hall. 2-4 would be very good; 3-3 a signal that DePaul is ready to compete in the conference.

Many in the Nova Nation looked at Villanova's slate as a step back from some of the elite draws the program has gotten in the past 4-5 seasons. This particular mixed bag of mirrors could easily put the Wildcat at 5-1 or 1-5. Those three posted a collective conference record of 19-35, but all three should be better by the start of the season. The Wildcats have had success (outside of the Big East Tournament...) against Marquette, butthat could change. Expect South Florida to post a better record than 2011. Cincinnati has played tough at home but faltered on the road.

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