Monday, March 5, 2007

Road/Neutral Records, Herpes, and You

Yes; you have herpes.

Now that I got the last two parts of the headline out of the way, let's look at road/neutral records.

First, the Hawkeyes. Here's a rundown of Iowa's R/N record under Alford:
2000: 5-12
2001: 10-7
2002: 5-11
2003: 5-7
2004: 5-9
2005: 8-8
2006: 8-8
2007: 3-11

Altogether, that's 49-83, or .3712. That is, on its face, grossly incompetent. Nonetheless, let's provide a little context for Iowa's road foibles.

Over the last 5 years, the road/neutral record of the top 50 RPI teams has averaged close to 9-6 per team--overall, it's 2259-1465, or a .6067 average.

In the context of bubble teams, however, that's not a totally accurate figure for Iowa to go after if they want an at-large bid, so let's start filtering that down a bit.

If you look only at the Top 50 teams that earn at-large bids, since a conference champion's R/N record is totally irrelevant, the record goes to 1361-971, which is still near 60% (it's .5991). Meanwhile those Top 50 teams who are denied bids are decidedly under 50% (.4697).

But those figures can be skewed a bit, especially by mid-to-low-major teams who play eight conference road games against Northeast Butt State. So filtering it down to power conference teams who receive at-large bids (since, once again, a champion's R/N record is moot), the figure is 939-729, or a hair over 56%. Meanwhile, the difference is even greater when you observe Top 50 power conference teams who are denied bids--their winning percentage is only .4051!

If you're perceptive, you might be saying to yourself, "You, Mr. O.P. Surprise, are making a foolish generalization." I certainly am. Included in those power conference at-large bids are teams that are sometimes as high as #1 with, for example, a 17-1 R/N record. So there are some outliers skewing the data. If we cut out the Top 10, the average power conference team receiving an at-large bid did so while they won a shade over 52% of their games: they went 693-631.

Let's bring it back to Iowa. It seems fair to say that Iowa, should they want to be in contention for an NCAA berth, ought to be shooting for a R/N a bit on the right side of .500. And what effect would that have on this year?

Iowa has gone 3-11 away from Carver this season. Let's see what happens if they had gone 7-7. We'll take the 4 R/N losses against the worst-rated teams, turn them into wins, and see what it does to Iowa's resume (WARNING: What follows may cause wailing about what "might have been" and the gnashing of teeth):

Iowa (21-9, 10-6)
The non-conference now boasts a neutral win against Alabama. The worst loss turns into the UNI meltdown instead of the ASU debacle or the Drake murder job.

In the Big 10, Iowa has a slight edge in the record tie-breaker against Indiana and owns the 3 seed.

As to what their RPI would look like, their resumes look most similar to those of Indiana (#23) and Illinois (#35). Let's split the difference and put Iowa at, say, #29.

You had better believe that's an easy bid to the NCAA at about a 7 seed. Maybe better.

Unfortunately for Iowa, it's a fantasy that gets played out on a yearly basis, because Alford quite reliably fields teams that can't win consistently away from home. Even last year's 3 seed was only .500 away from Carver (8-8), which made them a ticking NCAA time bomb that blew up during the first-round game against (sigh) Northwestern State.

It also stands to reason that Iowa has not won a tourney game since the last time they were over .500 in road/neutral games--in 2001, when they went 10-7, then defeated Creighton in the tournament.

That's got to change, and there's no indication that the Hair Gel Squad is even moving in the right direction after 8 years.


Deacon said...

I'd just like to note that I now direct myself to SAHG (or "the Gel") by googling "fire steve alford" and clicking on the appropriate link. Who needs bookmarks when you can artificially inflate google counts?

Vance said...

That's a very good breakdown of the Iowa problems and why they didn't deserve a tournament bid.