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Columbia Missourian

Missouri men's basketball's first loss raises question about early strength of schedule

By Matt Beezley
January 10, 2012 | 9:34 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — While fans reveled in the Missouri men's basketball team's best start since 1982, the Tigers' surprising early success under new coach Frank Haith might have overshadowed the team's strength of schedule.

The Tigers went 13-0 in nonconference play before thrashing Oklahoma 87-49 in their conference opener on Jan. 3 at Mizzou Arena.

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WEDNESDAY'S GAME

No. 9 Missouri (14-1, 1-1 Big 12)
at Iowa State (12-3, 2-0 Big 12)

WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE:
 Hilton Coliseum (14,356), Ames, Iowa
TV: KMIZ/Channel 17

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

Here is how the current AP Top 10 stacked up Tuesday in statsheet.com's strength of schedule rankings:

1. Syracuse: 3rd
2. Kentucky: 72nd
3. North Carolina: 77th
4. Baylor: 64th
5. Ohio State: 50th
6. Michigan State: 12th
7. Indiana: 47th
8. Duke: 7th
9. Missouri: 195th

10. Kansas: 17th

 



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But a quick glance at some of the Tigers' early victories, coupled with the team's struggles in a 75-59 loss Saturday at then-No. 23 Kansas State, show Missouri might not be as impressive as they once sounded.

Missouri played only two teams in the AP Top 25 in their nonconference games: California, ranked No. 18 when the Tigers beat the Golden Bears Nov. 22 in Kansas City, and Illinois, ranked No. 24 when Missouri defeated the Illini a month later in the Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis.

Missouri dominated 92-53 against California, then considered the best team in the Pac-12 Conference, and beat Illinois 78-74 after squandering an 11-point lead in the second half.

While those victories might have seemed like early marquee wins, time has granted the Tigers no favors in regard to their strength of schedule. California has lost to three teams since then, including then-No. 23 UNLV, the only ranked team it has played except for Missouri.

Illinois also lost to UNLV on Dec. 17, squandering a potential battle of undefeated teams in the Braggin' Rights game. After losing to Missouri, Illinois subsequently dropped from the AP Top 25 before falling to Purdue 75-60 on Dec. 31. The Illini, however, knocked off No. 5 Ohio State 79-74 on Tuesday night.

So the only team now-No. 9 Missouri has played that has been consistently ranked so far this season is Kansas State, ranked No. 18 in Monday's new AP poll.

RPI and SOS

The NCAA uses a formula to determine a team's ratings percentage index to select seedings for the NCAA tournament in March. It is composed of a team's winning percentage, its an opponent's winning percentage and the winning percentage of an opponent's opponents.

It also accounts for the difference between home and away wins. A victory at home counts as .6 wins and a road victory counts as 1.4 wins. Conversely, a home loss counts as 1.4 and a road loss counts as .6 losses. A team's strength of schedule is also factored into the formula, which generates a percentage of 0 to 1 that creates a team's ratings percentage index.

No. 1 Syracuse currently has the highest RPI at .7036, according to statsheet.com. Missouri's current RPI is .6023, good for 31st out of a possible 344 teams.

However, Missouri's early strength of schedule remains questionable. While on Tuesday, statsheet.com ranked the Tigers as 195th in strength of schedule so far this season. Meanwhile, rival Kansas, ranked right behind Missouri in the AP poll at No. 10, is ranked at 17th.