We’re nearly a month into the college basketball season, and for most teams more than halfway through non-conference play. But, records don’t tell the entire story.
(Looking at you, Tennessee Tech)
Through December 3rd, here are the current team records, and SOS rank (out of 351 teams) according to KenPom, sorted by the strength of schedule:
|Team||Record||SOS Rank (Conf.)|
|Murray State||5-3||109th (2)|
|Austin Peay||3-5||115th (3)|
|Eastern Illinois||1-4||124th (4)|
|Jacksonville State||3-7||209th (7)|
|Tennessee State||4-2||220th (8)|
|Morehead State||5-1||298th (10)|
|Tennessee Tech||6-2||342nd (11)|
|Eastern Kentucky||6-2||343rd (12)|
A few quick takeaways:
I’m not sure I can fully buy into the “East is better than the West again” narrative through the first month. Sure, the East has by far the best combined record, but two of those in particular, EKU and TTU, have played virtually nobody — both schedules rank among the 10 easiest in the nation. Six wins is great by any measure out of the first eight games, but it’s worth noting that the Colonels are 0-2 against the KenPom top-150, and the Golden Eagles have played just one game against the KenPom top-200, that 13-point loss at New Mexico State.
…but, that being said, at least the East is winning games they should be winning. SIUE has two losses against teams outside the top-200, Austin Peay and UT Martin have a pair, and SEMO? Well, we’ll get to them.
At 0-3, I said it was too early to worry about Eastern Illinois. At 1-4, it’s still too early — all five Panthers opponents rank in the top-200, and unlike most of the rest of the conference, the Panthers first game against an Non-Division I opponent doesn’t come until December 28th. Their next two: at home against Northern Kentucky and on the road against Marshall are, statistically, their easiest games yet.
I had zero doubt Belmont would be atop the SOS list to this point in the season. I was somewhat surprised to see Murray State second. They’ve played a lot of good mid-major teams, although not necessarily “big” names, and that trend continues throughout December. In fact — the only sub-200 ranked teams left on their schedule are in conference foes.
Sure, Southeast Missouri has played a challenging slate — but they also played UT Rio Grande Valley, a bottom-10 ranked team, and lost by nine on the road. Alabama A&M is ranked 267th, Loyola Marymount 259th, both of which were double-digit point losses. At the beginning of the year, KenPom had the Redhawks pegged at 8-8 in the conference. Now? Just 5-11.
The NCAA has also just started releasing RPI numbers — it’s far too early to put too much stock into these, but here they are along with the KenPom rankings.
|Team||NCAA RPI (Conf.)||KenPom Rankings (Conf.)|
|Murray State||32nd (1)||180th (3)|
|Belmont||87th (2)||89th (1)|
|Eastern Kentucky||168th (3)||210th (4)|
|Tennessee Tech||189th (4)||260th (6)|
|Morehead State||221st (5)||119th (2)|
|Austin Peay||228th (6)||284th (8)|
|Tennessee State||241st (7)||239th (5)|
|Eastern Illinois||258th (8)||301st (9)|
|Southeast Missouri||266th (9)||326th (11)|
|UT Martin||291st (10)||280th (7)|
|SIUE||295th (11)||327th (12)|
|Jacksonville State||311th (12)||319th (10)|
Again, I’d warn about putting to much into these — just look how much they differ for one. This early in the season, KenPom’s numbers are generally much more resistant to change, where as the RPI will have major fluctuations every day for the next two months.