Countdown to Tipoff: 45 Days
This out of conference schedule has 13 games. They are against UCLA in Shanghai (yes in Shanghai), home against Bethune-Cookman, UT-Rio Grande Valley, North Texas, Grambling State, Northwestern, Tennessee, Florida A&M, Coppin State, Wright State, and Yale, and on the road at Georgia and Wofford. That looks very bad at first glance, but is somehow actually much worse upon closer inspection. 6 out of those 13 teams were ranked below 300th last season (according to kenpom). 3 (Yale, Wofford, Wright State) were in the 150ish range. That is really, really bad. This team will almost certainly have one of the very easiest OOC schedules in the country and that’s even with UCLA, Tennessee, Georgia, and Northwestern looking decent for this upcoming season.
Honestly, if this was last season’s OOC schedule I would not have been too upset. Last off-season we were just trying to pack on as many wins as we could, so playing low ranked teams was not a big deal. This year the team is expecting to at least contend for the Tournament, so this truly terrible schedule is a head scratcher. Especially given that 2 of the four games against top level teams GT isn’t given a choice in (UGA is an annual game and Northwestern is for the Big 10-ACC Challenge).
Thankfully in recent years the tournament committee has started to shy away from using RPI in it’s decision making, but they still do place a lot of value on it. For those of you aren’t familiar with RPI, the formula is actually very simple and it heavily favors strength of schedule (SOS). The formula is .25*WP+.5*OWP+.25*OOWP. WP is your team’s winning percentage, OWP is your opponent’s winning percentage, and OOWP is your opponent’s opponents winning percentage (Note: Home wins and road losses only count as .6 while road wins and home losses count as 1.4). Last season Florida A&M went 6-23. Coppin State went 8-24. Bethune-Cookman was 10-22. So was UT-RGV. North Texas only managed 8-22. In addition, FAMU, Coppin State, Bethune-Cookman, and Grambling State all play in either the SWAC or MEAC which are easily the worst two conferences in D1 so their OOWP is going to be terrible too. These games are RPI killers. You can absolutely have one or two of these games no problem, but Georgia Tech is playing six next year. One fifth of this team’s games next year will be RPI sinks, win or lose. That is going to seriously hurt Tech’s chances in the committee room in March.
That isn’t the only issue with the schedule. It also leaves limited chances for quality wins to boost the resume. Last year Tennessee missed out on the postseason altogether while Georgia ducked out in the first round of the NIT. I don’t expect either of those to look like quality wins this season. Northwestern was a solid tournament team and they could be seen as a good win this year. UCLA was very good last season, but they lost their four best players including Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. They have been recruiting very well, but they have a lot of uncertainty. The way I see it this team only has two real opportunities for quality wins in the OOC. That puts a lot of pressure on the team making big wins in the second half of the season. That is tough. The Athletic Department did not help out this team with this schedule.