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  1. #1
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    Oct 2009
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    Does the Unbalanced Schedule Impact the Championship

    This is an oft cited fact, and a discussion was spawned in another thread. Posts by KP were referenced and other alluded to that claim that no, the unbalanced schedule does not have an impact. I find those analyses totally bogus for a couple reasons that I mentioned in the other thread. To put my money where my mouth was, though, I wanted to perform my own.

    Of the factors in an unbalanced schedule that impact a teams record, I'll claim that the two most important are:

    1) the teams against which you play a home and away. Obviously playing BC twice is far easier than playing UVA twice. Obviously if you play BC twice, you're not guaranteed to win both, but if we believe win probabilities, then a significant % of the time, you would win that extra game. For teams like duke, this would account for ~.5 extra wins (.999 - .5)
    2) Of the teams you play twice, which you play at home and away. The impact of home court is real and measured. The impact is about 3.5 points from a neutral court, or 7 total from home->away. This means if a championship-caliber team plays BC and the like on the road, and another championhsip team at home, they are at a significant advantage. The reasoning is they already have a big enough buffer to BC that the away handicap doesn't mean much. It means a huge amount, however, in a game that is likely to be close. Given the win probability graph has a very steep slope when teams are evenly matched, small changes in expected points have major impact on the win probability. a 7 point swing in a game which should be close is about a 25% swing in win probability, but a 7 point swing in a game expected to be closer is expected to be ~1-2%. So each flip flop of location in a game which is expected you to be tight nets you ~.2 more wins.

    My goal is to look back at the last 10 years of ACC results and see if it's likely the championship may have been different in a balanced schedule. The first impact is trivial to account for. Each opponent only counts for 1 game, regardless of how many times you played. you either go 1-0, .5-.5, or 0-1. The second is a bit tougher. IF you were within 7 points of an opponent on their home floor, AND you believe the game was representative of the two team's intrinsic abilities, you would expect to win on your own home floor. In the best case, you count that series as "even" and in the worst, you compute a that you would win at home based on the difference. For now, lets assume that if you lost by <7 on the road, you'd win at home (and vice versa).

    I'll follow up with the "data" in case I made a mistake, but here's a summary:

    2019, while the #1 seed was not affected, the unbalanced schedule helped UNC gain a share of the regular season
    2016, no impact, though the unbalanced schedule did allow miami to be far closer than they should have been
    2015, unbalanced schedule cost duke a share, as well as the 1 seed
    2013, it's EXTREMELY likely the unbalanced schedule cost duke both the sole regular season and the #1 seed.
    2012, no impact, though duke was closer than perhaps they ought to have been
    2011, cost duke a share of the title, and possibly a 1 seed (though i'm not going to resolve the tiebreaker on that...)
    2010, the result was unaffected

    So in 10 years, the ACC race was within a game 7 times. Of those 7 times, 4 times the regular season crown was affected (2019, 2015, 2013, 2011), twice was the 1 seed flipped (2015, 2013...maybe 2011) and in the most egregious case, once was the outright champion flipped (2013).

    So the argument that the unbalanced schedule doesn't really have an impact on the outcome on the regular season? That argument ain't worth a ticket to the dean dome. The claim was that the difference was <.5 games...welp, turns out ACC regular seasons are usually pretty close at the top, and as I guessed in the other thread, it would be about half of them...as you would expect.


    I intentionally didn't get into ifs (for instance, what if zion were not injured!). Those aren't the fault of the balanced schedule. There will ALWAYS be a ton of variability. My argument is only that the ACC is close enough at the top that an unbalanced schedule has a pretty big chance of impacting the outcome, and the data 100% backs this up.
    Duke Football:

    Winning in the ACC AND the NFL.

    "If you don't address the things you're not doing well when you're winning the winning will eventually stop."

    -David Cutcliffe

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Durham

    Datas

    Last season, UVA and UNC were tied at 16-2. UVA claimed the 1 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker.

    Lets adjust UVA:
    they lost to duke twice, so get a loss back 16-1
    They beat ND twice, so lose a win 15-1
    They beat VT twice, so lose a win 14-1
    All their home wins were large enough to not warrant second guessing.

    Now UNC:
    They beat duke twice, so lose a win 15-2
    They beat miami twice, so lose a win 14-2
    They split with louisville, so lose half of each 13.5-1.5
    All their home wins were significant enough.

    So in this case, the unbalanced schedules, likely didn't impact the winner.

    In 2018, UVA ran away with the title. Also UMBC.

    In 2017, UNC won by 2 games.
    In 2016, UNC won by 1 game game over each uva and miami with a record of 14-4.

    UNC
    split with duke 13.5-3.5
    2x beat BC 12.5-3.5
    2x beat cuse 11.5-3.5
    3 close away losses, and a close home win over syracuse, giving them an extra win on average
    12.5-2.5

    Virginia
    split miami 12.5-4.5
    split VT 12-4
    2x beat UL 11-4
    3 close away losses, 2 close home wins, netting them an extra .5
    11.5-3.5

    Miami
    split with UVA 12.5-4.5
    2x beat ND 11.5-4.5
    2x beat FSU 10.5-4.5
    2 close home wins, losing them an extra win
    9.5-5.5

    So while the scheduling helped miami significantly, it didn't impact the regular season winner itself.

    In 2015, uva beat duke by 1 game
    Virginia
    2x beat ncsu 15-2
    2x beat VT 14-2
    split with UL 13.5-1.5
    They had a close home win
    13-2

    Duke
    2x beat UNC 14-3
    2x beat wake 13-3
    split with ND 12.5-2.5
    We had a close away loss
    13-2

    So in 2015, it's likely the regular season was impacted by the unbalanced schedule

    In 2014, UVA won by 2 games
    In 2013, Miami beat duke by a game. Note that in this year, there were only 12 ACC teams, so 7 home and aways. In order to simplify this, we'll only look at 4 non-home-and-away games.

    Miami
    beat maryland in a close home game 15-4
    beat n.c. state in an away game 16-4
    beat uva in a close home game 16-5
    lost to wake in an away game 16-6

    Duke
    beat clemson at home 15-4
    beat GT at home 16-4
    beat FSU away 17-4
    lost in a close game to UVA on the road 18-4

    It's extremely likely the unbalanced schedule cost duke the regular season in 2013.

    In 2012, UNC beat Duke by a game This was a 16 game schedule. We'll still just look at the 6 non-double games

    UNC
    beat BC at home 15-2
    lost to FSU away 15-3
    beat VT away 16-3
    beat gt at home 17-3
    beat wake away 18-3
    beat clemson at home 19-3

    Duke
    beat GT away 14-3
    beat UVA close at home 14-4
    beat clemson away 15-4
    lost to miami at home 15-5
    beat NCSU close at home 15-6
    beat BC away 16-6

    It seems the unbalanced schedule made this closer than it might have otherwise been

    In 2011, UNC beat duke by 1 game

    UNC
    beat uva away 15-2
    beat vt close at home 15-3
    lost big away to GT 15-4
    beat miami away 16-4
    beat wake at home 17-4
    beat maryland at home 18-4

    Duke
    lost closet to FSU away 14-3
    lost away to wake big 14-4
    beat bc at home 15-4
    beat GT at home 16-4
    lost close to VT away 17-4
    beat clemson at home 18-4

    It's likely the 2011 regular season was affected by the unbalanced schedule.

    in 2010 duke and maryland "tied" with duke taking the 1 seed

    Duke
    beat wake at home 14-3
    lost to state away 14-4
    beat FSU at home 15-4
    beat miami away 16-4
    beat vt at home 17-4
    beat uva away 18-4

    Maryland
    lost to wake close away 14-3
    beat BC away 15-3
    beat miamia at home 16-3
    beat UNC at thome 17-3
    beat GT at home close 17-4
    beat VT close away 18-4

    So it's unlikely the 2010 result was affected
    Duke Football:

    Winning in the ACC AND the NFL.

    "If you don't address the things you're not doing well when you're winning the winning will eventually stop."

    -David Cutcliffe

  3. #3
    So, if I'm reading it right, the unbalanced schedule either has no impact or hurts Duke and NEVER helps Duke?? 😉 Did I read that right? If so, why? Is it because we always play UNC twice and they're typically highly ranked. You'd think that given the somewhat random rotation (I get each team had partners) sometimes it would make our schedule easier.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Durham
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluedog View Post
    So, if I'm reading it right, the unbalanced schedule either has no impact or hurts Duke and NEVER helps Duke?? 😉 Did I read that right? If so, why? Is it because we always play UNC twice and they're typically highly ranked. You'd think that given the somewhat random rotation (I get each team had partners) sometimes it would make our schedule easier.
    in 2012 it significantly helped duke relative to UNC, though not enough to get them a tie.
    Duke Football:

    Winning in the ACC AND the NFL.

    "If you don't address the things you're not doing well when you're winning the winning will eventually stop."

    -David Cutcliffe

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    To me, if it helped or hurt a team then it is unfair and wrong. Whether that meant it “cost” a team or not is irrelevant.

    Wrong is wrong. Period.
    1991 -- 1992 -- 2001 -- 2010 -- 2015

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Richmond, VA
    Does the improved strength of schedule help with NCAA seeding

  7. #7
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    Sep 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkD83 View Post
    Does the improved strength of schedule help with NCAA seeding
    Not if you lose, or if everyone just beats each other up into mediocrity.
    1991 -- 1992 -- 2001 -- 2010 -- 2015

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Durham, NC
    My suspicion when we started having this discussion in whichever thread we were discussing it before is that the teams more likely to be impacted are teams in the middle, where the unbalanced schedule puts them on one side of the bubble or the other, or changes their seed line.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Acymetric View Post
    My suspicion when we started having this discussion in whichever thread we were discussing it before is that the teams more likely to be impacted are teams in the middle, where the unbalanced schedule puts them on one side of the bubble or the other, or changes their seed line.
    The unbalanced schedule has often helped UVa and hurt Duke and the Cheats...as both are guaranteed to have 2 games with their toughest foe.

    But the biggest imbalance is something that cannot be scheduled....and that is Duke faces 20 opponent "Super Bowls" - and no one else does.
    Don't waste your time on House of Cards S6!
    -We found out Frank was critical to making anyone else in the show interesting...not a surprise...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Durham
    Quote Originally Posted by HereBeforeCoachK View Post
    The unbalanced schedule has often helped UVa and hurt Duke and the Cheats...as both are guaranteed to have 2 games with their toughest foe.

    But the biggest imbalance is something that cannot be scheduled...and that is Duke faces 20 opponent "Super Bowls" - and no one else does.
    This is "common wisdom" but I'm skeptical the performance of teams against us is appreciably better than one would expect given the quality of the teams. I would suspect it's more that when duke DOES lose, it's blown way out of proportion, both because duke is duke, and because duke is consistently highly ranked, it's always a big upset. I'm not sure, though. Would be an interesting thing to look at.
    Duke Football:

    Winning in the ACC AND the NFL.

    "If you don't address the things you're not doing well when you're winning the winning will eventually stop."

    -David Cutcliffe

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Tampa
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    Not if you lose, or if everyone just beats each other up into mediocrity.
    Except for SEC football.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh, NC

    Don't let a team beat you twice

    It's often been noted that teams tend to lose after playing Duke (win or lose). I know last year a football coach was saying he didn't want Clemson to beat his team twice (once on the field and then again the next week as they mentally and physically recover). I think that this can come into play with an unbalanced schedule. Trap games (game before a 'big' game) and hangover games (game after a 'big' game) can happen.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by uh_no View Post
    This is "common wisdom" but I'm skeptical the performance of teams against us is appreciably better than one would expect given the quality of the teams. I would suspect it's more that when duke DOES lose, it's blown way out of proportion, both because duke is duke, and because duke is consistently highly ranked, it's always a big upset. I'm not sure, though. Would be an interesting thing to look at.
    Human nature is pretty clear that when you point to one thing a year out of 35 other like things, that your performance in that one you pointed to will likely be your best. Human nature also indicates that home court advantages are real, and if that's the case (it is) then home court advantages with your largest and loudest crowd all year will even be more advantageous. And this does not mean "big upsets" all the time...often it's a mild upset or no upset at all, but it's still the other team's Super Bowl.

    This is absolutely a factor.
    Don't waste your time on House of Cards S6!
    -We found out Frank was critical to making anyone else in the show interesting...not a surprise...

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by TampaDuke View Post
    Except for SEC football.
    The SEC Vortex of Domination is a delightful annual tradition! This year, I think the feedback loop started with Auburn's loss to Florida in October. Florida is looked upon as a great team, thus Auburn is credited with a good loss, meaning that Auburn will also be considered a great team, and Florida will get more credit for beating a team that, if it hadn't had an off day, would have almost been good enough to beat Florida.

    It's a fun phenomenon that applies to the SEC and no other conference. Every team is great, and thus every win is against a great team and every loss is against a great team. So each game, no matter the result, bolsters the resume of both teams.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by DarkstarWahoo View Post
    The SEC Vortex of Domination is a delightful annual tradition! This year, I think the feedback loop started with Auburn's loss to Florida in October. Florida is looked upon as a great team, thus Auburn is credited with a good loss, meaning that Auburn will also be considered a great team, and Florida will get more credit for beating a team that, if it hadn't had an off day, would have almost been good enough to beat Florida.

    It's a fun phenomenon that applies to the SEC and no other conference. Every team is great, and thus every win is against a great team and every loss is against a great team. So each game, no matter the result, bolsters the resume of both teams.
    And then when the SEC teams lose a bowl, like Georgia last year losing to Texas, it doesn't really count because Georgia was too sad about blowing the SEC title game and being left out of the playoff.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by chris13 View Post
    And then when the SEC teams lose a bowl, like Georgia last year losing to Texas, it doesn't really count because Georgia was too sad about blowing the SEC title game and being left out of the playoff.
    While you're absolutely correct, the Alabama-Utah Didn't Want to Be There Corollary is in a completely different section of code.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by chris13 View Post
    And then when the SEC teams lose a bowl, like Georgia last year losing to Texas, it doesn't really count because Georgia was too sad about blowing the SEC title game and being left out of the playoff.
    I don't know who says it doesn't count...and I certainly don't toot the horn for the SEC....but dude, this kind of thing is a factor. Watch the Sharps in Vegas take advantage of it every bowl season. Now playing a program like Texas should've gotten Georgia psyched, but the fact is it did not, and that was a factor in the outcome. There are several of these every bowl season, and they are often predictable.
    Don't waste your time on House of Cards S6!
    -We found out Frank was critical to making anyone else in the show interesting...not a surprise...

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