USF = Big East's 2nd-toughest home schedule
With the Big East preseason men's basketball poll getting unveiled this morning, we can take a closer look at something we first mentioned back in June, noticing how so many of USF's toughest conference games would be in the Sun Dome this season.
Of the top nine teams in the preseason poll, USF plays seven of them at home -- the only Big East team that can match that is Villanova, which has seven of the top nine, including the top five other than the Wildcats themselves.
My thinking is that for most teams (and especially for road-challenged USF), an ideal schedule would have the toughest opponents at home, where you have the best chance of winning those games, and the easiest opponents on the road, making road wins more possible.
(I'll warn you, there's some math coming up here.)
To quantify this, assign a number value to each team, based on where it was picked in the preseason poll -- Pittsburgh gets 1, USF 13 and so on -- and then add up each team's nine home opponents vs. the nine road opponents. So the lower the number, the tougher the schedule -- if you played only the top nine teams at home, your lowest possible home score would be 44 (Louisville and Marquette tied for 8th in the poll) and if you played only the bottom nine teams on the road, your highest possible road score would be a 108.
Which schools have the biggest variation from their home schedule and their road schedule? There are pretty stark contrasts in both directions. USF and Villanova easily have the toughest home schedules -- Nova scores a 62 and USF a 63, and those same two schools tie for the highest road score (weakest opponents) with a 90. On the opposite end of the spectrum are Cincinnati and Syracuse -- Cincy has the weakest home score of 88, playing the five weakest opponents at home and none of the three toughest teams in the league there, but it also gets a road score of 61, edging Syracuse by two for the toughest road schedule.
Here are the home and road scores for each team -- remember, the lower the score, the tougher the level of opponents. The combined score varies some because some have tougher "mirror" opponents (the three schools you play both home and away) and each school benefits differently from not having to play against itself.
Team Home Road Differential
Villanova 62 90 -28
USF 63 90 -27
Rutgers 66 81 -15
Pittsburgh 71 83 -12
Louisville 74 82 -8
Georgetown 73 79 -6
Connecticut 74 74 --
Notre Dame 76 76 --
Seton Hall 75 75 --
DePaul 76 73 +3
Providence 80 77 +3
St. John's 81 71 +10
Marquette 84 71 +13
West Virgnia 86 69 +17
Syracuse 86 63 +23
Cincinnati 88 61 +27
I'll have to do some research on past seasons to see if there's an inherent benefit in playing tougher teams at home and weaker opponents on the road. For now, it's just food for thought. You can see all the Big East opponents for all 16 teams here.