Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Unbalanced ACC Schedule: Who's Got the Advantage?

Ever since the ACC made a blatant and misguided money grab invited its three newest members and sold its soul for football abandoned the double-round-robin basketball schedule, there has been a perception that there are winners and losers in the unbalanced schedule. With conference play kicking off tonight, I thought I'd take the opportunity to see whether there are any clear advantages on this year's slate of games.

To find out, I created a dummy season in which all 12 ACC teams played each other in a home-and-home series and used TAPE to predict the outcome of each of those 132 matchups. Then I compared the expected winning percentage for each team in that hypothetical 22-game conference slate to the expected winning percentage for the actual 2008-09 conference season.

Team RR W% '09 W% W% Diff W Diff
Clemson .6258 .6613 .0355 +0.57
Boston College .3980 .4167 .0187 +0.30
Virginia Tech .3292 .3376 .0084 +0.13
Georgia Tech .4256 .4282 .0026 +0.04
Florida State .4186 .4184 -.0003 -0.00
Miami .5467 .5450 -.0017 -0.03
Virginia .2309 .2284 -.0025 -0.04
North Carolina .8396 .8361 -.0035 -0.06
Wake Forest .5564 .5497 -.0067 -0.11
N.C. State .3759 .3651 -.0108 -0.17
Maryland .5368 .5179 -.0189 -0.30
Duke .7165 .6958 -.0207 -0.33

All in all, the schedule is about as balanced this season as could be hoped for. Clemson, with just one game each against Carolina, Duke, and Miami, is the big winner in this year's scheduling lottery, but even that good fortune is only worth a little more than a half of a win in 16 games. While a half of a win might seem like a lot, over the course of a short season there are other factors--(un)timely injuries, luck in close games, even boneheaded individual plays--that will have a far greater impact on teams' fortunes than the luck of the scheduling draw.

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