I have spent the better part of the afternoonexamining the differences in the basketball teams at Miami (Fla.) and Wichita State, since they’re now neck and neck in the latest college hoops rankings.
The Shockers are No. 15 in the Associated Press poll, one spot behind the Hurricanes. In the USA
Today coaches poll, the teams are flip-flopped: Wichita State is No. 15 and Miami is No. 16.
It has been my intent today to attempt to find the better of the two teams. And after some exhaustive research, broken up only by a trip to a convenience store from some Skittles, I have come to a conclusion.
First, the records: The Shockers are 19-2, tied for the most wins in the country. Miami is 15-3. Based only on the records, WSU has an edge, slight as it is.
Miami lost a game early this season to Florida Gulf Coast. It is never a good idea to lose to a team with more than two words in its name, without one of those words being “State.” The Hurricane’s other losses are to Arizona, currently ranked No. 8, and to Indiana State, which happens to be Wichita State’s opponent on Tuesday night at Koch Arena.
The Sycamores upset Miami, 57-55, in overtime on Christmas day in a tournament in Florida, where they also upended No. 16 Mississippi.
Miami is riding a seven-game winning streak, which has included recent blowout wins over ACC rivals Duke (90-63) and Florida State (71-47). The win over Duke was especially impressive, considering the Blue Devils were No. 1 at the time. Clearly, Miami is on a roll, having jumped from No. 25 to No. 14 in the AP poll.
Wichita State moved up five spots after a topsy-turvy week of college basketball, from 20th to No. 15 in the AP.
But the coaches, remember, have the Shockers one spot ahead of Miami.
Which poll is right?
I’m going with the AP poll.
This morning, when I went through all of his quickly, I thought Wichita State would move up to at least 14th in the AP poll and potentially as high as No. 12. But I forgot to factor in not only the hot streak that Miami is riding, but also the quality of its non-conference schedule.
The website realtimerpi.com, which is the one I go to most often, has Miami at No. 3, with a strength of schedule that ranks No. 1 in the country.
The Hurricanes not only played Arizona (No. 4 RPI), Florida Gulf Coast (117) and Indiana State (50) in non-conference games, but also Michigan State (12), La Salle (26), UMass (53), Charlotte (54), Detroit (86), Central Florida (104), Stetson (222), Hawaii (230) and Jacksonville (235).
Miami’s 12 non-conference opponents currently have an average RPI of 99.4. They are 60-30 so far in conference play and 162-79 overall.
Wichita State ranks No. 18 in the RPI, with a non-conference stretch of schedule that ranks No. 85. The Shockers clearly have gotten a lot of juice from wins over Creighton, VCU and Southern Mississippi, all Top 40 RPI teams.
But it’s hard to make a case for Wichita State being better than Miami, which has beaten the likes of Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and Florida State and has an interesting ACC match-up coming up Saturday at North Carolina State.
The average RPI of the 12 schools on WSU’s non-conference schedule is 154.8, thanks to some regrettable scheduling that brought the likes of Western Carolina (293), Northern Colorado (315) and Howard (324) to Koch Arena.
It’s time for the Shockers to move beyond such games. Those RPI hits probably won’t cost Wichita State a spot in the NCAA Tournament this season because the Shockers have played well against the better RPI teams on their schedule. But there is nothing to gain from playing such poor teams.
According to the RPIs at ESPN.com, the strength of schedule for Wichita State’s opponents ranks 107th nationally. The Shockers have not played against a top 25 RPI team this season, but are 3-0 against the top 50, 6-1 against the top 100 and 8-2 against the top 150. WSU, though, has played 11 games against teams ranked below 150 in the RPI. To the Shockers credit, they have won them all.
Miami, meanwhile, has a more impressive RPI resume. The Hurricanes’ opponents rank No. 36 in strength of schedule. Miami is 2-1 against the RPI top 25, 5-1 against the top 50, 9-2 against the top 100 and 12-3 against the top 150, with only three games against teams ranked below 150.
Based on the numbers, it looks to me like the AP has it right by ranking Miami a spot ahead of Wichita State. In fact, I think the Hurricanes probably belong four or five spots higher, based on all of the RPI numbers that seem to mean so much when it comes time to seeding the NCAA Tournament.