Northern Sun – Strength of Schedule Analysis


Today marks the beginning of Conference games for the 13 Division 2 college baseball teams of the Northern Sun Conference.  One of the comments on this blog (thanks Wow) brought up the topic of Southwest Minnesota State’s easy schedule so I thought I’d look into it.

For the most part, the 13 teams in the Northern Sun have a Conference schedule made up of 4 games against 8 different teams for a total of 32 games (there are 2 exceptions as Upper Iowa and Northern State have an extra pair against each other for some reason).  This means that most teams “don’t” play 4 other teams each year which can lead to significant differences in your schedule difficulty depending on who you do and don’t play.

The key to analyzing the difficulty is to accurately gauge how tough of an opponent each team is.  In the NFL you see this done a lot during the off-season by using the previous year’s results as a gauge for future year performance.  That would be impractical as the Northern Sun didn’t exist in its present form last year plus the changeover on a college team provides significant differences in team quality from year to year.  Therefore, I relied mostly on things like the preseason coaches poll and non-Conference results to give each team a quality factor.

How I did this was pick a team I thought represented a middle of the pack team to compare off of.  The team I chose was Winona State.  I then thought about how Winona would do over the long haul against each other team and came up with the following table –


How you read this is that if Winona played Augustana, Bemidji or Duluth (all teams factored at .65) that my guess is that Winona would win about 2 of 3 games against them.  Winona would win 4 of 5 against Mary & Northern and every game against Crookston.  They would win 1 of 3 against Minnesota State, SMSU and SCSU.

Now the key to the exactness of this exercise is whether you believe in the weighting I give each team.  That said, everyone knows that if your schedule has Mary, Northern and Crookston on it as opposed to Wayne & Concordia that you probably should win more games.

Using the factors above I then measured every teams schedule against their Conference opponents for the season to get the following strength of schedule (this does factor out Upper Iowa and Northern’s extra games) –


What this shows is the relative strength of schedule for each team based on my factors.  It is not designed to predict wins & losses.

Using this we can say that indeed Southwest Minnesota State followed by Upper Iowa have the easiest schedules.  When looking at the detail of SMSU’s schedule you’ll see that they play all 3 of the weakest teams and don’t play Concordia or Wayne State.

Of the top 3 teams predicted in the preseason coaches poll, Minnesota State looks like they have the toughest route.  Their schedule is 5 games harder than SMSU and 3+ games harder than Wayne State.

If people have strong opinions about the factors to use it would be easy for me to rerun the results now that the spreadsheet is built.

1 Response to “Northern Sun – Strength of Schedule Analysis”

  1. 1 Wow March 20, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Hey nice job on this. We all know that the game still has to be played. Many other factors come into play also. When you have to use your best pitching, injuries,etc. I am predicting SMSU to win the conference because of the schedule along with they have a nice looking team.

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March 2009

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