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So what happened with NC State’s non-conference schedule, anyway?

It really wasn’t meant to be this bad.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

As you may have heard by now, NC State’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks poorly. It was never meant to be as poor as it ended up becoming, but the NCAA tournament selection committee doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care about that. It just happened that State got next to no help from the teams it scheduled that it thought would be decent.

The schedule was never intended to be exceptionally rigorous, but State made the effort to set up games against three power-conference programs—one that made the NCAAs last season (Auburn), one that won the NIT (Penn State), and another that appeared on the upswing with a highly-ranked recruiting class incoming (Vanderbilt).

That wasn’t wimpy scheduling, and it was realistically designed to give NC State the opportunity to land a win or three that would look pretty good come, well, right now. Penn State and Vanderbilt ended up being non-contenders from the jump, which when combined with some mid-majors falling off a cliff, created the unfortunate situation we are dealing with.

The table below shows the change in both winning percentage and Pomeroy Rating between 2018 and 2019 for each team on this year’s non conference schedule. It is sorted by change in Pomeroy Rating, which is the last column.

State’s Non-Conference Foes

OOC Opp. 2018 Win% 2019 Win% Win% Change 2018 KenPom 2019 KenPom KP Change
OOC Opp. 2018 Win% 2019 Win% Win% Change 2018 KenPom 2019 KenPom KP Change
Wisconsin 0.455 0.7 0.245 70 12 58
Loyola MD 0.29 0.344 0.054 323 268 55
Western Carolina 0.406 0.219 -0.187 302 273 29
Auburn 0.765 0.71 -0.055 23 13 10
USC Upstate 0.219 0.188 -0.031 338 335 3
UMES 0.219 0.226 0.007 349 352 -3
Maine 0.188 0.156 -0.032 332 336 -4
Penn State 0.667 0.452 -0.215 19 39 -20
Mercer 0.559 0.355 -0.204 154 195 -41
Vanderbilt 0.375 0.29 -0.085 91 149 -58
Mt. St. Mary's 0.563 0.29 -0.273 238 322 -84
Saint Peter's 0.438 0.313 -0.125 217 317 -100
UNC-Asheville 0.618 0.129 -0.489 187 347 -160

Only three of these 10 teams have improved on their 2018 winning percentage in 2019, and a handful of them have seen dramatic drop offs in overall quality. Asheville is out here lookin’ like a basketball suicide cult.

Penn State isn’t terrible and has been playing pretty well of late but started off the season so poorly, its record never had a chance to reflect its quality. That’s bad luck and highly unhelpful.

Two of the three teams that improved significantly are irrelevant for our purposes, since there’s no useful difference from being, say, the 275th-best team in D-I rather than the 300th-best.

These are the rough circumstances that go into the SOS calculation and the perception of State’s schedule strength. You control a lot with who you schedule, of course, but you also need some cooperation from those opponents to boost you a bit on paper. Alas.

(A hat tip to Jason Lisk for inspiring this post.)