Sometimes it’s not just about who you beat, but how you beat them.
And when it comes to No. 4 Wichita State, 24-0 after Wednesday’s 65-58 win at Indiana State, all there is to scrutinize are wins.
It’s under that microscope that ESPN senior analytics specialist Alok Pattani and the team behind the College Basketball Power Index operate.
The BPI also factors in margin of victory and by number of possessions, as well as home or road and whether a team was missing a key player.
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“We wanted to create an internal tool that our top-level analysts like Rece Davis and Jay Bilas could use that was an improvement on the RPI,” Pattani said. “Our main difference is our strength of schedule calculating is much more extensive. We wanted something that could be a more accurate predictor of outcomes.”
The BPI is fairly new in the rankings realm. It was introduced in February 2012, touting itself as a better representation of rankings than the more widely-known RPI. Pattani was hired in 2008 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics from Boston University.
Each BPI win is graded on a scale of 0-100 and also calculates the percentage chance of winning individual games moving forward. WSU’s BPI rank is 11, moving up one after beating the Sycamores.
According to the BPI, the Shockers’ best win was a 68-48 victory over Indiana State on Jan. 18 in Wichita, for which they received a game BPI of 97.6. Their only win over a ranked team came on Dec. 1, winning 70-65 at now-No. 13 Saint Louis, which the BPI says is their fourth-best win. Victories at Tulsa (97.5) and in Kansas City over BYU (97.4) rank higher.
Their “worst” win was 85-71 over Tennessee State on Nov. 16, garnering a 56.2.
“It comes down to the margins of victory; a five-point win in a 69-possession game against Saint Louis isn’t as rare as a 20-point win in a 62-possession game against Indiana State,” Pattani said. “In my opinion, yes, Saint Louis is their best win. But the 20-point win versus Indiana State was their best performance.”
The Shockers’ chances of going undefeated in the regular season jumped from 51 to 68 percent after the win at Indiana State. Their toughest remaining game is Saturday, at Northern Iowa (11-2, 5-6 MVC), ranked No. 121 in the BPI — a game ESPN’s projections say WSU has an 85.2-percent chance of winning.
“We just beat the No. 2 team in the league on the road and now we have a team in Northern Iowa that’s lost once (at home), and that was to Indiana State,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said Thursday. “They’re a team that’s historically better at home and Ben (Jacobsen) is a great, great coach. They’re certainly capable.”
The chances of WSU winning the six remaining games after Saturday skyrocket after that; Southern Illinois (98.9 percent), at Evansville (94.3), at Loyola (95.5), Drake (98.2), at Bradley (93.7) and Missouri State (96.8).
“By contrast, the only other undefeated team, Syracuse, has only a 5-percent chance of going undefeated through the regular season because their schedule is much, much tougher,” Pattani said. “Ultimately, we want to try and predict how teams will do in the NCAA Tournament.”
Last season, the BPI had an early idea that WSU might fare well in the NCAA Tournament, putting WSU as the No. 24 team in the country headed into March Madness and identifying their No. 9 seed in the West as too low. Not that they could predict a run to the Final Four.
“We thought Pittsburgh was in trouble,” Pattani said, referring to WSU’s opening-game opponent. “You can’t predict a run like Wichita State had, but we definitely had them much higher than anyone else when it came time for the tournament.”
Even with all the numbers crunched, re-examined and laid bare, don’t expect the Shockers to invest much in any of it.
“Flying under the radar is certainly easier, you can be stealth, which is something we talk about sometimes,” Marshall said. “You go on the road and get your job done and you’re out of there before they even know what hit them.
“With the streak and the notoriety, there’s a little more pressure, but if you’re 18-6 at this point and wondering if you’re going to even get in the tournament, that’s pressure, too. It’s just a different kind of pressure we’re dealing with.”