There is much excitement in Thunder Bay these days, as the Lakehead Thunderwolves men's basketball team is undefeated in league play, find themselves 9th in the cishoops.ca Top 10, and are just two points out of the latest CIS Top 10.
Now, I'm not here to throw cold water on their accomplishments, but...but I can't think of a way to end that sentence.
First, if you click over to the RPI (obvious plug), you'll see that yes, Lakehead is tied for 6th, with an 8-1 combined record. But the season's 22 games long, not nine (or six). And their strength-of-schedule rating is merely 26th nationwide.
Second, RPI doesn't consider margin of victory. Looking at Lakehead through the lens of Simple Ranking System (SRS) is instructive: they are 21st, at +3.5. Even better, check out their opponents so far:
+6.7 Toronto (13th in the country)
+4.3 Queen's (18th)
-2.7 Brandon (26th)
-4.6 Ryerson (31st)
-8.8 Laurentian (36th)
-11.3 York (38th)
-28.3 RMC (dead last)
Lakehead has played only two teams who rate better than them (U of T and Queen's), and they beat each of them by just a single point. Not exactly the kind of dominance you usually see from an undefeated team, is it?
Here's another way to look at it, with an eye towards this weekend:
+19.4 Carleton (1st)
+3.5 Lakehead (21st)
That's a 16-point margin, which is tough to overcome. But that's okay: even losing to the Ravens by single digits is, in some ways, an accomplishment in itself. Especially when you went 1-21 three years ago.
I'm not saying Friday night's game won't be exciting, and the more fans Lakehead can get in the gym by hyping the matchup, the better. It's just that "the only two undefeated schools in Ontario" are not on the same level, and some caution is required before people get really disappointed after Lakehead loses this "enormous battle", as is likely. The great group of dudes are just not quite there yet.
(And now that I've posted this, the Thunderwolves will of course win by 20.)