Basketball: Be cautious with the great group of dudes

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 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.)
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  1. Hi Rob,

    Great points about Lakehead's SRI etc. All valid ones. Also I am laughing at you calling them a "Great group of dudes"; referencing the Globe and Mail national feature on the team last year (something I am very proud of by the way - that article):)

    However, this group of dudes is a lot different than last year's; they are a much better and more balanced basketball team. They are mostly freshmen and sophomores with a few experienced players to add seasoning. Yes, their winning margin is small; but they did win and they won five of them in comebacks; something they seldom did in the recent past. They also have four road wins; something else they seldom did in the past.

    I am sure Coach Scott Morrison and his team knows what is facing them in Carleton and Ottawa and are suffering from no illusions.

    At the beginning of the season; I thought Lakehead would be a work in progress that could be a pain in the butt for opponents as they found their way. I see this year as a learning year for the young team; whatever success they have is bonus...I think the upcoming next two seasons is where you will see them become a very good team...

    As for this weekend, what I am hoping for is that the Wolves play a good game against Carleton; regardless of the outcome and learn from playing against the best team.

    Personally, I can't lose Friday. I am a proud Carleton alumnus and supporter of the Ravens as well as being a big fan of the Wolves so again I just hope it's a great game and the fans come away winners because of it. Also Saturday of course.

    I did a little article on Wolves for T Bay daily paper with link here:

    Go Wolves! Go Ravens!

    Mike Aylward

    PS. Here's an interesting tidbit. I checked CIS site earlier today and looked at the Men's Hoops Top 10 and Lakehead was listed as No. 10 with same amount of points as SFU who were listed as 11. Then it changed... :) I am guessing a late vote came in but perhaps CIS should not post til all the votes are in... he he

  2. Maybe it was a hanging chad vote

  3. Maybe it was the SFU coach realizing he was still allowed to vote (which in my opinion based on the schools upcoming move to the NCAA D2 - they shouldn't even be in the league) - that caused the change - isn't there a deadline for the voting?