The college basketball season is now six weeks old. Conference play starts next week for many, and the chance to pick up some key nonconference wins has come and gone. Several teams seem like a lock to make the NCAA tournament, while others have dug a hole so big that it may be impossible to make it up if they don't win their conference tournaments. The sports analytics team at ESPN has two key rankings for Division I basketball teams. The Basketball Power Index (BPI) measures team strength and is used to project future performance. Strength of Record (SOR) is essentially an all-encompassing résumé rating. Strength of Record describes how difficult it is for a team to achieve its current win-loss record given its schedule.
For example, Louisville and Kansas State are both 11-1. Louisville has beaten Wichita State, Purdue and Kentucky, while Kansas State's best win, according to BPI, is against Omaha. Louisville's SOR is No. 7 in the country, whereas Kansas State's is No. 48. SOR tells us who deserves to go to the NCAA tournament. While not meant to project the field, a staggering 93 percent of all at-large teams deemed worthy by SOR to make the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday were selected by the committee. Typically, if a team is No. 40 or better in SOR, it is a lock to make the tournament, whereas if it is between 40 and 60, it is a bubble team.
By using BPI and simulating the season 10,000 times, we estimate the most likely SOR rating for each team when the regular season is over. This is referred to as Projected SOR. We ranked the top 10 teams who have most improved their Projected SOR during nonconference play by comparing their résumé projections at the beginning of the season. We restricted the list to teams that are currently projected as a bubble team or better.