Schedule Wrap Up: What are my expectations?

By Steve DiMiceli

It seems like every time I run into someone new at the summer league or I have a private conversation about the Dukes, one of the first questions I hear is "What are your expectations for next year?" The craziest part is how people almost universally phrase the question like that. I don't get any "what will their record be?" or "how many games will the Dukes win?" It's always about expectations which I don't have a problem with. I guess it's just one of those sports buzz words.  No matter how they've asked the question, I'm not sure if I've given anyone a straight answer until now.

I'll probably create a more fixed projection later in the offseason where I attach an exact number to how many games I think the Dukes win. Generally, I look at the team position by position and add or subtract wins based on changes. That methodology failed me last year, but generally I'm pretty close. I've even predicted the Pirates record within a game or two the last two seasons using the same process (I projected 81 wins this year for anyone who cares).

Today, I'll look at the schedule to determine a range where their record should fall. For those who missed it, I've already broken down the out of conference schedule and the A-10 schedule based on pairings.  I split games into 5 catergories based on how likely the Dukes would be to win them; Games I Would be Shocked If the Dukes Lost, Games the Dukes Should Win, Tough but Winnable, Upset If We Win and I Will Run Naked in Forbes Ave.

Let's start with the easy part. I'm going to assume that the Dukes will win all of the seven games I would be shocked if we lost and I'm going to assume that we'll lose the seven upsets. I'll also go out on a limb and say that the Dukes will lose the game against VCU resulting in my clothes staying on. This is not to say that I don't think we will upset someone this year, but if I account for an upset win, I would have to account for an upset loss. That said, I'll predict that it all comes out even in the wash and there will be a baseline record of 7-8.

Now we can establish our first range of really extreme expectations. In the absolute worst case scenario, I could envision this team only winning seven games. I also believe that the absolute best case scenarios would be 21-8. These are two extremely unlikely outcomes, but I highlight them to prove a point. The games that will truly determine the Dukes record are not the easiest or the most challenging. Instead, the tighter contests where they expect to be slight favorites or narrow underdogs will determine how they do overall.

So how well do I think the Dukes will do in the remaining games? I had six games in the category "games the Dukes should win" and I suggested that we would have a 55-75% chance of winning. While I think they should win each of these games individually, they're going to lose some. We should expect between 4.5 wins assuming the Dukes end up with a 75% chance of winning all the games in this group and 3.3 wins instead assuming all games have a 55% chance of winning. Likewise, I suggested that the Duke should have a 35-54% chance of winning games against the eight teams in the "tough but winnable" group. That means, they will win anywhere from 2.8 and 4.3 games from that category.

I get that my math is imperfect down to how I make my baseline assumptions (best case scenario upset wins are 10% more likely to happen than worst case scenario upset loses). However, I'm more interested in creating a rough outlook than a truly tight model. Based on my somewhat flawed analysis, I would expect that the Dukes record will fall somewhere between 13 - 16 and 16 - 13. I couldn't tell you what my confidence level is in my range, but I personally think it's pretty safe.

I do want to point out, that I'm also setting what I feel is deliberately conservative expectation range simply because we have a lot of questions marks. Answer most of the question marks to the affirmative and suddenly, some of the upsets are tough but winnable and the originally tough but winnable look a whole lot more winnable. Exceeding 16 wins then becomes possible. Of course, if the team struggles to gel and a couple of key injuries pop up, the 13 win expectation looks worse. In my estimation, it would take a lot for them to do better but it would take a lot for them to do worse as well in my most humble opinion. I expect them to win between 13-16 games. Anything less would be a disappointment and anything more would be a huge, but pleasant surprise.