Oregon could lose even if the Ducks win, as expected, on Saturday against Idaho State.
The setback would come from the computer rankings, with Idaho State (1-5) listed as the nation’s 307th best team in the Sagarin rating, of 347 teams in Division I.
Though Oregon (7-1) is off to its best start in five seasons and edging closer to a ranking in the top 25 of the polls voted on by the media and coaches, the Ducks aren’t seen so highly by computer rankings. That will matter at the end of the season when the NCAA tournament selection committee looks at computer rankings and considers strength of schedules in evaluating at-large teams.
The Sagarin ranks the Oregon men 65th in the country, largely because the strength of schedule for the Ducks is ranked the 322nd most difficult by that computer system. It’s similar at KenPom.com, where Oregon is 72nd (one spot behind North Dakota State) with a strength of schedule that ranks 297th.
Why so low? While the Ducks have played a pair of top 25 teams (ranked by humans or computers) in Cincinnati and UNLV, most of Oregon’s wins have come over teams in the bottom 100 nationally, in Portland State (No. 257 by Sagarin), Texas-San Antonio (258), Northern Arizona (260), Jacksonville State (262) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (338).
Even Vanderbilt, a perennial NCAA tournament team, is only No. 153 in the Sagarin rankings.
Can that strength of schedule improve? Maybe only marginally. After Idaho State, the Ducks have Nebraska (113), UTEP (145), Houston Baptist (337) and Nevada (183) left on their nonleague schedule.
Some of the strength of schedule for Oregon is the doing of the Ducks, and some of it is circumstances.
Earlier this season, UO coach Dana Altman acknowledged he had scheduled what he termed “developmental" games, knowing his team would be heavily stocked with freshmen, to balance more difficult opponents. When the schedule was made, Oregon didn’t know it was going to have transfers such as senior Arsalan Kazemi and junior Waverly Austin added to the roster.
There is also the matter of some unknowns in scheduling. Vanderbilt “wasn’t quite" what the Ducks expected when the schedule was made up. “They’re having more of a struggle than I thought," Altman added of the Commodores (2-4).
As for the difficulty of the rest of the schedule, Altman said “those things are hard to gauge. All I know is our team needs a lot of work, so any game we have is important to us."