When comparing the non-conference strength-of-schedule to the overall strength-of-schedule, Bellarmine’s non-conference lineup for 2024 is ranked 67th, showcasing a relatively lighter load compared to the entire season’s 57th ranking. It looks like their approach was to have the non-conference games serving as a developmental platform for the team before they delve into the more rigorous conference play.
Examining the 2024 schedule against the previous year, Bellarmine has basically just run it back. With 14 out of 15 opponents from the 2023 season making a reappearance, the team faces a familiar set of challenges. The non-conference schedule has eased up, with Hampton replacing VMI. That, combined with the change in their opponents’ LaxElo ratings, means that this year’s non-conference slate projects as the 67th toughest, compared to the 56th ranking it had least year. This adjustment could bode well for the Knights, allowing them to bolster their record and confidence before engaging with tougher conference adversaries.
The season’s most arduous stretch spans from March 2nd to March 20th, with the Knights hosting Marist, Marquette, Utah, and traveling to Mercer. During this stretch, Bellarmine is expected to come away with approximately 2.3 wins, marking it as a crucial period for maintaining their competitive edge. Conversely, the easiest stretch occurs from February 10th to February 27th, where matchups against St. Bonaventure, Ohio State, Canisius, and Hampton are predicted to yield around 3.1 wins, offering a valuable opportunity for the team to accumulate victories and build momentum.
Finally, the most grueling segment, both in terms of frequency and travel, is set from March 9th to March 23rd. Four games in two weeks, including a stretch involving Marquette, Utah, Mercer, and Queens, will test Bellarmine’s stamina and depth. How the Knights manage this period could very well set the tone for the rest of their season. And given the overlap with their toughest stretch, winning 2 out of these 4 games would qualify as a success.
In essence, Bellarmine’s 2024 schedule seems to balance the need for developing their younger players will getting ready for conference play. While the non-conference games present a chance for growth and refinement, the season’s more difficult stints will test the team’s resilience and preparedness for post-season aspirations. With careful navigation through their calendar, the Knights will look to position themselves advantageously for when it matters most.
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P.S. What did I miss? Data-centric analyses like this can miss things that don’t show up in the stats (i.e. injuries/coaching changes). If you can help explain any of the above, put it in the comments.