While a team's strength of schedule can give you an idea about how they stack up to competition, how do you know if a team has quality wins or losses?
Tiers can help answer this question.
KenPom defines 2 tiers:
Tier A: a game against a top-50 opponent adjusted for location of the game
Tier B: a game against a top-100 opponent adjusted for location of the game
Home court advantage exists in college basketball. KenPom gives a flat 3.75 points for the home team.
For example, in the 2015-2016 season, Duke would be expected to defeat the average Division-I team by about 22 points on a neutral court.
If Duke is playing host to the average Division-I team, it's AdjEM jumps to about +26. This means at home, Duke would be expected to defeat the average Division-I team by about 26 points.
This is why adjusting for location is important.
Beating the 90th-ranked team on the road is about as difficult as beating the 50th-best team on a neutral floor, which is roughly as difficult as beating the 20th-best team on one’s home floor.
KenPom does hint towards sharing site-specific home-court advantage values in the future too.
The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is built to measure a team's strength of schedule and how that team performs against that schedule.
Since 1981, the RPI has been used by the NCAA Selection Committee as one of the main factors in determining at-large selections for the NCAA Tournament.
The RPI has 3 components each with a percentage of importance:
A team's winning percentage (25%)
A team's opponents' winning percentage (50%)
Winning percentage of a team's opponents' opponents (25%)
A team's strength of schedule is 75% of this calculation. The problem?
The RPI doesn’t include location when measuring a team's strength of schedule.
The RPI promotes a team's record against top-50 teams. But there is no consideration for a where a game is played. Home court advantage doesn't exist in the RPI.
Let's compare 2 teams for the 2015-2016 season:
Using the RPI
Tulsa earned the 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament and played Michigan in a play-in game. Monmouth missed the 2016 NCAA Tournament and didn't earn an at-large bid.
Tulsa is viewed as better because it has 3 wins over the RPI Top-50 compared to 1 Monmouth victory.
Monmouth was 4-1 against Tier A opponents and 2-3 against Tier B opponents.
Tulsa was 2-8 against Tier A opponents and 3-2 against Tier B opponents.
Monmouth won 80% of their games against Tier A opponents. It beat UCLA, Georgetown, and Iona on the road.
Tulsa won 20% of their games against Tier A opponents. It played 7 Tier A opponents on the road and only beat one of those opponents.
Who is the better team according to strength of schedule?
This is why the RPI can be misleading, and tiers exist to rate strength of schedule.