Opinion | Iowa soccer’s nonconference slate is beneficial to the program

With a more competitive nonconference schedule in 2022 than they had in 2021, the Hawkeyes should boost their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa+midfielder+Hailey+Rydberg+kicks+the+ball+towards+the+goal+during+a+soccer+game+between+Iowa+and+Maryland+at+the+UI+Soccer+Complex+on+Sept.+30%2C+2021.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Terrapins+2-1.

Dimia Burrell

Iowa midfielder Hailey Rydberg kicks the ball towards the goal during a soccer game between Iowa and Maryland at the UI Soccer Complex on Sept. 30, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 2-1.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Editor


The 2022 Iowa soccer nonconference schedule may boost the Hawkeyes’ chances of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament in November.

It’s unlikely the Hawkeyes will be crowned the Big Ten Tournament champions, which would earn them the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Thus, it’s important Iowa owns a high Rating Percentage Index (RPI) ranking if they want to vie for one of the 33 at-large selections.

In NCAA women’s soccer, RPI is based on three weighted metrics. A program’s winning percentage comprises 25 percent, while opponents’ winning percentage encompasses 50 percent. The other 25 percent consists of the winning percentage of the opponents of the opponent. So, the RPI puts significant emphasis on strength of schedule.

Though Iowa’s 2022 conference schedule is also tougher than it was in 2021, the RPI differential between the two seasons is greater when comparing the non-conference opponents’ RPI ranking than it is for Big Ten foes by about 34 spots.

The 2021 Hawkeyes were No. 69 in the season’s final RPI, and that ranking was too low for the NCAA Tournament selection committee to insert them into the bracket. Iowa will most likely need to place in the RPI top 45 in 2022 if they want consideration as an at-large bid.

Based on last season’s RPI, the Hawkeyes’ nonconference slate in 2022 is more competitive than it was in 2021.

The average 2021 RPI ranking for Iowa’s 2022 non-conference opponents is 129.375, while its 2021 non-conference schedule opponents’ RPI ranking was 179.5.

RELATED: Around the Big Ten: 2022 women’s soccer

The biggest difference when analyzing the Hawkeyes’ 2021 and 2022 non-conference opponents is the difficulty of their toughest foe. In 2021, Saint Louis had the best RPI ranking at No. 85. But in 2022, Iowa will face current Pac-12 and future Big Ten program UCLA to open its campaign on Aug. 18. The Bruins finished No. 18 last season.

Though a victory over UCLA would be massive for Iowa, regardless of the result, Iowa has gained an important RPI edge by facing UCLA.

Another key disparity between the nonconference slates is that Iowa will play three 2021 Top 100 programs in 2022, instead of two like in 2021. The Hawkeyes matched up against No. 98 Kansas in 2021 and will do so again in 2022, but now they’ll also compete at No. 71 Baylor.

Cal Poly, DePaul, and Pacific are all on Iowa’s 2022 plate. These are not the most impressive programs, yet they all finished between 130-135 in the final 2021 RPI rankings. Facing top 150 teams will assist the Hawkeyes in their goal of achieving a better RPI ranking as in 2021, they saw four top 150 schools on their schedule — two fewer than in 2022.

The bottom of the Hawkeyes’ 2022 nonconference slate is stronger than it was in 2021. The Hawkeyes played three programs ranked in the 200s during 2021, including No. 290 Purdue Fort Wayne and No. 293 Kansas City.

Northern Iowa is Iowa’s weakest opponent based on the 2021 RPI rankings, as the Panthers finished No. 269. Iowa State, the second-worst team on Iowa’s schedule based on the metric, was No. 180 in the last RPI rankings.

With a more strenuous nonconference slate, the Hawkeyes should see a jump in the 2022 RPI rankings. Coupled with a Big Ten schedule that includes five 2021 NCAA Tournament programs and an improvement from their 2021 12-6-2 mark, the Hawkeyes should have a realistic shot of hearing their name when the 2022 NCAA Tournament bracket is announced.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


 

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