Strength of schedule. Power ratings. KenPom. Sagarin. Massey.
Seems like everyone is trying to determine which teams are best without actually pitting them on the field of play, but it's an inexact science.
And just how important is it? Does it just provide fodder for people to talk about, or does it actually help a team?
Strength of schedule is often debated when it comes to the selection of teams for the NCAA men's basketball tournament or for the College Football Playoff, but every prep team in the state is invited to the Illinois High School Association tournament.
Boys coaches across the state will meet this week to determine the seeds for sectional tournaments in Class 1A and 2A, and strength of schedule likely will come into play.
Twenty-two teams have been assigned to the Farmington Sectional. Teams in sub-sectional A will go to regionals in Havana and Knoxville, and teams in sub-sectional B will go to regionals in Auburn and Beardstown.
Five teams in sub-sectional B have records as good or better than Quincy Notre Dame, which has a 14-9 record after losing twice last weekend. Williamsville (19-2) has been getting votes in the Class 2A state poll. Athens (16-9), Petersburg PORTA (16-8) and Auburn (15-8) all figure to make pitches for a top-four seed in the sectional, and Pleasant Plains is now 14-9 after starting with six losses in its first nine games.
None of them, however, can match QND's strength of schedule.
The Raiders have lost to five teams that have been ranked in three different states. The other losses are to Duchesne (14-7), Quincy (16-5), Collinsville (15-9) and Jerseyville (11-11). Three of those teams have enrollments at least twice the size of QND.
QND is ranked No. 15 in Class 2A by the computer ratings generated by MaxPreps.com. The Raiders' strength of schedule is listed at 9.5. By comparison, 12 of the top 25 Class 2A teams have a strength of schedule listed at 4.0 or less, with four below zero.
Only three teams from Chicago (Orr, Uplift and Leo) and Bloomington Central Catholic have a better strength of schedule. QND lost to BCC 51-47 in December and had the ball with 10 seconds to play with a chance to tie.
Another computer-generated ranking done by Aaron Britton at nestohoops.com puts QND at No. 14 in Class 2A.
When the sub-sectional seeds are determined, does QND have a better resume than Williamsville, which hasn't played a 3A or 4A team this season and has lost to the only ranked teams it has faced? Or could it fall as far as the No. 6-best team in the sub-sectional because it has nine losses?
If QND reaches the sectional in Farmington, West Hancock (23-2), Farmington (19-3), Deer-Creek Mackinaw (19-5) or Tremont (17-7) could be waiting. None of them have faced the consistent competition the Raiders have.
Does it matter?
"We've played a pretty darned good schedule," QND coach Kevin Meyer said after Saturday's loss to No. 7-ranked Monticello. "If you're going to fault us for nine losses, I hope you look at who we played and say, ‘Well, we didn't play that schedule.' There are teams in our sectional who haven't played that schedule."
Last year's QND team went 13-2 against Class 3A and 4A teams, while unheralded Monticello was 1-2 against 3A competition. When the teams met in the Springfield Super-sectional last year, however, strength of schedule meant little when the Sages shocked the Raiders.
Have the losses suffered this season exposed the weaknesses in this year's QND team? Have those weaknesses been addressed?
"How do we use that to get ready?" Meyer said. "We learned how to play against an athletic St. Mary's team. We learned you can't get down early and you can't give up when we lost to Duchesne. We played with Quincy for three quarters. Central Catholic was a one-possession game. Winnebago (ranked No. 2 in Class 2A) was a tight, tight game.
"We have to build off of them. It's not a badge of honor that we have those nine losses, but the lessons we've learned have to be applied to the rest of the year."