What does it mean to say that a team has a hard or easy remaining schedule? In the simplest sense, we can measure how difficult the average remaining opponent is. But we can ask a different question: What makes a schedule harder or easier to deal with?
Oh, and why am I only projecting a 4 seed for Florida State when they're 18-2 with 9 RPI Top 50 wins and the BracketMatrix has them as the ACC favorite and a 2 seed?
The fact is that on Selection Sunday teams are judged on their resumes, but not in a purely objective way. There are biases driven because of the power of the RPI, and due to the fact that it is hard to take home/road into proper account. I've written many times about how the RPI process can be manipulated, with the most thorough piece being this one.
In short, you are rewarded for "quality wins", meaning RPI Top 50 wins, with special bonuses for wins over ranked teams, and with a win over a Top 10 team being a jewel in your crown. Meanwhile, you are punished for "bad losses", with a sliding scale from non-NCAA Tournament teams, RPI 51+, RPI 101+, et cetera.
The problem with the system is that by not taking home/road into account, home games are massively overvalued. Right now, Maryland sits 49th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. And so despite being ranked in the human polls, a home game vs Maryland is equivalent in the Sagarin ratings to a road game vs 10-8 Lehigh, who currently sit 117th. Yet a win vs Maryland is a "quality win" and a loss is no sweat, while a win vs Lehigh means nothing at the same time that a loss to Lehigh would be seen as catastrophic.
So, what are you looking for in your schedule? You want a lot of home games versus teams that would make up "quality wins", and you want to avoid road games vs decent teams unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament. As I wrote after last year's brackets were announced, this provides a tremendous penalty and hurdle for mid-majors. But this exists on a smaller scale within major conferences as well. When you're in the ACC you want a lot of shots at home against teams like Louisville and North Carolina, and you sure as hell want to avoid road games in places like the Carrier Dome.
So what about that Florida State schedule remaining? On first glance it seems soft by ACC standards - nothing against Louisville, North Carolina, or Virginia. But instead, 7 of 11 remaining games are on the road, mostly against decent-but-not-likely-tourney teams like Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh. At home they play mostly teams with no upside like NC State and Boston College. Their two remaining chances for Top 25 wins, Notre Dame and Duke, both come on the road.
In other words, as good as Florida State is, there is nearly a 50% chance that they fail to pick up another particularly impressive win in the regular season, while the odds are high that they lose two or three games against the likes of Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh.
For example, Florida St has beaten Virginia, Duke, Louisville, and Notre Dame in the last two weeks, yet according to Pomeroy they have just a 29% chance of escaping their next three games unscathed against Georgia Tech, Syracuse, and Miami. Under 30 percent despite being favored in every game! If Florida State loses two of three, the media is going to start asking questions about what has "gone wrong" with a team that just beat Virginia and Louisville falling to, say, Georgia Tech and Syracuse. Yet nothing will have changed other than a schedule less conducive to perceived success.
In contrast, check out this piece of Virginia's upcoming schedule.
Here we see teams that would be perceived as massive resume-building victories (Louisville and North Carolina) coming to Charlottesville, where the Cavaliers will likely be favored. And they only have one real "bad loss" land mine in NC State. They have already suffered one of those losses earlier this season (at Pittsburgh, on the road and in overtime, on January 4th).
In other words, Virginia's schedule is built for success, with two great chances for big wins, and few chances to pick up bad losses. Florida State's is the opposite, almost certainly set up to lead to a decline in NCAA Tournament seed. Florida State already had their resume-building stretch, beating Louisville, Duke, and Notre Dame at home, but those games are all behind them. Most likely, they're heading for a decline down the stretch.
And that is why, despite Florida State having a stronger resume than Virginia at the moment, I am projecting a stronger seed on Selection Sunday for the Cavaliers than the Seminoles.