Hot Reads: Building a Better Bracket
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: Building a Better Bracket

January 17, 2017

Is it time for RPI — short for Rating Percentage Index — to be eliminated from the college-basketball vocabulary?

Hoops statheads have felt that way for a while now, but the NCAA may be slowly coming on board as it has tapped a group of experts — including Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin — to help look at how teams are selected for the NCAA Tournament.

While Pomeroy doesn’t think his ratings system should be a defining factor in whether a team makes the NCAA Tournament, he believes the committee should be using as many tools as it can at its disposal — and start weaning itself off the much-discussed RPI.

One of his issues with RPI is it isn’t used like a ranking: The committee doesn’t necessarily view the No. 1 RPI team as the best team in the country. And yet, when it comes to grading the value of a team’s wins, the committee takes a hard look at who it has beaten in the RPI top 50, which Pomeroy views as a subjective cut-off.

The NCAA created the RPI in 1981. Think about the challenge for the selection committee at that time. There were 48 teams in the tournament, just a handful of games on TV (ESPN was two years old) and a real need to at least eyeball strength of schedule. RPI did that by coming up with an index that combines a team’s winning percentage (25-percent weight) with its opponent’s winning percentage (50-percent) and its opponents’ opponents winning percentage (25-percent).

Elegant, right? At least it was something, an attempt to introduce some objectivity into what, to that point, could only have been a subjective answer to the question of “yeah, but who have they played?” For that, the RPI gets a pat on the back.

But in basketball at least — NCAA baseball, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball and volleyball also use it — it seems like we’ve progressed beyond such a simple calculation (a calculation coaches now factor into scheduling). Pomeroy has been making that case for years.

Now he gets to make it directly to the NCAA this Friday. We’ll see if he and Sagarin and the others can make their case convincingly enough, but the fact that the NCAA is bringing them in indicates the organization might actually be ready for something new.

ICYMI

Busy day yesterday in Husker land for a Monday in January. Lincoln East offensive lineman Chris Walker, previously planning to play for Craig Bohl at Wyoming, verbally committed to Nebraska yesterday. You can read more about Walker in Jake Jensen’s evaluation of his skills. (Premium) Chris Schmidt also spoke with his high school coach, John Gingery, yesterday on Hail Varsity Radio, and had a bunch of good defense talk with guys who would know — Jay Moore and Charlie McBride.

Walker was among a handful of prospected who visited Lincoln this past weekend. Erin Sorensen recapped the weekend and where the Huskers stand with a couple of key prospects here. (Premium)

Finally, I took a numbers-based approach to identifying the key traits of a Bob Diaco defense, which includes a tangent about college coaches being literally worth their weight in gold. (Some of them are!) I also spoke with Mike’l Severe about some of these numbers on his show, The Bottom Line, yesterday.

The Grab Bag

  • Looks like Willie Taggart may be taking the “toughen up” approach early at Oregon as The Oregonian reports that at least three players have been hospitalized after grueling workouts.
  • Another year, another college football season where the offensive numbers keep rising.
  • One-time Nebraska defensive backs coach Charlton Warren is leaving North Carolina after two years to join the Tennessee staff.
  • Texas is drawing some early 2017 national-championship bets at 50-1 odds.

Today’s Song of Today

This song is as old as the RPI and has held up better.

https://youtu.be/Swzp1eeOMj4

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