Thursday, October 20, 2005

On the Road Again...and Again

Ken Pomeroy, Lord of College Hoop Numbers, recently informed us that the New RPI did not impact the way that power conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC) schedule home and away basketball games. In fact, teams scheduled home games at a HIGHER rate for the upcoming season, despite the fact that road wins are worth 1.4 wins in the "teams winning percentage" portion of the RPI and home wins are worth only 0.6. Teams from the power conferences scheduled 84% of their non-conference games at home this season (read Pomeroy's post for more data and a conference-by-conference breakdown). Do these teams not care? Do they just not get it? Do they simply value the home gate receipts over a high RPI and achieving the best NCAA profile possible?

Pomeroy went with the economic angle by stating:
"We can only speculate on the reason for the lack of change in scheduling practices, but to me it’s clear. Teams with the big budgets are not willing to trade two or three spots in the RPI for the money that home dates bring in. This may come back to haunt one or two teams each season, thereby costing them revenue they would get from the NCAA Tournament, but most schools are willing to take that risk."
That last sentence lifts my heart like a Sufjan Stevens song. That is truly all that the non-power conference teams need. There are NEVER more than one or two MVC, MAC, or other non-power conference schools that truly get the shaft. If this new road weight does open up one slot for last year's Buffalo or 2004's Utah State, then this adjustment to the formula betters the tourney.

How much does the adjustment help? Well, Syracuse plays 19 home games, 3 neutral games and 8 road games this year. Their maximum win value is (19*0.6=11.4) + 3 + (8*1.4=11.2) for a total of 25.6. That is Syracuse's maximum win value for their 30 games. In contrast, Bucknell plays 12 home games, 1 neutral game, and 14 road games (including Syracuse). Their maximum win value is (12*0.6=7.2) + 1 + (14*1.4=19.6) for a total of 27.8. Bucknell's max potential win value is a full 2.2 wins more than Syracuse...and the Bison play three fewer games. Granted, a team's win percentage is only 25% of the total RPI, but this is a substantial advantage...not that The Cuse figures to be worrying on Selection Sunday.

The Bison have the potential to be finish in the "bulletproof" zone in the RPI (no team better than #33 in the final RPI has ever been left out by the selection committee). They return all five starters from last year and play some high profile teams (Cuse, Villanova AT HOME, Saint Joseph's, Duke) in the non-conference. Furthermore, they will likely win nearly every conference game in the Patriot League, although Holy Cross usually has something to say about that.

None of this is to say that the New RPI will assuredly help the non-power conference teams. But, Pomeroy's statement about Big Sixers trading the plump home slate for a few RPI slots bears watching. If a team can win a bundle of road games, they can juice their RPI (see Old Dominion and UW-Milwaukee from last season), but we certainly do not have a good handle on what this means to the committee.

We've only had one year with the New RPI. It's still a wait and see game for now.