Thursday, January 18, 2007

RPI Purpose and Conference Road Losses

Packer's RPI Gaffe
Last weekend during a telecast, CBS threw up a graphic with some of the favorites to win the national title accompanied with their current RPI. Florida was at #32 at the time (#30 now) and their relatively low RPI compared to Ohio State, North Carolina, and others stuck out like a sore thumb. This prompted analyst Billy Packer to say, "Find me 31 teams in America that are better than Florida." And, this comment forces me to once again post on the purpose of the RPI.

The RPI is NOT a ranking of the best teams. It is not solely a measure of who is playing the best. It is not an indicator of great defenses, offenses, coaches, or any other aspect of the game.

The RPI is a tool that measures how well a team has performed against it's given schedule. It is all about wins and losses. Playing teams with good records helps; playing teams with bad records hurts. A team's own wins and losses count a great deal, but the difficulty of a team's schedule plays a huge role as well. Florida's first six opponents currently have a combined record of 19-59. See, it does not matter to the RPI that UF is a great team. What the RPI sees is that Florida played two teams that are currently 0-15 (North Florida and Prairie View A&M) and that destroys your strength of schedule. We can all see that UF is likely going to be a 1-seed. We do not need the RPI for that.

The RPI is merely a tool used by the selection committee to see how teams have fared against their schedule. Teams with good RPI's are sometimes left out (see #21 Missouri State and #30 Hofstra last year) and teams with iffy RPI's sometimes get in (#58 Seton Hall last year). Packer, and many others, just do not seem to get it. This is part of the reason why he will have another apoplectic meltdown on Selection Sunday.

Death, Taxes, and Conference Road Losses
Check out these scores from last night:
at UALR 71, Western Kentucky 69
at Auburn 83, Tennessee 80
at Charlotte 80, Dayton 59
at Evansville 75, Southern Illinois 68
at Florida State 82, Virginia Tech 73
at Villanova 102, Notre Dame 87
at Vanderbilt 94, Alabama 73

All of these results are somewhat surprising and a few are downright shocking. But that's the nature of playing on the road in conference. ANY conference road win should be viewed as precious gold. Over the last two nights, home teams are 56-17. Let that sink in for a second. It is very tough on the road in conference play.

So, road winners (most notably, Georgia over Arkansas and North Carolina over Clemson), bask in the glow of these outstanding accomplishments. And, go back to your home courts and defend them with your lives.

Last Night's GOI
--Georgia 67, at Arkansas 64. Dawgs are officially in the NCAA picture.
--North Carolina 77, at Clemson 55. Tigers do not look ready for UNC-level teams.
--at Florida State 82, Virginia Tech 73. 'Noles get a desperately needed big win.
--at LSU 62, Mississippi 55. Tigers are sort of treading water.
--at Vanderbilt 94, Alabama 73. My upset warning of the night last night came through in a BIG way.
--at Villanova 102, Notre Dame 87. Cats got that signature win they were looking for.
--at Wisconsin 69, Purdue 64. Boilers played tough, but came up a bit short.

Tonight's GOI
--Bradley at Creighton. Both are looking like Bubble Boys at this stage, so this is a big one.
--Northern Iowa at Missouri State. Another important Valley tilt--especially for UNI.
--Stanford at Oregon. Ducks are tough at home, but the Cardinal are hot.
--Arizona at Southern Cal. My Official Upset Warning of the Night. This would not be a huge one, but an upset nonetheless.
--UMass at Xavier. Probably the two best teams in the A-10.