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March Madness: RPI Ranking (Ratings Percentage Index)
By Max of Doc's Sports


For years the selection committee has placed great emphasis on the RPI Ranking. RPI stands for ratings percentage index and takes into consideration a variety of factors in determining its ranking (For a complete understanding of the RPI formula, see College Basketball Polls located in the archive). The old RPI ranking placed great emphasis on teams you played and also teams that you had beaten. Many mid-major programs complained about the old system's SOS figures and because of their displeasure the RPI underwent a major face-lift. The problem is that the changes were too dramatic and now all that we are left with is a worthless ranking that the committee should not even look at when trying to select the best 65 teams. The following will examine the numerous flaws in the new RPI rankings.

The problems start at the top with the number one ranked team in the index. Most people would believe that Illinois would be sitting at the top since they have yet to lose a game this season and have been number one in both polls for nearly three months. Yet when I examined the ranking, it was Kansas, a four-loss team that holds the number one spot. Kansas ranked number one in strength of schedule and that alone has allowed them to stay atop the ranking for nearly the entire season. This is despite losing three games in a row for the first time in eleven years.

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A further examination in the Jayhawks schedule makes me ponder what quality wins they had during the non-conference portion of the season. The only impressive road win came in Lexington. They did beat the Cats without Wayne Simien, but that was before Kentucky took off on one of their second half surges. All the other tough games came at home and many off those teams (Georgia Tech, South Carolina, and St. Joseph's) have not lived up to the high expectation given to them at the start of the year. Illinois at least played two tough road non-conference games against Georgetown and Arkansas. The Illini have also beaten Wake Forest, a team that is better then anybody the Jayhawks have played this season.

The Big XII is not even the top rated conference according to the RPI, which has them third behind the ACC and the PAC-10. If you are going to give the top seed to a multi-loss team why not give it to North Carolina, who at least plays in the best conference.

The next problem with the new RPI is that it has given too much credit to mid-major conferences. For years, they have felt they have gotten the short end of the stick and the RPI rankings seem to want to make-up for decades of injustices in just one season. Last season, Utah State finished 24-3, lost in their conference semifinals and did not receive a bid to the Big Dance. A decade ago, UW-Green Bay finished 25-4, did not win their tournament and suffered the same fate. Both of these teams should have received at-large bids. The conference commissioners citied these examples and got the RPI revamped. As it stands now, it is nothing more then a joke and the selection committee should not even look at it when determining bubble teams.

Here are some of its flaws with it:
  1. Four MAC teams have an RPI of 46 or higher, meaning they would all receive at-large bids.
  2. PAC-10 is the second ranked conference and only has two guaranteed teams in the field.
  3. UW-Milwaukee would be given a 14 seed despite a 20-5 record and two of those losses came on the road against Kansas and Wisconsin. Not winning their conference tournament may result in an NIT appearance.
  4. Southern Illinois is number 12 in the RPI, despite playing nobody of significance in their non-conference portion of the schedule.
  5. Gonzaga has two conference losses in a bad West Coast Conference and still ranks as number 11.
Because of these improprieties the committee should not even use the RPI, when determining the 30-plus at large teams. They should use common sense, examine each team individually, see whom you played, whom you beat, and where you beat them. The following ranks the ten best teams according to collegerpi.com
  1. Kansas
  2. Illinois
  3. Oklahoma State
  4. Wake Forest
  5. Washington
  6. North Carolina
  7. Duke
  8. Arizona
  9. Boston College
  10. Gonzaga
Hopefully next year, the committee will go back to using the Old RPI and not make such a dramatic change so it can actually be useful in helping select the field of 65.

Best of Luck with your March Madness Wagers.

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