RPI & the ACC – The Statistical Book

Well, it’s time for another installment of RPI and the ACC. At the start of the BB season, I did an entry summarizing 2002-2005 and received some fairly lively discussion. There were several suggestions made then that I decided to incorporate into this update (pounding sand was not one that I considered 😉 ). This entry is basically Part 1 of a two-part series that I will conclude after the NCAA tournament.

A few notes before we start:

– For simplicity, I will only look at those teams that have made at least two trips to the NCAA tournament during the last five years.
– Al Skinner and BC were included even though this was only their first year in the ACC.
– The years that a team appeared in the NCAA tournament are noted in RED and BOLD.


The RPI is calculated throughout the season through the conference tournaments. Games played in the NCAA tournament are not included. However, there are other indices that do track through the NCAA Championship Game and we will look at those numbers in Part 2 after this year’s tournament is completed.


Here at SFN, we tracked the RPI of the ACC teams through the season and had graphs over time to aid in our discussion.

Click here for a look at State’s graph for the 2006 season.

Why should anyone care about “RPI”? Well, we have looked at that several different times and several different ways through out this past season. Here are a few entries that discussed why we care about the RPI:

RPI and the Bubble
The Dance Card
RPI and NCAA Tournament Seeds
RPI and the Final Four
RPI vs NCAA Tournament Success (or Lightning in a Bottle)


There was much whining the last time that I posted this table because I did not include the Doherty years in UNC’s numbers. I did not (and still do not) think that including two horrible years from a coach that was run out of town provides any meaningful analysis when deciding where State ranks in the ACC.

However, I have included the “Doh years” here, even though a few State fans are the only ones left on the face of the earth that still cling to those two years. I can’t imagine any rational person ranking UNC anywhere other than second in the ACC. But I am nothing if not flexible…bending to every whim of our readers (sarcasm intended).



In a perfect world, this is where I would list the conference wins over the last five years. But in case you haven’t noticed, this world isn’t perfect…and ACC expansion has made it more complicated as well. We’ve already seen that the conference strength of schedule varies quite a bit from one team to the next. That doesn’t mean that totaling conference wins over several seasons is worthless…it’s just worth less from an analytical point of view than it used to be.

As a first attempt at breaking down conference performance, I’ve compiled State’s head-to-head records against the same six teams included in the RPI comparisons:


– For those still clinging to the “Doh years”, including those two years would raise Herb’s winning percentage against UNC from 0% to 40%. If you find any solace in making that adjustment…then more power to you.

– Other than GT and Paul Hewitt, Herb only has two winning seasons against one of the top five coaches in the ACC…Gary Williams over the last two years. He has one winning season against Skippy, and none against K, Roy, or Al Skinner.


By and large, I expect State fans and grads to be “smarter than the average bear.” However, I am amazed that there are still people claiming that State’s basketball program has been improving over the last several years. Just barely sliding into the NCAA tournament every year does not constitute continuing improvement to me.

Here is a summary table I used in an earlier entry. If anyone has evidence of this alleged improvement that I have overlooked, please note it in the comments to this entry.



Much has been made in recent days about State’s miserable performance against UNC and Duke over the last several years. However, I believe that the problem runs much deeper. State has an absolutely horrid record against nearly any team that could possibly be considered “good”.

Is it any wonder that State has not won more than two games in any one NCAA tournament over the last five years? When you can’t beat “good” teams in the regular season, why in the world would you expect to beat the very best in the NCAA tournament? Those people that believe that just any team can get hot and make a big splash in the NCAA tournament are using the same kind of logic that drives people to “invest” in lottery tickets for their retirement. Over the last 12 years, only three teams ranked outside the RPI Top-25 have made the Final Four. Great teams get hot in the NCAA tournament and beat other great teams. Just like in the fairy tale, Cinderella usually stumbles and falls shortly after her big entrance.

Looking at the last five years, I don’t know anyway to conclude anything but the obvious….State ranks 5th in the ACC over the time period of interest. (Sixth if you magically transport BC into the conference for the entire period.) Teams have moved above and below State, but State is not moving up through the conference standings or any deeper than the first weekend in the NCAA tournament.

Right before the Iowa game, Ned Barnett wrote a piece in the N&O where he said that State fans were afraid that the basketball program “had stalled on pretty good.” Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could claim that it is only a fear…It looks like reality to me.

Part 2: Myths and Final Stats