Earlier this year I made the mistake of allowing myself to get sucked into a ‘hypothetical’ conversation about NC State’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament. At the time our Wolfpack was tracking in the 30s and 40s of the RPI and I was trying to use facts and statistics to de-bunk ridiculous statements and incorrect conclusions being spread on the internet by your typical nameless, faceless, uninformed fan.
The focus of my analysis was focused on identifying correllations between certain RPI ratings and NCAA Tournament berths for programs like that of NC State who play in major conferences. Despite the annual flood of public statements from NCAA Tournament Committee members that the RPI is ‘just a tool’ and represents only ‘one datapoint’, the results of my analysis yielded a pretty simple set of rules and parameters that continued to hold true to form in this year’s NCAA Tournament selections.
Therefore, I am logging this entry – updated for the 2008 Tournament – so that we can refer to these trends and analyses in the future to help squelch the misinformation and false conclusions that invariably arise when uneducated and inexperienced people get a hold of a keyboard and log on to the internet.
Here goes —
In the last EIGHT YEARS:
Only twelve teams with RPIs of 40 or better have failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Therefore, 320 teams have finished in the Top 40 of the RPI and 308 of those teams have played in the NCAA Tournament in those years.
Additionally, EVERY team from a major conference who achieved an RPI of better than #38 has been extended an NCAA Tournament bid.
Of the 12 teams that finished in the Top 40 and failed to earn an NCAAT berth, only three teams played in the top power conferences of the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-10, Big Twelve. Those situations of those three schools who missed were as follows:
* In 2001 – #40 Mississippi State was 16-12 and 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Bulldogs were 3-8 vs the Top 50 and 7-11 against the Top 100. They played the 50th ranked OOC SOS.
* In 2004 – #38 LSU was 18-10 and only 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Tigers were 6-6 vs the Top 50 and 9-9 against the Top 100. They played the 121st ranked OOC SOS.
* In 2006 – #40 Cincinnati was 18-12 and 5-5 in their last 10 games but were mired in the national turmoil of the Bob Huggins debacle. The Bearcats were 4-8 vs the Top 50 and 11-11 against the Top 100. They played the 22nd ranked OOC SOS.
Eight of the remaining nine teams that missed the NCAAT with RPIs of 40 or better were as follows: Dayton (08), Illinois State (08), Hofstra, Missouri State (twice), Bradley and Air Force and Creighton. Hardly big names that would correlate to an ACC program.
Conversely, the worst RPI rating to secure an at large bid was to #70 Air Force in 2004 who finished the season 22-6 with a 3-1 record against the Top 50 and who finished the season 7-3. Additionally, America had entered into war at the same time that this service academy was given the bid.
Including Air Force in 2004, only six programs have earned at large berth’s with RPIs of 60 or worse and only Air Force has earned a berth with an RPI worse than #65. Those programs are as follows:
* In 2002 – #64 Wyoming was 20-8 overall; 5-4 vs the Top 50; and 7-3 in L10 while playing the 300th ranked OOC SOS.
* In 2004 – #60 Washington was 19-11 overall; 4-4 vs the Top 50; and 8-2 in L10 while playing the 151st ranked OOC SOS.
* In 2005 – #63 Iowa State was 18-11 overall; 4-5 vs the Top 50; and 7-3 in L10 while playing the 201st ranked OOC SOS.
* In 2005 – #65 NC State was 19-13 overall; 4-8 vs the Top 50; and 6-4 in L10 while playing the 259th ranked OOC SOS.
* In 2007 – #65 Stanford was 18-12 overall; 4-8 vs the Top 50; 4-6 in L10 while playing the 116th ranked OOC SOS.
Parting Comments: For the record, I HATE the RPI. It is exactly the type of simplistic and shallow tool that you would expect from the NCAA. But, for the NCAA to try to tell the public that they don’t use it is absurd. THEY CREATED IT! The only reason the RPI exists is because the NCAA created it to use it. Now they tell people that they don’t use it? If that were the case it wouldn’t exist and nobody would talk about it because it is a seriously flawed tool.
Regardless of our feelings about the tool, we have to watch it because of the excessively strong historical correllation between RPI and NCAA Tournament berths and seedings.