Weâ€™re two weeks into the ACC season, so I thought that I would take a look and see how the conference is shaping up since entering league play. But before we get to that, Iâ€™m going to make a valiant effort to explain what is going on with the â€œnumbersâ€ used in these updates and what they mean.

RPI PRIMER

Many peopleâ€™s eyes roll back in their head whenever someone mentions RPI. But Iâ€™m going to mostly skip the math and give a 50,000 ft explanation for what is going on and why it matters.

The RPI formula is just a compilation of winning percentages:

(Factor A) x your winning percentage +

(Factor B) x opponentsâ€™ winning percentage +

(Factor C) x opponentsâ€™ opponentsâ€™ winning percentage

= RPI

Note that the teamâ€™s winning percentage is adjusted for home and away games, but this is not really that important for our purposes here. So just looking at that simple formula, we see that:

When you win, your RPI goes up.

When you play winning teams, your RPI goes up.

Pretty simple, yes?

Now one of the parts that confuses people is that the number you actually see published and discussed is the RANKING of this RPI for all 300+ basketball teams in Division I. So how a given game affects your RANKING will depend on WHO you played, WHETHER you won or lost, and HOW everyone around you in the rankings did as well.

So my advice is not to get wrapped up in discussions of how much a win (or loss) affected your ranking and why that was different than what happened the week before. RPI calculations havenâ€™t changed the obvious truth that winning is good and losing is bad. RPI is simply a way to quantify how good or how bad.

SO WHY DOES THE RPI MATTER?

In my opinion (humble, but accurate), the confusion among fans starts with clueless talking heads in the main-stream media ranting about things that they wonâ€™t bother to study. The NCAA Selection Committee developed (and have modified) the RPI formula to HELP them pick the at-large bids and to seed the teams in the NCAAT formula. The RPI is not analogous to the BCS calculations in that the RPI ranking is not blindly followed. It is simply a tool to aid in the selection process.

We have been studying the selection process over the last five years here and worked on developing some quick and easy-to-follow guidelines for evaluating the ACC with respect to probability of being selected in the NCAAT. For these in-season updates, I use the following guidelines based on our previous work:

Top 40 RPI and min of 0.500 ACC Record = IN

RPI Ranking >75 = OUT

Everything Else = BUBBLE

In the last update just before the ACCT, we will scrutinize the teams more closely than is warranted for these quick updates. So hereâ€™s where the ACC teams currently stand:

Rankings from CBS Sports

OBSERVATIONS

– When comparing to our first look this year, Miami is this weekâ€™s big loser. As they continue to lose conference games, their RPI has dropped them onto the bubble.

– Over the last two weeks, VT and FSU have managed to climb up on the Bubble.

– All six teams IN or on the Bubble have at least one Top-50 win (which is good). Five of the six teams have a Top-25 win (which is really good).

-As teams move up and down in the RPI rankings, the opponents ranking columns will obviously change, sometimes dramatically. Two weeks ago, Duke had six top-50 wins. Now they only have three.

– For some time, George Mason has been Stateâ€™s best win. Over the last couple of weeks, theyâ€™ve been moving back and forth across that Top 50 line. As of this morning, they were ranked 40th.

– If anyone is interested in what it would take to move from our OUT category and earn a spot in the NCCAT, we have previously looked at what it takes to dig out of a hole with two examples of ACC teams that managed to turn their seasons around and make the NCAAT.

THE EFFECT OF AN ACC SCHEDULE ON A TEAMâ€™S SOS

At the last update, there were a number of comments speculating on the effect that an obviously down ACC would have on the teamâ€™s strength of schedule (which is calculated using the last two lines of the RPI formula discussed above). So I thought that I would do something new and graph the ACCâ€™s RPI ranking from 1-12 and then compare with the update from two weeks ago.

Hereâ€™s my interpretation of this graph.

– Even though the ACC is down, most of the 31 conferences are still weaker than the ACC. Thus just playing an ACC schedule improves a teamâ€™s SOS and we see an RPI increase on every team from 5th place through 12th.

– For every team that moves up in a ranking, at least one team must move down. So the mid and low majors must be mostly moving down from their SOS declining as the ACC (and other top basketball conferences) are moving up.

– There is no need to really beat this issue to death. I just thought that it was interesting to see how much two weeks of league play affected the RPI rankings.

CONCLUSIONS

I donâ€™tâ€™ follow the brackets that various people have been putting up since last April. If you follow these brackets, then share that info with the rest of us in the comments.

My guess is that a best-case scenario for the rest of the season would put 5 ACC teams into the NCAAT.

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

### 10 Responses to ACC Basketball Update (1-21)

1. Rick 01/21/2011 at 5:07 PM #

Good article.
Any idea, how much we can expect the RPI to improve?

2. wufpup76 01/21/2011 at 6:15 PM #

Sending five is possible, b/c the ACC is not the only sucky conference. I’d be a bit surprised, but too early to tell. We should have a much clearer vision in a couple of weeks.

3. VaWolf82 01/21/2011 at 6:32 PM #

Any idea, how much we can expect the RPI to improve?

None whatsoever. My expectation is that the improvement will level off and plateau. The questions are whether or not this expectation is correct and if so, then when will it level off?

4. CaptainCraptacular 01/21/2011 at 7:02 PM #

I find that my interest in the RPI and sites like kenpom.com is directly correlated with how well State is doing against relative ‘expectations’.

I don’t know how you summoned the enthusiasm needed to produce this piece. I have visited kenpom a total of one time since the start of the season, and that was just prior to the loss against Georgetown after the win against Mason. Like others have mentioned in the TV thread, I am suffering from a bad bout of yet another year of mediocrity exhaustion.

5. tobaccordshow 01/21/2011 at 10:49 PM #

The title: ACC Basketball Update (1-21)

I thought 1-21 was our ACC end of year record projection. Might be accurate.

6. choppack1 01/21/2011 at 11:02 PM #

So, our magic # is 10 games – right? Then, maybe, we’ll be on the bubble.

I’ll be interested to see what happens though. We played w/ some vs. Duke in the 2nd half, if we play hard, we can actually win some games and make it interesting. I’m not giving on, but I know what the odds are that we’ll make that run.

7. tuckerdorm1983 01/22/2011 at 12:08 AM #

why can’t we play wake forest every week??

8. waxhaw 01/22/2011 at 9:33 AM #

It won’t matter unless we can win our way to the bubble, but I’d love to see some discussion (facts) about bubble teams getting in/left out with major injuries during the season.

We always hear that injuries are considered. I can’t remember any examples where it made a difference but feel certain there are several out there. If we start doing well, and I was Debbe Yow, I’d crunch our RPI with and without Tracy Smith and send it to everyone on the committee.

Our upcoming schedule is significantly easier than the last few weeks. Bascially, it’s time to capitalize or Sid is going to be looking for employment.

9. VaWolf82 01/22/2011 at 11:18 AM #

Injury analysis might be interesting, but it would be difficult/impossible to come up with a complete set of raw data.

I do remember that several years ago Arizona was picked and ASU was left home even though ASU won the head-to-head games. Someone from the Selection Committee justified Arizona’s inclusion because of an early season injury and a ridiculously difficult OOC schedule. (I’m sure that I discussed this in one of my post-selection review entries.)

There was one other case that I rememer (but not the team) where the star on a bubble team was hurt and couldn’t play in the post-season. This team was left out because of the injury.

But w.r.t. to State and Tracy Smith’s injury, I don’t think that it will matter at all. State won nothing without him and has yet to win anything with him. Losses to FSU and BC suggest that State’s record wouldn’t be any different even if he had been available all season.

10. ryebread 01/23/2011 at 10:44 AM #

At the smell test level, the ACC seems like a four bid league to me — Duke, FSU, UNC and either BC or VT. If BC didn’t have the two Ivy League losses, I’d say they were very solidly in (smell test).

I think based on the numbers, we’ll probably get five in. Outside of the Big East (which is possibly getting like 9-10 teams in) and the Big 10 (I’d put that at 6) and the Big 12 (looking at 6), there’s not a lot of depth out there in college basketball this year. Most conferences have 1-3 good teams and a lot of mediocre ones (ACC, PAC 10 and SEC are all this way).

As for the injury nod, with the way VT is playing right now, I think they get that from the ACC. They had hurt players and still managed to get some wins. Whether they’ll be able to continue their current push remains to be seen.

I also wouldn’t sleep on MD. Right now there’s absolutely no way they should get in. Their blown 17 point second half lead against Nova was their last real chance for a signature win (which they definitely need). I’ll never count out Gary though.

In a way, Kyrie’s toe is a blessing for the league from a bids perspective. Duke was going to the tournament either way, so that doesn’t really change things. Duke is now very beatable on any given night and gives the league teams a chance to get a victory against a top 10 team. It does hurt the league because Duke is no longer Final Four caliber and could flush out as early as the Sweet 16 (as the only ACC team advancing that far). I’m actually hoping they get Kyrie back for the tournament.

I also like what Clemson has done playing their way on the bubble. I think that loss to USC will haunt them, but they’re definitely improving. Right now, I think we’ll lose our game with them. Wish we had Brownell as our coach.