The NET ratings are out and Hogs basketball is ranked No. 24 in the country. Great! So… what are the NET ratings?
NOTHING BUT NET:
The NCAA Evaluation Tool replaced the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) last year as a way to determine the true strength of a college basketball team. I’m not a fan of the NCAA but, hey, you gotta give them credit for naming something that can easily be boiled down to a basketball related acronym.
The NET ratings are a “tool” that is used to help determine what teams get into March Madness and it takes a number of factors into account:
—Strength of schedule
—Opponents’ strength of schedule
—Where games are played
—Margin of victory
—Offensive and defensive efficiency
This is a reasonable enough basket (don’t pardon the pun, it was intentional) of factors.
College basketball rankings (NET)
No system is perfect and this one isn’t either Here’s where it breaks down:
First, as much as I like what Eric Musselman is doing in Fayetteville and how hard he has the team playing, I don’t think we’re the 23rd best team in the country. Here’s how the SEC ranks at this time.
—No. 8: Auburn
—No. 24: Arkansas
—No. 43: Tennessee
—No. 44: LSU
—No. 48: Ole Miss
—No. 61: Florida
—No. 77: Kentucky
Come on. Is there anyone in the country who believes Kentucky’s rating should really be No. 77? Well, I know of two organizations that don’t. The Associated Press and USA Today. Kentucky’s #6 in both of those outlets’ polls. We’re not in the Top 25.
Sure, reasonable minds can disagree. But how to account for a No. 24 NET rating on one hand, and something in the No. 40 to No. 50 in the other polls? I think we should be somewhere in the high 30s/low 40s.
I’m also having a hard time figuring out how we’re rated 24th when the highest rated team we’ve played is South Dakota all the way down at No. 83. We even lost to Western Kentucky who is rated No 87. So, according to NET, not one of the first 10 teams we’ve played have even cracked the Top 80.
Those poor ratings alone should be enough to destroy our “strength of schedule” factor and pull us down significantly.
How College Basketball’s NET Works
SENSE OF STYLE:
The only explanation I can think of is that we have a high rating in the “margin of victory,” or “style points” category. It’s true that there is an, if you will, “stop loss” point where you don’t get credit for blowing out someone like Rice by nearly 50. That “stop loss” threshold is 10 points.
Having beaten 7 of our 10 opponents by more than 10 gives us high marks there. And, we’ve not only won by healthy margins, which includes holding our opponents to some very low numbers. Five of our opponents have scored less than 56 and three have not even reached 50. So, we probably get high marks for “defensive efficiency” as well. And, we did beat Georgia Tech on the road, so we can check that box too.
But, once again, according to the NET ratings we haven’t played anyone, so I’m a little baffled.
Think about it. If the NET was the sole determinant of a March Madness bid (it’s not) and if today were Selection Sunday, no one we’ve played so far would get in. We’d have about a #6 seed. Kentucky, meanwhile, would be on the bubble.
True, that was a total hypothetical, but it’s an indicator of a bit of frailty in the system. There’s almost no chance Hog basketball will be a No. 6 seed, if we even get in. And Kentucky isn’t about to be on the bubble anytime soon.
While I’m not a big fan of the NCAA, I’ll never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is probably an improvement over the RPI.
I have no doubt that the NCAA agrees with me because they never have any doubt about the decisions they make, right or wrong.
I assume a lot of these ratings will go through a course correction as the season progresses. We’ve got a long way to go until March. But, at least right now, the results of the system are profoundly off base.
I must admit the NCAA has done a good thing here by creating a more comprehensive system.
I’ll admit that in my first pass look at this system I thought the margin of victory was an unlimited number, which would encourage teams to run up the score, which is kind of un-sportsmanlike. I was wrong.
They put in the 10 point threshold for margin of victory so coaches would NOT run it up. So, good for them.
Furthermore, the NET is not the only factor that will go into the selection process. So if the numbers are profoundly off base at the end of the season, it can be corrected.
Whether the NET is perfect, good or bad, the Hogs will take care of themselves so long at they keep winning.