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September 29, 2012

A fantastic piece by Luke Winn at that talks about the exploitable flaw in the RPI system. How it can be gamed, by numbers savvy coaches with their non-con to create a high RPI ranking without actually taking huge risks.

The NCAA tournament selection committee uses the RPI formula to assess teams’ non-conference strength of schedule (NCSOS). Two-thirds of RPI’s NCSOS is based on the raw winning percentages of a team’s opponents, and the other third is based on the raw winning percentages of opponents’ opponents. A team vying for an at-large NCAA tournament bid is best off having a respectable NCSOS rank and a number of wins over RPI top-25, top-50 or top-100 teams. While the selection committee has stated that RPI is just one of many tools it uses, the fact remains that schedule strength is viewed predominantly through the RPI’s lens.

The problem is that it’s a warped lens. Seventy-five percent of the RPI formula is about strength of schedule (SOS), and because the RPI uses the flawed metric of raw winning percentage to assess SOS, it fails to provide a true measure of the quality of opponents.

Here’s how that works. If you schedule decent to good mid- and low mid-majors. That is teams that can be expected to do well in their own conference, you puff up your own RPI because they end the year with 18 to 20+ wins. Even if most of those wins came in the MEAC or such.


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