Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Completely Irrelevant RPI Data (To the Pollsters) 2-19-08

So, who does better in determining the strength of teams? Sports writers? The secretaries for college basketball coaches? The RPI? Completely Irrelevant RPI Data is here to help you decide.

The Hall of Shame

[Team Record Conference (AP ranking, Espn/USA ranking, RPI ranking) Difference between poll average and RPI]

#1 Texas A&M 20-5 B12 (22,22, 39) +17

The already overrated Aggies vault into the #1 spot in this weeks’ Hall of Shame after an inexcusable HOME loss to an unexceptional Oklahoma State team was only penalized by a six spot drop in the polls. The only thing keeping them in the polls would seem to be what should be a long-forgotten home win against Texas. The Aggies Strength of Schedule stands at #207, and their OOC schedule included home wins against the following powerhouse teams: #224 McNeese State; #261 Florida A&M; #269 Texas State; #270 Rice; #286 Detroit; #292 Arkansas Pine Bluff; Non-DI Ouchita Baptist.

#2 Purdue 21-5 B10 (14,15, 28) +13.5

Purdue drops to a distant second in this weeks’ Hall of Shame. To a certain extent the win against Michigan State illustrates that they are growing into their ranking, but I will say it again. 12-1 in the Big 10 this year is not saying a lot. This is best illustrated by the fact that Purdue lost to #124 Iowa State on a neutral court, and lost AT HOME to #167 Wofford. Furthermore, Purdue’s Strength of Schedule stands at #236, and they lined up 6 RPI 232+ patsies at home.

#3 Stanford 21-4 P10 (9,9, 20) +11

Stanford squeaked out a one-point win on the road this week, at Arizona. But this is the bottom line. Top 10 teams WIN their games on the road against unexceptional opposition like Arizona State. A Strength of Schedule of #283, and OOC home wins against 8 RPI 203+ opponents could be forgiven. For a team ranked 16+.

#4 Butler 24-2 Horz (8,8, 18) +10

After a week on the sidelines, Butler re-joins the Hall of Shame after seeing their ranking rise again on the strength of defeating two teams that ANY team in the top 25 should have no problems with. Their over-ranking is best illustrated by comparison with fellow ‘mid-major’ Drake, which has an identical record but is ranked at an average of #17 this week. Both teams have six top 100 wins, in very similar ranges (Butler 47,55,67,72,84,87; Drake 53,53,55,70,70,86). The only significant differences in their resumes comes in Strength of Schedule, in which Drake is far superior at #85 as opposed to #161. The idiocy of the pollsters is however, best illustrated by the fact that Drakes two losses came against teams that are at #27 and #55 in the RPI while Butler’s two losses came against teams #64 and #84 in the RPI. In any case, we will get to see which is the better team when they play on Saturday.

#5 Indiana 21-4 B10 (15,14, 23) +8.5

With their RPI improving as a result of splitting two home games against tough opponents, and their poll rankings degrading as a result of splitting two home games against tough opponents (which, of course, makes complete sense) Indiana (the team) barely remains in this weeks Hall of Shame, although the Indiana (the state) bias is still very much in evidence. Frankly, however, I am now nearly comfortable with Indiana’s ranking.

Dropped from Rankings: Kansas State +5.5

The House of Pain

[Team Record Conference (AP ranking, Espn/USA ranking, RPI ranking) Difference between poll average and RPI]

#1 Arizona 15-9 P10 (30,33, 17) –14.5

In a week when they once again did itself no favors, this time by losing at home against Stanford, Arizona ‘improves’ to take the top spot in the House of Pain. Shockingly enough, Arizona is now in danger of finding itself on the bubble come selection Sunday, as their record now stands at 6-6 in the Pac 10. They really need to win 4 of their last 6 regular season games to be comfortable, despite the lofty RPI and the #1 Strength of Schedule in the country.

#2 Dayton 17-7 A10 (NR,NR, 24) -13

To tell you the truth, I am a bit sick of talking about a Dayton team which does not belong anywhere near the top 25 after dropping six of their last nine games. Winning 4 of their last five MIGHT still get Dayton into the tournament, but it is more likely that they will be the highest RPI team to be deservedly left out of the NCAA tournament.

#3-T Marquette 18-6 BE (25,24, 16) –8.5

After a week in which Marquette demolished a decent Seton Hall team, and soundly defeated an excellent Pittsburgh team, it is unclear why a team with a robust Strength of Schedule (#12) and fewer patsies on their schedule than normal is not sniffing the top 20.

#3-T Clemson 19-6 ACC (28,31, 21) –8.5

I argued last week that Clemson did not quite deserve a ranking. This week, I would have put them in my top 25. They are 4-1 during February, with the only loss coming in Double Overtime AT North Carolina. The pollsters are taking notice as well. Clemson went from 7 votes to 43 votes combined over the past week.

#5-T Drake 23-2 MVC (16,18, 9) –8 [See above under Butler]

#5-T Vanderbilt 22-4 SEC (20,16, 10) –8

Slowly and surely, but belatedly, the Pollsters are beginning to realize that Vanderbilt is one of the top teams in the country. The crazy thing is that it took Vanderbilt handing Kentucky its worse ever loss (93-52) in SEC play to get them to take notice. After going 5-0 in February it is clear that Vandy’s mid-season slump was just a mid-season slump.

Dropped from rankings: Mississippi (out of RPI top 25)

Average Conference (or State) bias:

Teams from Indiana: +9 (Butler, Purdue, Indiana, Notre Dame)
Big 12: +5.5 (Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State)
Big 10: +5.1 (Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State)
All Others: +2.1 (Memphis, Butler, Drake, Saint Mary’s)
Pac 10: +.4 (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Arizona)
ACC: -3 (North Carolina, Duke, Clemson)
Big East: -3.7 (Georgetown, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Marquette, Pittsburgh)
SEC: -4.5 (Tennessee, Vanderbilt)
Atlantic 10: -6.5 (Xavier, Dayton)

The overall biases are slowly restricting as the end of the season approaches, although the overall pattern remains: the Atlantic 10 is still not being taken seriously, and the pollsters continue to serve up Hoosier love.

Teams with the closest correlation between ranking and RPI:

1. Xavier (+/-0)
2. Kansas (+.5)
3-T. Memphis, Tennessee, North Carolina, UCLA, Texas, Connecticut (+1; -1; +1; +1; -1; -1)

Teams included in analysis:

[Any team in the top 25 of the AP Poll, the Coaches Poll, or the RPI.]

Memphis 25-0 CUSA; Tennessee 23-2 SEC; North Carolina 24-2 ACC; Kansas 24-2 B12;
Duke 22-2 ACC; UCLA 22-3 P10; Texas 21-4 B12; Butler 24-2 Horz; Stanford 21-4 P10;
Wisconsin 21-4 B10; Xavier 21-4 A10; Georgetown 20-4 BE; Connecticut 20-5 BE; Purdue 21-5 B10; Indiana 21-4 B10; Drake 23-2 MVC; Vanderbilt 22-4 SEC; Washington State 20-5 P10; Michigan State 20-5 B10; Louisville 20-6 BE; Notre Dame 19-5 BE; Saint Mary’s 22-3 WCC; Texas A&M 20-5 B12; Kansas State 18-6 B12; Marquette 18-6 BE; Pittsburgh 19-6 BE; Clemson 19-6 ACC; Arizona 15-9 P10; Dayton 17-7 A10.

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