Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Completely Irrelevant RPI Data (To the Pollsters) 2-26-08

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. And as always, do not miss Goro’s Rants.

The Hall of Shame

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

#1 Stanford 22-4 P10 (8,8, 21) +13

After several weeks stuck at the #3 spot, Stanford vaults into the top spot in this weeks’ Hall of Shame after its pedestrian home win against a pedestrian California team was rewarded with a CLIMB in the rankings. 4-1 versus the top 50 and 10-4 versus the top 100 looks good, until one considers the patsies which Stanford lined up for home consumption, yielding them the #284 Strength of Schedule out of 341 teams: #179 Yale; #182 Santa Clara; #199 Northwestern State; #220 Fresno State; #258 Colorado State; #309 Harvard. They rounded this off with #335 Sacramento State, a 4-22 team whose best win came by one point, at home, against #196 Montana State. Sorry Stanford, you are not top 10 material, and could very well go 2-2 or even 1-3 in the run up to the Pac 10 tournament.

#2 Purdue 21-6 B10 (16,19, 30) +12.5

Purdue maintains its #2 spot in the Hall of Shame this week after managing to keep its spot in the top 20 after losing on the road to an excellent Indiana team which was, however, in a tad bit of turmoil. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The Big 10 just is not that good this year. Beyond a couple wins against Texas, Big 10 teams had a distinctly undistinguished out of conference record, and Purdue is a classic example. Not only was Purdue defeated by #138 Iowa State on a neutral court, but they also lost AT HOME to #185 Wofford.

#3 Gonzaga 21-6 WCC (24,27, 33) +7.5

So where has Gonzaga been all season? Losing to all of the significant opposition it has faced since December 1, while racking up the victories versus the creampuffs. Apparently four straight wins against opposition with an average RPI of 213 was deemed sufficient to gain Gonzaga a ranking. QUE!?!? At some point the afterglow from the Elite 8 run NINE years ago needs to wear off. . .

#4-T Indiana 23-4 B10 (12,12, 19) +7

A good home against Purdue improved Indiana’s RPI more than its ranking this week, so Indiana is now in danger of falling out of the Hall of Shame entirely. We will have to see whether they are deserving. Tonight’s game against Ohio State and the tilt with Michigan State on Saturday will tell the tale. Can a Sampson-less Indiana take out top opposition?

#4-T Saint Mary’s 23-4 WCC (25,23, 31) +7

St. Mary’s joins the Hall of Shame this week after a HOME loss to Kent State was not rewarded as it should have been – by St. Mary’s dropping out of the rankings. Since knocking out Drake (at home) in the second game of the season, St. Mary’s has twice faced good opposition (at home). The results have been a squeaker of an overtime win against Gonzaga, and the loss to Kent State. St. Mary’s is not top 25 material.

Dropped from rankings:
Texas A&M (now unranked); Butler +4.5

The House of Pain

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

#1 Arizona 17-10 P10 (33,31, 16) -16

Despite maintaining its position at the top of the House of Pain, Arizona once again did itself no favors this week by losing on the road at Washington (RPI #120). They then followed this up by win on the road at RANKED Washington State. QUE!?!? ESPN has ‘Judgment Week’ correct in this case. Wins against USC and UCLA would deservedly vault Arizona into the rankings. Losses could leave Arizona as the highest RPI team to be left out of the tournament.

#2 Drake 24-3 MVC (20,20, 11) –9

Like Arizona, Drake had a yo-yo of a week. They lost by a point at home to a solid but unspectacular Bradley team, and followed that up with a successful commando raid on Hinkle Fieldhouse. While Drake deserves to be somewhere in the top 20, it is unclear WHERE in the top 20 they should be. They should NOT, however, be 6.5 slots behind Butler, a team with an identical number of losses and three FEWER quality wins. Especially when you just beat them on their home court.

#3 South Alabama 23-5 Sun Belt (31,33, 24) –8

Welcome, South Alabama, to the ranks of one of the top teams in the country outside the BCS leagues. Expect to be under-appreciated. Expect to be under-ranked. Expect to be under-seeded. Expect to have what is looking to be a 25+ win season ignored. That is, until you surprise someone with a Sweet Sixteen run. Snap to it!

#4-T Vanderbilt 23-4 SEC (18,14, 10) –6

The coaches (I mean their secretaries) have nearly got Vanderbilt right. The AP pollsters are still lagging behind. With three tough games coming up, we will see who is correct about this exceptional but under-appreciated team, who are still recovering, in the perceptions game, from a mid-season slump.

#4-T Clemson 19-7 ACC (28,30, 23) –6

Despite an away loss this past week to Florida State this past week, Clemson dropped only from a total of 43 to a total of 35 votes in the two polls combined this week. The #3 and #4 RPI teams in the ACC, Miami and Clemson, are both good. The winner of tomorrow’s matchup should find themselves ranked come next Monday.

Dropped from Rankings: Dayton (out of RPI top 25); Marquette -4

Average Conference (or State) Bias:

WCC: +7.3 (St. Mary’s, Gonzaga)
Teams from Indiana: +6.8 (Indiana, Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue)
Big 10: +5.3 (Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue)
Big 12: +.8 (Texas, Kansas)
Pac 10: +.5 (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Arizona)
Big East: -1.3 (Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Marquette)
All Others: -1.9 (Memphis, Xavier, Butler, Drake, Kent State, Brigham Young, South Alabama)
ACC: -3 (North Carolina, Duke, Miami, Clemson)
SEC: -3 (Tennessee, Vanderbilt)

The trend, once again, is towards less significant biases. The Big 12 essentially fell into line since the pollsters finally, and belatedly, realized that Kansas State and Texas A&M are not top 25 material. The Big 10 remains over-rated, and the Hoosier love-fest continues. With an over-rated Gonzaga joining an over-rated St. Mary’s in the rankings, the West Coast Conference now joins in the action as well.

Teams with closest correlation between ranking and RPI:

1-T. Tennessee, Texas, Washington State (+/-0)
4-T. Memphis, North Carolina, Brigham Young (-.5; +.5, -.5)

Teams included in analysis:

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

Tennessee 25-2 SEC; Memphis 26-1 CUSA; North Carolina 26-2 ACC; UCLA 24-3 P10; Texas 23-4 B12; Kansas 24-3 B12; Duke 23-3 ACC; Stanford 22-4 P10; Wisconsin 23-4 B10; Xavier 24-4 A10; Georgetown 22-4 BE; Indiana 23-4 B10; Butler 25-3 HORZ; Louisville 22-6 BE; Connecticut 21-6 BE; Vanderbilt 23-4 SEC; Michigan State 22-5 B10; Notre Dame 21-5 BE; Purdue 21-6 B10; Drake 24-3 MVC; Marquette 20-6 BE; Washington State 21-6 P10; Kent State 23-5 MAC; Saint Mary’s 23-4 WCC; Gonzaga 21-6 WCC; Brigham Young 21-6 MWC; Miami 19-7 ACC; Clemson 19-7 ACC; South Alabama 23-5 Sun Belt; Arizona 17-10 P10

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