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So Long, Farewell to the RPI

Selection Sunday just got better!

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Notre Dame vs Mississippi State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

For a very, very long time — decades really — college basketball fans everywhere have scratched their heads at just how exactly teams are selected and seeded for the NCAA Tournament. Before today, the 68-teams were primarily evaluated using RPI, a convoluted and extremely flawed ranking system that often confused what and what was not a quality win, how teams lost along with a teams strength of schedule.

Let us not forget, RPI was 25% winning percentage, 50% opponents winning percentage and the opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage. That may have been fine back in 1981, but that’s not nearly accurate enough for today’s day and age.

And, you know what, the NCAA agreed!

Enter in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or as it will be commonly referred from here on out as, NET.

What is NET exactly? Well for starters, it’s a singular metric that was partially built by Google, who consulted with the likes of KenPom and ESPN among others to see how they used results-based data. The NCAA hopes that NET will:

“...create a ranking system that was as accurate as possible while also evaluating team performance fairly. To ensure fairness, certain types of data were omitted from the model. Of key importance, game date and order were omitted to give equal importance to both early and late-season games. In addition, a cap of 10 points was applied to the winning margin to prevent rankings from encouraging unsportsmanlike play, such as needlessly running up the score in a game where the outcome was certain.”

What results based data will be used exactly? I’ll let Matt Norlander of CBS Sports take it from here:

Team value index. This is the most dominant feature, according to the NCAA, and it’s based on win-loss results (with strength of schedule also being an important component). Opponent faced will be an emphasis here.

Team efficiency. A team’s average efficiency (points scored and allowed per 100 possessions) on offense and defense will be taken into account, which introduces predictive elements into the process.

Wins. A team’s overall D-I winning percentage will play a not-insignificant part.

Adjusted winning percentage. This portion will reward teams for winning on the road, dock for losing at home, and balance out neutral-court performance. Opponents faced will not be factored here the way it is in the team value index.

Scoring margin. For the first time, teams will be officially evaluated based on how much they win a game by. The scoring margin is capped at 10 points. This is a big step, backed by data.

This is a huge development that will surely change the NCAA Tournament as we know it. Taking these aspects into consideration will allow the selection committee to take a more analytical approach to their processes by using more accurate results based and predictive metrics.

The best part about it, it seems, is that the NCAA will take on continuous feedback to enhance the metric as the years go by. They will also have a Google employee overseeing the entire process daily.

This is a big win for the NCAA, something that we couldn’t quite say two weeks ago.