Orion Sang Detroit Free Press
Published 4:16 p.m. UTC Aug 22, 2018
Goodbye, RPI, hello … NET?
The NCAA announced Wednesday morning that it has developed a new ranking system for evaluating Division I men’s basketball teams. The rating percentage index (RPI), which has been used since 1981 to help the selection committee pick which teams advance to the NCAA tournament, will now be replaced be the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET).
NET will rely “on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses,” according to an NCAA released statement. “To make sense of team performance data, late-season games (including from the NCAA tournament) were used as test sets to develop a ranking model leveraging machine learning techniques. The model, which used team performance data to predict the outcome of games in test sets, was optimized until it was as accurate as possible. The resulting model is the one that will be used as the NET going forward.”
Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, said in the statement: “What has been developed is a contemporary method of looking at teams analytically, using results-based and predictive metrics that will assist the Men’s Basketball Committee as it reviews games throughout the season. While no perfect rankings exist, using the results of past tournaments will help ensure that the rankings are built on an objective source of truth.”
The creation of NET is more evidence that the selection committee is tinkering with how it evaluates teams. Just last year, a quadrant system was added to sort games into different levels of difficulty and quality, with a bigger emphasis on away games. According to the NCAA, the quadrant system will still be used.
The RPI was comprised of three different factors: the team’s Division I winning percentage formed 25 percent, the Division I winning percentage of the team’s opponents formed 50 percent (and also served as the team’s schedule strength) and the Division I winning percentage of the team’s opponents’ opponents formed 25 percent. One notable difference between RPI and NET is the inclusion of margin of victory (presumably what the NCAA calls “scoring margin”) in NET, which will be capped at 10 points.
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