The debate over the RPI’s use rages with heightened volume this season because there have never been more evaluation tools accessible to the general public, much less to the 10-member committee soon to be sequestered in an Indianapolis hotel.
Unlike when the RPI was introduced in the early 1980s, games flood television airwaves and statistics are readily available at the click of a mouse, providing countless opportunities to assess teams from leagues famous and obscure. And in a metric-crazed era that former Maryland coach Gary Williams once deemed the “Revenge of the Nerds,” more sophisticated ratings systems, in the eyes of many, have rendered the RPI antiquated and insufficient.
No one painted a more visual image of the RPI as a relic than Scott Van Pelt, the ESPN personality who, in calling it the worst metric in sports during a seven-minute radio rant, likened the reliance on the RPI to a man “walking around with a big Walkman on his hip the size of his toaster, who is flipping over his cassette tape, who wants to run home to program his VCR on his standard-definition television.”
The NCAA’s view of the RPI is conflicted. While examining potential NCAA tournament teams, selection committee members study team profiles that are broken down by victories over specific sub-groups of the RPI, such as wins over teams ranked in the top 50. At the same time, officials attempt to distance themselves from the RPI, saying they don’t rely on a team’s individual rating or a conference’s RPI and that they consider a handful of metrics.
What’s more, Jeff Hathaway, the selection committee chairman, said that how a team appears to the eye is “crucial,” adding that “we need to go beyond the numbers.”
RPI may not mean much for the top-line teams, but while top-ranked Kentucky and No. 2 Syracuse appear to have No. 1 seeds locked up, there are several schools jockeying for the final two spots behind them. As Eric Prisbell reports:
We are now less than one week away from Selection Sunday, so the picture of the NCAA tournament field is beginning to come into view. The Big Ten remains the strongest conference in the country from top to bottom, but the parity at the top of the league could very well cost it a No. 1 seed. After Ohio State beat Michigan State on Sunday, there is a three-way tie atop the standings as Ohio State, Michigan State andMichigan all have 13-5 league marks. Wisconsin finished just one game back at 12-6. Here’s a look at the No. 1 NCAA tournament seeds as of Monday: