NCAA tournament 2012: Alternatives to using the RPI to find the best teams


Who’s No. 1? Or No. 2? That can depend on which rating system you trust. Above, Stanford’s Josh Owens has made up his mind. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)
March 4, 2012
How best to pick the best?

The NCAA tournament selection committee utilizes the Ratings Percentage Index to measure teams, a metric some consider outdated. A look at the RPI, and some alternatives:

RPI

Method: Team’s winning percentage (25 percent) + opponents’ winning percentage (50 percent) + opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (25 percent)

Team RPI loves: Southern Mississippi, No. 17 in the RPI as of Saturday. The Eagles were No. 53 in Sagarin’s ratings and No. 67 in Ken Pomeroy’s.

Ken Pomeroy

Method: According to Pomeroy’s Web site, his purely predictive ratings look at “who a team has beaten and how they have beaten them. . . . It likes a team that loses a lot of close games against strong opposition more than one that wins a lot of close games against weak opposition.” Pomeroy takes into account margin of victory and a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency ratings.

Team Pomeroy loves: Wisconsin, No. 7 in his ratings as of Saturday. The Badgers were 14th in Kenneth Massey’s ratings and No. 19 in RPI .

Jeff Sagarin

Method: Sagarin’s ratings are a synthesis of two formulas, one that measures wins and losses only and does not take victory margin into account, and one where margin of victory is included up to a point (blowout victories are diminished).

Team Sagarin loves: Virginia, No. 22 in his ratings as of Sunday. The Cavaliers were No. 41 in Joel Sokol’s ratings and No. 48 in the RPI.

Kenneth Massey

Method: Massey’s ratings value margin of victory (though high-scoring blowouts are diminished), road victories, late-season victories and wins over high-ranked teams.

Team Massey loves: Murray State, No. 16 in his ratings as of Saturday. The Racers were No. 24 in the RPI, No. 35 in Joel Sokol’s ratings and 47th in Pomeroy’s ratings.

Joel Sokol (LRMC)

Method: Sokol’s rankings “use only basic scoreboard data: which two teams played, whose court they played on, and what the margin of victory was.” Sokol also produces a separate set of ratings — for the NCAA’s benefit — that do not take into account margin of victory (Sokol contends those ratings are not as accurate).

Team Sokol loves: Belmont, No. 9 in his ratings that take into account victory margin as of Saturday. The Bruins were No. 25 in Pomeroy’s ratings, No. 33 in Sagarin’s ratings, No. 46 in Massey’s ratings and No. 59 in RPI.

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