Colgate’s high NET ranking seems to be an outlier: The Raiders received zero votes in the latest Associated Press top 25, and among the 30 rating systems audited by Kenneth Massey, which include the AP poll and the NCAA’s NET ratings, only four have Colgate in the top 10. Half of those 30 rating systems have the school ranked at 50th or worse.
So how has it cracked the code in the NET ratings, which are used by the NCAA tournament selection committee to evaluate and compare teams?
The NET now uses only two factors in its evaluation: team value index (TVI) and adjusted net efficiency rating. According to the NCAA, TVI is “a result-based feature that rewards teams for beating quality opponents, particularly away from home,” while adjusted net efficiency rating accounts for “strength of opponent and location across all games played.”
The first part is probably the cause of Colgate’s high NET rating. Because of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the Patriot League schedule, the Raiders have played only three teams: conference opponents Army (No. 123 in NET), Boston University (No. 187) and Holy Cross (No. 202). But in the Patriot League, only Army and Navy have played any nonconference opponents, posting a combined 7-2 record. Army beat Merchant Marine at home plus Central Connecticut and Buffalo on a neutral court, and it lost to Florida on a neutral court. Navy beat George Washington at home, Georgetown on the road and Mount Saint Mary’s on a neutral court while losing at Maryland. With such a small sample size of nonconference games, the Patriot League’s .778 winning percentage is gaudy enough to move Colgate up the ratings, even though the Raiders haven’t played any nonconference games.
Nothing else makes sense. Colgate isn’t a bad team, but it isn’t this good, either. The Raiders operate at a frenetic pace, averaging 73 possessions per 40 minutes, which ranked 18th nationally as of Monday. They make 38.4 percent of their three-pointers, ranking 16th nationally. Plus, only 14.4 percent of Colgate’s possessions end in a turnover, which ranks fifth nationally, and only top-ranked Gonzaga averages more points than Colgate’s 85.7. But Colgate has an adjusted net efficiency rating of plus-9.1, which ranks only 92nd in the nation. This means it scores 9.1 points more than it allows per 100 possessions.
Because the entire NCAA tournament will be held in the Indianapolis area, the selection committee will place teams in the bracket based on rankings without the usual considerations for geography using the “S-curve.” If Colgate finishes somewhere around No. 9 in the NET ratings — the Raiders have been in the top 20 since the first NET ratings were released in January — it could receive a higher seed than it deserves if it wins the Patriot League tournament.
Of course, the committee members also could seed Colgate appropriately based on the “eye test.” But first, the Raiders almost certainly will have to win the Patriot League tournament to receive an NCAA tournament bid. Colgate will open tournament play Saturday against Lehigh or Boston University.
And despite their gaudy NET rating, the Raiders are not the top seed. Navy, an appropriate No. 84 in the NET as of Monday, earned that honor after going unbeaten in Patriot League play.