Archive for Friday, January 13, 2012

It’s time for RPI to RIP

January 13, 2012


It never hurts to dream. Permanent world peace. Full employment. A shining sun every day. Last, but far from least, a Selection Sunday in which the acronym RPI never is mentioned and is not in any way a part of the process.

Administrators tend to like the Ratings Percentage Index because it gives them indirect but not insignificant influence over a team’s rating. Scheduling in such a way as to manipulate the RPI can be an art form. Avoid teams that figure to have super-low ratings, and try to identify beatable teams that should have higher RPIs.

It’s the worst of the computer rankings and puts far too much emphasis on strength of schedule.

For example, Kansas entered Wednesday night’s game in Lubbock against Texas Tech ranked 18th in the RPI.

KU played such suffocating defense for a 20-minute stretch that encompassed roughly the final third of the first half and the first two-thirds of the second half, it outscored the Red Raiders, 52-12, on the way to an 81-46 rout.

So, naturally, after a domination not often seen in Div. I conference play, the winning team dropped in the RPI, and the hammered one moved up. Kansas dropped from 18 to 25. Texas Tech, which couldn’t hit water if it fell out of a boat, to steal Tommy Lasorda’s line about Kurt Bevacqua, hit pay dirt in the RPI, soaring from 202 to 186.

The RPI enables selection committee members charged with such difficult decisions to hide behind their computer numbers. Take that distorted crutch away.

It’s not even close to the best resource available, if it’s necessary to bank on something other than common sense and extensive discussion. Sagarin (Kansas at No. 10), Sagarin predictor (Kansas No. 2) and (Kansas No. 2) are better computer rankings, the Associated Press poll (Kansas No. 10), the best of all.

Kansas and Baylor both will climb in the RPI next week, regardless of the outcome of their much-anticipated Monday night match-up in Allen Fieldhouse. They’ll be rewarded for nothing more than playing each other.

Anywhere but in the RPI, Kansas is a Top-10 team, despite losing four starters, two of whom were lottery picks.

KU is a Top-10 team, even though the point guard, Tyshawn Taylor, has had trouble securing the ball, averaging four turnovers per game, the shooting guard has had trouble shooting (.293 from three-point range) and the bench is the program’s weakest in decades.

It’s a testament to a winning culture that doesn’t accept the phrase “rebuilding year” and maintains lofty expectations regardless of how many stars have moved on, to Thomas Robinson playing as well as anyone in the country and to the exceptional team defense.

“As a team, I think that was a pretty good defensive effort,” Taylor said after the Tech rout. “Justin Wesley came off the bench and played amazing defense. Jeff (Withey) was in there blocking shots and making their guards and their bigs have tough shots. Thomas as well. I think defensively we did a pretty good job.”

Especially for a team ranked no better than 25th in the nation, according to the computer ranking that needs to rest in peace.


Jayhawk1963 6 years ago

Sorry, Tom, you're only half right. While I agree that the RPI figures are a joke, Sagarin's work is THE standard for an UNBIASED ranking of teams. The AP rankings come from sportswriters, some of the most biased people on the planet!!! Blair Kerkhoff of the Star is the only one I would trust (& you too, of course). The coaches poll is no better; I'm sure good ole Norm Stewart would be eminently fair (?) when it came to ranking KU in anything, right??? Now, of course, I have COMPLETE confidence in Bill Self's judgment. See how this works? And where do you get this "extensive discussion" nonsense? Numerous coaches in the past have said that they dump this task off on one of their assistants (or maybe even the student manager)!

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