March Madness by the numbers: Costs, profits, gamblers and traveling fans
“There was nothing more similar than the seedings and the RPI,” TCU’s coach said last week, smiling. “It always pretty much went by it [the RPI]. There may be some ups and downs because of leagues or couldn’t put guys in certain places, but it was definitely more reflective of the seedings, the RPI was, than the rankings or other things.”
Well, the RPI is a thing of the past. The NCAA is all-in on its new NET rankings, the latest formula it created to rank teams. And that, much like the RPI in previous years, will have a significant impact on this year’s NCAA Tournament.
“To be quite honest with you, I’m not looking at the RPI any more,” said Bernard Muir, Stanford’s athletics director who is also the chair of the men’s basketball committee.
“We, as a committee, have decided the RPI is kind of yesterday’s news. Now we have this new feature called the NET. That’s what we’re plugged into.”
The NET will be viewed well by some within the Big 12, and not by others.
The “bubble” teams in the Big 12 NET rankings are, as of Tuesday afternoon: Texas (35), Baylor (36), Oklahoma (39) and TCU (43). The RPI rankings, as of Tuesday: Texas (48), Baylor (54), Oklahoma (31) and TCU (40).
Clearly, Texas and Baylor are benefiting from the new system. Those two schools are almost locks with that high of NET rankings, whereas they’d be “bubble” teams if the RPI system is used.
Kansas, meanwhile, finds itself No. 2 in the RPI and No. 18 in NET. That’s the difference between being a one-seed or, let’s say, a four-seed in the tournament.
Those rankings will have a big-time impact on seeding and berths and, thus, a big-time impact on the tournament.
In Kansas’ case, a one-seed has a 40 percent chance to reach the Final Four compared to a four-seed having less than 10 percent chance, according to BetFirm.com.
TCU, before its loss at Oklahoma State on Monday, had been projected as an eight- or nine-seed in a couple brackets. That’s an unenviable spot as the winner faces a one-seed with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
The percentage of an eight- or nine-seed reaching the Sweet 16 is less than 10 percent. A seven-seed, though, sees its Sweet 16 odds increase to 18.9 percent, according to BetFirm.com.
Being over- or under-seeded makes a noticeable impact in a tournament known for upsets and Cinderellas.
Muir added that the NET is “just one tool” the committee has at its disposal in handing out seeds and berths. The eye test is a tool at everyone’s disposal, of course.
But, if the NET rankings serve much like the RPI in previous years, whether the committee says so or not, it’ll impact the Big Dance.
For now, the NET rankings haven’t created too much drama. Come Selection Sunday, when a team that feels its deserving of a bid is snubbed, or a team is drastically over- or under-seeded, it’ll be a different story.
Much like the first year of the 2014 College Football Playoff when TCU saw a blueblood, Ohio State, jump past it in the final rankings.
“They’re trying to build it up just like how football works,” Dixon said. “They’re trying to do that with basketball, getting their own unveiling and getting coverage. People are watching and talking about it … that’s what they want.”