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NCAA eliminates RPI, develops new metric for tournament selection

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RIP RPI.

The NCAA announced on Wednesday that they have eliminated the RPI as the primary sorting tool to be used during the NCAA tournament selection process.

This system was approved in late July and included input from not only the NABC and the Division I men’s basketball committee but “top basketball analytics experts” as well as Google Cloud Professional Services.

“What has been developed is a contemporary method of looking at teams analytically, using results-based and predictive metrics that will assist the Men’s Basketball Committee as it reviews games throughout the season,” said Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball for the NCAA. “While no perfect rankings exist, using the results of past tournaments will help ensure that the rankings are built on an objective source of truth.”

The new metric, which is called the NCAA Evaluation Tool (or NET), will rely on “game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses.”

There is a lot to take in here, and to avoid getting to into the weeds when it comes to the nerdy part of the analytics, this is what you need to know: This metric will be impacted both by the predictive nature of metrics like KenPom as well as purely results-based metrics like the RPI. The difference is subtle but important. Predictive metrics are generally based on things like efficiency and are not as impacted by something like a buzzer-beater going in and changing the outcome. Results-based metrics are, obviously, as they change the result of the game even if it shouldn’t impact how good you think either team is.

Why is it important to include both?

Because we want those buzzer-beaters to matter, right? That’s why it’s worth getting so excited when they go in. Winning needs to matter, otherwise there’s no point in playing the game. But losing a nail-biter is not the same as getting whipped by 25. That should matter, too. I’m glad both will be factored in.

It’s also worth noting here that while scoring margin is factored in, it’s impact will be capped at 10 points to prevent running up the score.

If there is one concerning element about this new metric, it’s that the NCAA is as of yet undecided on whether or not to peel back the current and show us how the sausage is made, so to speak. Gavitt told CBS Sports that the algorithm will be powered by artificial intelligence and that it will not be “readable”, and that should be mildly concerning. Even with the archaic formula for the RPI public, it took years to convince the NCAA that a new metric was needed. A public understanding of how the numbers that will play such a pivotal role in determining seeding and inclusion into the biggest sporting event in the United States should be of paramount importance for the NCAA.

And even if there is no precise formula that can be laid out, the inputs that will be used to create the model should be clearly and precisely defined. When one team is left out of the NCAA tournament because their NET is 20 spots lower than the last at-large team in the field, we need to know why it’s lower. Anything less than total transparency here is wrong.

College basketball coaches should have an understanding of the best way to put together a schedule to maximize their chance to get into the tournament. Smart coaches figured out how to game the RPI — don’t play teams with astronomically high RPIs, find all-reward-no-risk road games against elite (top 10 or 15) teams and load up on teams that should do well in the best mid-major leagues. This is their livelihood. They should be given the chance to schedule the right way.

I also believe that the NCAA should retroactively run NET on the past two or three seasons and compare the results to the teams that were put in and left out of the NCAA tournament field. Frankly, it would be silly not to. That’s the easiest way to figure out where there are bugs in the system, and it’s the best way for everyone to understand how this thing will play out.

They listened to us by eliminating the RPI as the metric used for sorting, and hopefully they’ll listen to me now.

Speaking of sorting, this is the second straight season where the NCAA has made a major change in the way that they determine tournament resumes. Last year, the standard of top 50 RPI wins was eliminated, instead reverting to a quadrant system than controlled for where the game was played. Put another way, a top 30 RPI win at home was equivalent to a top RPI 75 win on the road; both were labelled Quadrant 1 wins.

This year, the selection committee will use the same sorting method, only the groups will be based on NET, not the RPI. In other words, a top 30 NET win at home now equals a top 75 NET win on the road.

In addition, team sheets were also adjusted to include both predictive and results-based metrics that are commonplace in college basketball coverage, from KenPom and Sagarin rankings to the KPI and ESPN’s results-based metric, strength of record.

What will be fascinating is to see how all of this is going to impact the way that the brackets get put together. For the first time, I’m actually excited to see the first peak at the rankings, when the NCAA unveils the top four seed lines in mid-February.

“The NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee has had helpful metrics it has used over the years, and will continue to use the team sheets,” Gavitt said, “but those will now be sorted by the NCAA Evaluation Tool. As has always been the case, the committee won’t solely focus on metrics to select at-large teams and seed the field. There will always be a subjective element to the tournament selection process, too.”

Penny Hardaway starts coaching era of next career at Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — The months of back-slapping, congratulations and the lovefest for a returning favorite son are over. It’s time for Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers to get to work.

The former Memphis All-American and NBA All-Star tipped off his first camp on Tuesday. Hardaway was hired in March to breathe life into the stagnant program after a couple of pedestrian years under Tubby Smith. Hardaway said it’ll be great to go from four hours of practice a week to 20.

“I’m really anxious. I’m sure the boys are anxious,” Hardaway said. “We’re ready to get out there and get to work.”

This is the latest step in Hardaway’s inaugural season as a head coach at this level. He has brought a new enthusiasm to the program, which had become downtrodden in recent years. Since his hiring March 20, Hardaway has been the talk of Memphis appearing on television, giving speeches, throwing out first pitches, playing in golf tournaments and making other appearances to promote the program.

Hardaway, whose NBA career included stops in Orlando, Phoenix, with the New York Knicks and Miami, takes over a Memphis program that was 40-26 in the two years under Smith. Despite the winning record, the Tigers’ fan base dwindled with the team losing its traditional place in the city’s sports hierarchy.

The new coach has resurrected the lost excitement. Now he has to prove he can coach toe-to-toe in a league with the likes of Mick Cronin at Cincinnati and Gregg Marshall of Wichita State.

“I didn’t do it the traditional way of being an assistant first and then becoming a head coach,” Hardaway said. “I feel like I’ve paid attention to all the great coaches who have coached me.”

Hardaway plans to lean on his assistants including former teammate Tony Madlock, former NBA player Mike Miller and a former NBA head coach Sam Mitchell. He said he will rely on them, even if he doesn’t know just yet how much. He also plans to follow their advice because of their experience.

“I’m not the type of coach that feels like I know everything and ‘Don’t say anything to me.’ I’ll take their advice, and it’s up to me to make the final call,” Hardaway said.

For the opening day of practice, Hardaway rattled off a series of drills he wanted: weaves, 5-on-5 fast breaks, offensive and defensive drills. It’s all in the name of conditioning for the foundation Hardaway wants to allow him to have the Tigers running once the season opens.

“It’s a lot of running,” Hardaway said. “After practice, believe me, they’re going to go home and go to sleep.”

Four-star forward verbally commits to Ole Miss

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Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis has landed his second verbal commit in the Class of 2019, as four-star forward Antavion Collum made his pledge Tuesday afternoon.

The 6-foot-8 Collum, who chose Ole Miss over Florida State, Georgetown, Missouri and UNLV, joins 6-foot-9 power forward/center Rodney Howard in the Rebels’ 2019 class to date. A Memphis native who played both forward positions for the Team CP3 program on the Nike EYBL circuit, Collum made his pledge to Ole Miss less than two weeks after his official visit to the school.

Ole Miss will lose at least one scholarship player from its front court after the 2018-19 season, as Bruce Stevens is entering his senior season. Junior college transfers Brian Halums and Zach Naylor, redshirt junior Dominic Olejniczak and freshmen K.J. Buffen and Carlos Curry will all have eligibility remaining when Collum and Howard arrive on campus next summer.

Penn State, West Virginia set up hurricane relief exhibition

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Tuesday afternoon it was announced by Penn State and West Virginia that the two programs will meet in an exhibition that will benefit Hurricane Florence relief efforts. The exhibition will be played November 3 in Morgantown, with all proceeds being donated to the American Red Cross.

While the game won’t impact either team’s record, it is the first meeting between the Nittany Lions and Mountaineers since January 1991. At the time both schools were members of the Atlantic 10, with Penn State leaving to join the Big Ten that summer.

Ahead of the 2017-18 season there were numerous exhibitions matching Division I teams, a move that requires NCAA approval, in the name of charity. That’s certainly the most important aspect of these exhibitions, but it also gives coaches the chance to evaluate their players against similar competition as opposed to the standard preseason game against a Division II, III or NAIA opponent.

Teams also have the option of setting up scrimmages before the season begins, and those affairs cannot be viewed by the general public.

CBT Podcast: Breaking down our top 25, preseason All-Americans

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As the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk podcast returns, Rob Dauster was joined by Raphielle Johnson to breakdown the NBC Sports preseason top 25 and the preseason All-American teams that were released this week.

Here is a full rundown of today’s podcast:

OPEN: Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Gonzaga are the clear-cut preseason top four.

19:30: Which top ten team is the most likely to be a bust?

22:30: What should we do with Loyola-Chicago heading into 2018-19?

25:15: Washington vs. Oregon as the Pac-12’s best.

30:00: Which team outside the top 25 will get to the Final Four?

32:05: R.J. Barrett vs. Carsen Edwards for Preseason Player of the Year and Zion Williamson vs. Tyus Battle for 1st team All-America.

39:40: Kentucky is No. 2 but doesn’t have a player on our 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-America.

43:30: Who are the National Player of the Year sleepers?

No. 24 N.C. State Wolfpack: Can Kevin Keatts win without frontcourt?

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Every day at Noon ET, we will be releasing an in-depth preview of one member of our Preseason Top 25.

Today we dive into No. 24 N.C. State.


Kevin Keatts is in just his second season as the head coach of the Wolfpack but he’s already managed to more or less completely turn over a roster that had developed a reputation for completely underachieving.

Just two of N.C. State’s scholarship players were at N.C. State when Keatts was hired — point guard Markell Johnson and wing Torin Dorn. Of the 11 players that Keatts has landed, eight of them came via the transfer market, and Johnson is the only non-freshman on the roster that began his collegiate career in Raleigh.

Normally it takes three or four seasons before a new head coach is able to turn a roster over and get “his guys” into the program

With Keatts, it took him all of 18 months, and he already is coming off of a surprise trip to the 2018 NCAA tournament to boot.

The question that needs to be answered is this: Did Keatts simply find a way to get it done with the talent that Mark Gottfried let waste away on his roster last season?

Or is he just getting started?

MOREPreseason Top 25 | NBC Sports All-Americans | Preview Schedule

N.C. STATE WILL BE GOOD BECAUSE …

This team looks so much like the juggernauts that Keatts built at UNC Wilmington.

Prior to his move to Raleigh, Keatts spent three seasons with the Seahawks. He won at least a share of the CAA regular season title all three years, getting to the NCAA tournament twice where he lost by single-digits to ACC powerhouses Virginia and Duke.

Those UNCW teams were built around a certain style of play that isn’t all that dissimilar from what Shaka Smart did during his VCU days. UNCW wasn’t playing an all-out, gambling defense like Havoc, but they did defend full court and they did gamble for steals quite a bit and, most importantly, they were built around the idea that Keatts could play four guards at once, forcing enough turnovers with his pressure and creating enough mismatches on the offensive end that his team would win despite being outsized every time they stepped on the court.

Reading the tea leaves, it’s not hard to envision the Wolfpack doing something very similar this season. Of the 11 players that are eligible to play this year after it was announced that freshman Immanuel Bates will redshirt following shoulder surgery, seven of them are guards and two of their forwards are decidedly perimeter-oriented.

And that depth on the perimeter isn’t just bodies. They’re talented. Let’s start with Torin Dorn, the redshirt senior transfer from Charlotte that averaged 13.9 points last season. At 6-foot-5, I would not be surprised to see Dorn get quite a few minutes playing as a four for the Wolfpack; Keatts’ best teams at UNCW used Chris Flemmings, a 6-foot-5, 175-pound Division II transfer as their de-facto power forward, and he won himself a CAA Player of the Year award in the process.

Torin Dorn (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Along those same lines, I can see C.J. Bryce getting plenty of minutes alongside Dorn. Bryce, who also stands 6-foot-5, was a first-team all-CAA player as a sophomore at UNCW when he averaged 17.4 points. He followed Keatts to N.C. State and sat last season out as a redshirt.

Markell Johnson is in line for the starting point guard gig after leading the ACC in assists a season ago, and I would not be shocked to see him partnered with Braxton Beverly in the backcourt once again. Beverly started 26 games and averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 assists as a freshman after transferring into the program from Ohio State.

The reason I don’t think it is a guarantee that Beverly starts is due to the pieces that Keatts is bringing in around him. Eric Lockett is a graduate transfer from FIU that averaged 14.3 points and 6.5 boards last season. Devon Daniels is a redshirt sophomore that sat out last season after averaging 9.9 points as a freshman at Utah. Blake Harris, a former top 100 recruit, will be eligible immediately after transferring into N.C. State from Missouri, where he averaged 3.8 points before leaving the team in January.

Beverly has the inside track to a starting spot, but he is going to have to earn it, and that’s unequivocally a good thing if you are an N.C. State fan, because Beverly is a good player.

And that’s really what this comes down to for the Wolfpack.

Their guards are really good, there are a lot of them and if Keatts has proven anything during his coaching career, it’s that he can win with teams that have good guards.

RELATED: Expert Picks | CBT Podcast | Best non-conference games
Markell Johnson (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

BUT N.C. STATE IS GOING TO STRUGGLE BECAUSE …

There really is no frontcourt depth to speak of.

And while the guards are the players that have gotten all of the attention for Keatts’ best UNCW teams, the truth is that those teams had big men that were really good at doing what they needed to do to anchor that defense.

Neither C.J. Gettys nor Davontae Cacok put up stat lines that would ‘wow’ you, but they were really good at two things: Rebounding the ball and defending the rim.

I don’t know if there is a guy on this roster that can do those things. Wyatt Walker averaged 12.9 points and 9.7 boards for Samford back in 2016-17, but he dealt with a knee injury last season that limited him to just two games, and even then, he’s 6-foot-9 and had just 56 blocks in two-plus years. D.J. Funderburk is 6-foot-10, but he weighs just 210 pounds and is much more of a wing than he is a post. Put another way, he averaged just 4.4 boards in Junior College last season. Ian Steere is a good player but he’s not exactly a game-changing recruit; you don’t want him anchoring the frontcourt as a freshman.

The cruel irony is that Immanuel Bates might have been the guy that could help fill that void, but he’s going to redshirt to recover from his shoulder surgery, and even when healthy, he, like Steere, is not necessarily someone you want to rely on for more than some minutes off the bench.

This is an issue for a couple of reasons:

  1. When you play a gambling style of defense, having someone that can erase shots at the rim is so important. The offense is far more likely to be able to get to the rim, and making it just that much more difficult for those layups to be scored makes all the difference.
  2. N.C. State is already going to be playing small, which inherently hinders them on the glass. Having a big man on the floor that can vacuum up caroms on the defensive end helps to end possessions. As the saying goes, forcing a miss only matters if you get rebound.

This is likely going to be an issue for this team all season long. The answer is less solving the problem and more finding a way to work around it.

Braxton Beverly (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

THE X-FACTOR

It really is incredible just how many new faces there are going to be on this roster.

Dorn and Johnson are the only players that have been in Raleigh for more than two years. Just five of the 13 players on scholarship have been on campus for one year, and three of those five transferred into the program and sat out last season as redshirts.

Put another way, there is a ton of experience on this roster, but they have very little experience actually playing with each other.

I’d love to be able to analyze this deeper, but it’s really simple: We don’t know how teams are going to come together until we see them, you know, come together.

Role allocation, role acceptance, understanding the plays, learning defensive assignments. These are the things that are going to determine if the Wolfpack hit their ceiling.

2018-19 OUTLOOK

And frankly, I think that ceiling is pretty high.

I am a believer in Kevin Keatts. I think he’s a terrific basketball coach and a guy that will find a way to get the most out of the talent that is on his roster, and there is plenty of talent on this roster. It is also the kind of roster makeup that Keatts has had success with in the past.

That’s enough to look at this team and see a group that should make a return trip to the NCAA tournament and make a run at finishing fourth — behind Duke, Virginia and North Carolina — in the ACC.

But it’s hardly a guarantee.

Beyond the simple fact that we have no idea how this group is going to come together and the issues they have in the frontcourt, there are questions to be asked about whether or not this team has a go-to guy, or if the players that transferred into the program are anything more than role playing cast-offs from another program, or if the style that Keatts had success with in the CAA will work as well in the ACC.

N.C. State is going to be fun to follow this year precisely because of that fact.

We don’t really know what they are going to do this season. Hell, we don’t even really know what the starting lineup is going to be.

All we really know is they have talent on paper and one of the best young coaches in the league.

That’s a good combination of things to have.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

No. 25 Marquette