When they NCAA announced last week they were doing away with RPI and ushering in the NET era, it was met nearly universally with praise.
That was largely a reflection of how little respect RPI endeavored after years of taking abuse for its outdated method and the NCAA tournament committee’s over-reliance upon it. So, really, when most applauded the NCAA’s move here, it was about what was going away, not what was replacing it.
And while NET is an improvement, there are some issues. As Rob Dauster noted here last week, keeping the formula a secret – and not running it back on previous years – is going to create issues.
Over at The Athletic, college basketball’s foremost analyst and rankings maven Ken Pomeroy went into even more detail on the issues of keeping the lid on the formula. Here’s what he wrote:
“With one season’s worth of data, we’ll have no way of knowing why this season’s outliers exist. That’s a potential breeding ground for all sorts of conspiracy theories. Expecting the public to take a stance of NET neutrality is asking a bit much. People are going to put a lot of meaning into why a particular team appears to be overrated or underrated by the NET because they have no other information to go on.“
The other issue comes from how NET will be used. It’s going to be used as a sorting tool – ranking teams by how they fared on the extreme ends of the spectrum. Pomeroy again:
“Teams will continue to be judged on their best wins and worst losses. For a team that doesn’t play many great teams but has a bundle of wins against good opponents, the path to an at-large bid is unrealistically difficult under this paradigm, and no rating system will change that as long as it’s used as an organizing tool.”
Again, ditching RPI was a step in the right direction, and we’ll have to see the results NET produces, but any rankings system is going to have its flaws. NET’s biggest may be one of the NCAA’s doing if they continue to keep the formula secret. In any limited sample size – such as one season – there are going to some weird results at times, and not knowing how they were achieved is only going to cause controversy, especially on Selection Sunday.