Is The NET Rating Helping The Mountain West?
What to make of college basketball’s new evaluation tool
What do we know about the new NET rating?
The calendars have flipped to January which, believe it or not, means it’s officially not too early to begin talking about the path to this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The selection process will look a little different this year. If you haven’t heard, the NCAA has done away with the grossly outdated and flawed Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) for the shiny, new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET).
So what does that all mean?
First off, the tweet below will give you the baseline of what you need to know about the NET. The skinny is that the rating is more analytically sound than the RPI (I could bang rocks together and come up with something better, to be quite honest), it isn’t nearly as easy to manipulate (at least we don’t think so, yet), and it better evaluates teams based on a variety of factors (though it still has issues).
Because the RPI is out and the NET is now in, the big question is how it will impact teams on Selection Sunday, particularly mid-major conferences like the Mountain West.
Right now it’s hard to say, though there are noticeable differences in where Mountain West teams currently fall in the RPI and NET rankings. The table below shows both rankings for each MWC team as of Friday, January 11. Stats are courtesy of warrennolan.com.
Nevada and Boise State are the notable outliers above while most of the other Mountain West teams are more or less ranked similarly in RPI and NET.
The Wolf Pack’s infamous 85-58 loss to New Mexico last weekend surely has to factor here in the rating disparities. The RPI system was kind to teams suffering road losses and did not factor in margin of victory/defeat. It was even possible to move up in RPI rankings with a loss. So although Nevada’s performance that night was disheartening, the effect felt in RPI probably wasn’t all that significant. This is one of the reasons why the RPI is no longer in use. With the NET, margin of victory and net efficiency are both included in the formula (which is actually redundant), so teams don’t get a pass for being blown out anymore.
Boise State is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Its NET rating (155) is 81 spots higher than its RPI rating (236). Additionally, Boise State also has a relatively strong KenPom rating, currently slotted fourth in the conference at 117th nationally. Here’s why: Boise State has won six Division-I games and lost eight. The six victories have come by 10, 12, 14, 17, 20, and 24 points. The eight losses have come by 1, 2 (twice), 3, 9, and 12 points (three times). As a result, Boise’s average winning margin is 16.2 points and its average losing margin is 6.6 points. It goes without saying, but margin of victory and efficiency are both hugely important under the new NET regime.
You can draw your own conclusions from here about how you feel about the NET. One thing is obvious, though: if Nevada (or any other Mountain West team) wants to improve its NET rank it needs to blow out teams, gather road wins, and avoid double-digit losses, especially to poor teams.
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.