The 2018 season is now taking shape as a demolition derby in which all the cars will crash and all will limp to the finish line. This week Miami, Texas A&M, Michigan State and West Virginia all lost while Kansas and North Carolina struggled to narrow wins.
This is the perfect sort of season in which to rely upon the RPG ranking system because records will not differentiate one team from another. In the Big 12, for example, West Virginia has beaten Oklahoma but lost to Texas Tech. But while Texas Tech was victorious against West Virginia, it lost to Oklahoma (which lost to West Virginia). The AP poll ranks these teams as Oklahoma (#4), West Virginia (#6) and Texas Tech (#8). The AP poll is both wrong and basically upside down.
We ignore records entirely and simply calculate a grade for each game’s playing performance. We tell you how well each team has played relative to its competition over the course of the entire season. RPG is not influenced by head-to-head results or recent results. Therefore, we know that the correct ranking of Big 12 teams is: Texas Tech (#9), West Virginia (#11) and Oklahoma (#14). The poll voters have become enamored with the Big 12 and have over-ranked all three teams. Ironically, the most over-ranked team in the recent college football season was Oklahoma and now the Sooners could become the most overrated basketball team.
The team that has played the best to this point in the season is thus considered the best team in the nation. This week, it is Duke. Again. After its loss to Michigan, Michigan State fell all the way to #9 in the AP poll. RPG merely blends its grade for that game (85.65) with all other grades for all other games and therefore, the Spartans rest at #5 in our rankings. The loss is no big deal. The playing grade is the big deal.
The ESPN BPI is more closely aligned to RPG but the RPI is far out of step with all rankings. It attempts to solve for an unknown quantity–the value of a team’s won/lost record–by accumulating several levels of other unknown quantities–the values of opponents’ and opponents’ opponents’ records. Anyone who has taken algebra I knows this is an illogical mathematical process since you can’t solve for an unknown using only unknowns unless you’re happy with an answer like 2x*3y-4z. Following the RPI, Gonzaga does not make the top fifty while it is ranked in the top 10 by RPG and ESPN. Obviously something is wrong. If you take the RPI as a measure of schedule strength, it is still inaccurate as RPG ranks Gonzaga’s schedule as more difficult than Cincinnati’s (#39 in RPI) and just 0.36 points less difficult than Miami’s (#17 in RPI). If RPI were right, Gonzaga would be somewhere in between.
Following its victory over West Virginia, Texas Tech was added to our rankings. This week’s rankings can be found at http://nemosnumbers.com/basketball-rankings/.