Any time a school is listed among the top-three teams in the RPI index of top 20 teams in college basketball, there is a lot of fancy math to justify that dominance. It turns out this list is also somewhat off: most of the top 10 teams had a little more of a bounce-back year in 2017-18 and there is some overlap between the high-RPI teams and the low-RPI teams.
In other words, this is about who will bounce back and have a good showing in a tournament that no one really expected them to be involved in. One year ago, Brown shocked the basketball world by knocking off Princeton. In fact, the Brown-Princeton matchup was one of the games I covered in November for the Guardian’s college basketball coverage, which made me look silly after seeing it all move back the other way this week.
Here is how the RPI ranked the teams before and after the season. This year’s rankings are: Syracuse (#2), Duke (#1), Notre Dame (#6), Virginia (#11), Kentucky (#12), North Carolina (#9), Arizona (#5), Miami (#15), West Virginia (#10), Louisville (#18), Iowa State (#13), Wichita State (#14), Gonzaga (#6), Indiana (#6), Michigan (#3), Xavier (#7), Xavier (formerly Creighton), Texas, Maryland, Northwestern, Seton Hall, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Kentucky (now BYU), Xavier, Florida, Ohio State, Michigan State, Maryland (formerly Duke), Texas Tech, UCLA, Providence, Kentucky (NCAA Tournament), Miami (ACC tournament champion), BYU, Mississippi State, Houston, Oregon, Wichita State, Texas A&M, SMU, Vanderbilt, New Mexico, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisville, Illinois, Clemson, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, USC, Wichita State, Miami (ACC tournament champion), Utah, Oregon, Auburn, Louisville (NCAA Tournament), Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Tulsa, Iowa State, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Gonzaga, Michigan, Louisville, Arizona, UCLA, Michigan State, Washington, Georgetown, Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA, Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue, Texas, Rhode Island, Florida, Arizona State, Missouri, Xavier, Saint Mary’s, Florida State, Saint Louis, Iowa State, Houston, Texas Tech, Oregon State, Georgia, Dayton, Wichita State, Florida State, Mississippi State, Arkansas (NCAA Tournament), Marquette, Seton Hall, SMU, West Virginia, Baylor, Nevada, North Carolina, Seton Hall, Memphis, North Carolina State, Indiana, Dayton, TCU, Wyoming, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Utah, Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, Marquette, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Dayton, Iowa State, Tennessee, Nebraska, Virginia, St Bonaventure, Rutgers, North Carolina, USC, Arkansas (NCAA Tournament), UCLA, Saint Mary’s, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Clemson, Arkansas (NCAA Tournament), DePaul, Arkansas State, Wisconsin, Xavier, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, Gonzaga, Xavier (NCAA Tournament), Oregon, Texas A&M, Oregon State, Arizona State, Buffalo, Wichita State, Boise State, Wisconsin
Before the season begins, I will do a quick look at last year’s top-10 seeds in the NCAA tournament and rank them as of day four in the tournament.
Here is my first, low-RPI group (for all the schools ranked below).
Indiana, Arizona, Villanova and Syracuse have bounced back after a few of the aforementioned losses, while Kentucky is simply coming off a fantastic run as the SEC champion. Since the No. 1 seeds survived, it means the No. 2 seeds were pretty much flawless.
The RPI rankings are the generic numbers that start every sport with just that, a generic number. Rankings in every sport do not have any personal information behind them. However, the RPI rankings only take into account games played and games won, and that’s hardly a complete set of criteria for evaluating a team.
Sports were so much simpler back in 2007 when the RPI (and some other stat like the combined victories in a season) was first introduced. Right now, these stats are just throwing the numbers to random groups of people to judge teams based on their efficiency compared to their past records. But in the long term, that number is just another metric for trying to determine which team is the best.
So, with that said, here are the RPI rankings (as of day four in the NCAA tournament):
Villanova (#1) vs. Kansas (#2)