View Full Version : N.C. State shows greatest weakness in NCAA Tournament selection process is SoS

02-09-2018, 01:14 PM

The biggest flaw in the process right now is not the RPI, which is considered an inadequate metric in team evaluation because its formula so heavily emphasizes schedule strength. No, the biggest flaw is nonconference strength of schedule (SOS) because, as the name implies, that’s all it measures.

Four of the top 10 teams in non-conference SOS have losing records. Do they belong in the discussion for at-large berths to the field? No? Then why is anyone bringing this garbage metric into the room when the committee meets to decide who gets in and who does not?

Why is Rasmussen, as well, saying this? “The committee really looks at teams that have challenged themselves in nonconference. It is a resource that we look at. We also look at their schedule, and their intent in scheduling. Did they schedule some games away, at neutral sites? We call it 'intentional scheduling' … did they challenge themselves?"

Here's the problem with trying to get inside the psychology of college basketball scheduling: It's junk science. It's impossible to gauge what a program's intent was when scheduling a game.

What about Wichita State, which scheduled a road game against Baylor with the Bears coming off a Sweet 16 season and ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press preseason poll? Baylor is now 14-10. Do the Shockers get credit for a victory that was intended to be against one of the nation’s top teams? Or do they get credit for the reality of beating a team that is a half-game out of last place in the Big 12?

Duke has recorded three top-10 nonconference SOS ratings over the past half-dozen years, and an average rating of No. 25, even though it played only four road games in that period. Because of its unparalleled success over the past three decades, Duke has scheduling power almost no other program can match. It can assure opponents their game will be nationally televised, and the visiting players will get the experience of competing in the Cameron Indoor Stadium cathedral. So high-quality mid-major teams that ordinarily would not agree to serve as a “buy game” opponent are willing to do that deal with the Devils.

N.C. State is a candidate to make the tournament because of its four Quadrant 1 victories, including a home win over Duke in January. But a nonconference SOS ranked 289th appears like an anchor on its resume. The Wolfpack played seven buy games against teams rated 267th or worse. They might have not wanted to spend big money buying home games in coach Kevin Keatts' first year. They might have thought Bryant would be better than 2-23. Who knows? And why should it matter?

The redesigned team sheets acknowledge, by placing home opponents rated No. 161 or higher in the RPI in Quadrant 4, that there is little difference for a legitimate tournament candidate between playing No. 162 San Francisco at home or bringing in No. 285 Quinnipiac. If you’re a tournament team, you're winning either game just about every time.

So it's counterintuitive for the committee chair to still be talking about teams "challenging themselves" and allowing that nonconference SOS still is a part of the process.

If you think strength of schedule should matter, overall N.C. State is 72nd. Not bad, not great. But even that metric seems out of place in a selection discussion; Cal, Washington State and Pitt are all ahead of the Wolfpack in overall strength of schedule. You want any of them in the March Madness field?