Monday, November 29, 2010

RPI Watch, November 29th: Or, Why the RPI Sucks This Early

The college basketball season has been underway the past few weeks, and I for one am happy to see its arrival. The football season for the Wildcats realistically ended with Dan Persa's demise after the Iowa game, and the Big Ten season is now officially over with only the bowl games in sight (and oh yeah, that one non-con that Illinois has against Fresno State). After drubbings against Illinois at Wrigley and in Camp Randall against Wisconsin, the 'Cats go limping into the bowl selection wait, presumably to punch a ticket to Dallas as part of the TicketCity Bowl.

That said, it's time to start talking men's basketball. The Wildcats came back from their turkey hangover by fighting to a 65-52 home victory over Creighton last night. The win puts the 'Cats at 4-0, a record that has not been matched by a men's team since the 1993-94 season, when it started the season 9-0. Unfortunately, that team from 17 seasons ago would go on to lose its next 7 games and finish the season 15-12.  We hope to be riding this wave of early success into the Big Ten season and, furthermore, into the NCAA Tournament for the very first time.

This regular series will take a look at the RPI rankings of each of the Big Ten teams. As much as people much prefer to use Pomeroy to judge a team's rank, the pundits at ESPN and the NCAA selection committee still use the RPI system as a resume tool for each basketball team. It sucks, but that's what I get to work with. I'll try to update this ranking every Monday, something akin to the Momentum Game (except I don't bother ranking the teams myself).

Jump inside to see how everyone's doing!

Minnesota (6-0, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 10th, Rating = .7156, SoS = .6208
Minny went from tournament hopeful to Top 15 team in the span of a week, dropping Western Kentucky, overrated North Carolina and West Virginia in the span of four days to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament. Note to 'Cats: Do not use the 1-3-1 when Hoffarber's on the court.

Penn State (5-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 15th, Rating = .6839, SoS = .6340
Penn State hasn't won against a powerhouse team yet as far as RPI is concerned, but they haven't played complete cupcakes either. (Half a cupcake, maybe?) Their one loss was at Ole Miss, currently ranked 51st in RPI.

Ohio State (5-0, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 19th, Rating = .6691, SoS = .5588
Ohio State won a big game at Florida (34th) early on in November. The rest of their wins have come against mid-100 teams, keeping their SoS from suffering a ton. Their Big Ten/ACC game will be against Florida State, a possible resume builder as the Seminoles have some expectation of getting back into The Big Dance this year.

Illinois (6-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 44th, Rating = .6209, SoS = .5520
This has the workings of your typical Bruce Weber team: Lots of talent, plays very cohesively in some games, dysfunctional in others. They took a tough loss against Texas due to a 2nd half where they just got outplayed. Two of their wins are against cupcakes, two against middling teams, two against decent teams as far as RPI is concerned right now. However, I expect their SoS to fall as most of their wins are currently overrated.

Indiana (6-0, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 53rd, Rating = .6037, SoS = .4716
Indiana's here because they've won six home games against six no-name teams. Fortunately for them, one of their wins is against 40th ranked Evansville. Can we say "overrated"?

Michigan State (5-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 58th, Rating = .6001, SoS = .5545
The close win against Chaminade doesn't count, as they're a DII team. However, I'd have to believe that their RPI would suffer if that game actually counted. Their one loss was a close one against UConn (ranked 1st) on a neutral court. This ranking sucks. They'll be in the Top 20 in a couple weeks unless the bottom falls out on this team.

Northwestern (4-0, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 70th, Rating = .5894, SoS = .4525
The 'Cats are close to the proverbial cutoff ranking of 60th, and their dates against Georgia Tech and Long Island will help the cause, provided they win. As noted, their SoS absolutely sucks, but get this: they were ranked 142nd in RPI before the Creighton game last night.

Wisconsin (4-2, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 83rd, Rating = .5759, SoS = .5627
Well, we're not used to seeing a Bo Ryan team start out with two losses like this. They took one to the chin at an underrated (except by the RPI) UNLV squad, but then lost a head-scratcher against Notre Dame where they gave up 15 unanswered points in the second half. Could it be that they have a few chinks in the armor this year?

Purdue (5-1, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 96th, Rating = .5571, SoS = .4594
The Boilermakers are this far down because their SoS absolutely stinks. They took a questionable road loss against Richmond (112th) in a game where the offense misfired. They had wins against two bottom feeders, and their best win is against Oakland (86th).

Michigan (3-2, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 214th, Rating = .4667, SoS = .4458
There's a huuuuuuuuuge drop-off between Purdue and the last two teams in the Big Ten. Michigan's three wins were all cupcake games. One loss was a close one against Syracuse (12th) in the Las Vegas Invitational, but then the Wolverines turned around and fell flat against UTEP (205th) the following day. Moral to the story: Don't schedule two games in two days at two different road locations.

Iowa (3-3, 0-0 Conf.): Rank = 241st, Rating = .4409, SoS = .4569
Did you expect anything different? The Hawkeyes' three wins were against teams ranked no higher than 320th(!!!) in the RPI. Their worst loss was against Long Beach State (173rd) in the Paradise Jam Tournament. Losing to the Hawkeyes this year will be an RPI killer.

It'll be very interesting to see where the RPIs stand by the end of the nonconference season. As it shows right now, the Big Ten boasts plenty of depth (aside from the last two teams) and may make a 9-9 season for the 'Cats look good enough on paper to make the Big Dance this season. Go 'Cats!

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