NCAA selection committee should judge success, not RPI

Jason Galloway

Stop apologizing to Virginia Commonwealth.

Stop proclaiming the Rams have validated the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s decision.

Instead, recognize the difference between deserving something and taking advantage of an opportunity.

It doesn’t matter if VCU loses to Florida State Friday or wins the national championship, a Colonial team that finished 26-11, finished fourth place in a small conference and lost five of its last eight games belongs nowhere near the NCAA Tournament field.

Meanwhile, Alabama, in a much tougher conference, finished with a better conference record, the same number of overall losses, and won 15 of its last 21 games. Yet, the Crimson Tide is stuck easing its way through the NIT.

The reason for these appalling and horrendous decisions: A flawed RPI system.

RPI stands for Rating Percentage Index, and is used as “one of the factors” in determining the tournament field. The formula is calculated as 25 percent team winning percentage, 50 percent opponents’ winning percentage and 25 percent opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage.

That’s it. That’s the entire formula. Only 25 percent of these rankings factor in whether teams actually won or lost the games they played. Margin of victory is also not factored in, meaning a 21-point loss to Duke likely boosted UAB’s RPI, another undeserving team selected over Alabama.

The Blazers had one win against RPI top 50 teams (the Tide had four), yet UAB’s RPI is higher than Alabama’s. UAB had the same conference record in a far inferior conference, and only one more total win than Alabama.

And that one win in the RPI top 50? It was against VCU (RPI 49), whose losses to Tennessee (RPI 33), Richmond (RPI 44) and George Mason (RPI 24) probably didn’t drop its RPI ranking at all.

Just to prove a point, take a look at the bottom of the RPI rankings. The last-ranked team is 5-24 Houston Baptist. A few spots higher, you’ll find 1-27 Centenary of the Summit Conference. Houston Baptist beat three teams with .500 records this season, while Centenary’s lone win came against 7-23 Western Illinois.

What could have propelled the one-win team ahead of others? It was its 64-point loss to Memphis and its 29-point loss to Marquette. Well done, Gents.

Those rankings at the bottom obviously do not matter in the least bit, but it shows how flawed this system is.

VCU’s tournament run should also be approached with a bit of caution. The Rams defeated another team in USC that did not deserve a tournament bid for the right to play Georgetown. Although Hoyas point guard Chris Wright was back in the lineup, he clearly wasn’t the same player and Georgetown clearly wasn’t the same team as before his injury. Then the Rams beat a Purdue team that lost its last two games before the tournament, got embarrassed by a bubble team in the Big Ten Tournament, and was playing without Kelsey Barlow.

Don’t misinterpret this message – the Rams run has been extremely impressive, but it is ridiculous to apologize to anybody because a team got hot at the right time. Tournament performance has nothing to do with tournament selection.

VCU’s run has covered up the absurdity of this year’s selections and the fallacy of the RPI.

The selection committee says RPI is just a guideline, just one factor to consider when selecting the NCAA tournament field. That was hard to believe when the tournament field was released on March 9.

Besides, any weight placed on this terrible measurement is too much. It is the reason Alabama became the first team in history to go 12-4 in major conference play and be left out of the NCAA Tournament. And it even happened in a year when the tournament field was expanded.

Maybe the committee should start weighing factors like common sense and actual wins a little more heavily.