College Basketball: Stop Hating on the RPI

Jordan SchwartzSenior Writer IFebruary 17, 2012

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 16:  C.J. Leslie #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack reacts to a foul call against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 16, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Rating Percentage Index, or RPI, has grown increasingly more unpopular over the past few years. Critics call it an outdated method that the selection committee should not use as its primary tool to evaluate teams on Selection Sunday.

While the RPI is not perfect, the criticism is overblown and so-called better alternatives have flaws of their own.

The RPI measures wins and losses, the wins and losses of your opponents and the wins and losses of your opponents' opponents, while taking into consideration that playing away from home is more difficult than playing at home. In summary, if you beat teams with good records, you will find yourself moving up the RPI standings. Seems fair to me.

Take a look at the top 15 teams in the RPI: Syracuse, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas, North Carolina, Baylor, Ohio State, Missouri, Southern Miss, Marquette, UNLV, Georgetown, Michigan, Indiana.

Other than Southern Miss, would anyone argue that those teams aren't among the 15 best in the country?

Now examine the top 15 teams in the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings: Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan State, Kansas, Syracuse, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Missouri, Wichita State, St. Louis, New Mexico, Indiana, Georgetown, Duke, Baylor.

Which rankings seem more accurate to you? Is Wisconsin the sixth best team in the country? Wichita State is ninth, St. Louis 10th and New Mexico 11th? Really?

And now the top 15 teams in the Sagarin Ratings: Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas, Michigan State, Missouri, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, Duke, Wichita State, Baylor, Georgetown, Florida, Saint Louis.

Again, Wisconsin, Wichita State and Saint Louis somehow find their way into the top 15 teams in the country.

And lastly, ESPN recently introduced the College Basketball Power Index, or BPI: Kentucky, Syracuse, Ohio State, Michigan State, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Missouri, Wisconsin, Saint Louis, Wichita State, Florida, Louisville, Indiana, Georgetown.

These alternative metrics love Wisconsin, Saint Louis and Wichita State.

I'm not saying the RPI is perfect. Certainly, Memphis is not the 19th best team in the land, and Colorado State doesn't deserve to be ranked 33rd, but you will find these outliers in the other systems as well.

The best thing about the RPI is that unlike the other three ratings, it doesn't take margin of victory into account. You shouldn't have to run up the score to impress the committee; this isn't college football. For the most part, a win is a win. The motto of the NCAA tournament is survive and advance, not win by 20 and advance.

But the bottom line is that none of these metrics have to be perfect. With the field now expanded to a watered-down 68 teams, arguing over the last school in and the first one out is ridiculous.

Every week, I attempt to guess how the committee will seed the tournament and the last four in and first four out don't deserve a defense attorney.


Jordan is one of Bleacher Report's College Basketball Featured Columnists. Follow him on Twitter @JordanHarrison.