The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee is altering its definition of a quality win, placing greater emphasis on winning road games by changing the team sheets that include the results of every team being evaluated for selection and seeding for the men’s basketball championship. The group also committed to continue studying various metrics the committee has at its disposal to evaluate teams, with the likelihood of a new metric being in place for the 2018-19 season.
For the past several years, team sheets have divided results into four columns: results against the top 50 teams in the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index; 51-100; 101-200; and any team ranked 201 or lower. Effective with the 2017-18 season, team sheets will place greater emphasis on where the games are played rather than the ranking of each opponent.
There still will be four separate columns, with the first column consisting of home games against teams ranked 1-30, neutral-site games against teams ranked in the top 50 and road games against opponents ranked in the top 75. The second column will include home games against teams ranked 31-75, neutral-site games versus teams ranked 51-100 and road games against teams ranked 76-135.
The third column will consist of home games played against competition ranked 76-160, games played on a neutral court versus teams ranked 101-200 and games on the road against teams ranked 136-240. The fourth column will include home games against teams ranked 161-351, neutral-site games played against teams ranked 201-351 and road games versus opponents ranked 241-351.
“We consulted with experts within the coaching and analytics fields who looked at historical data, based on winning percentages by game location, to come up with these dividing lines within each of the columns,” said Mark Hollis, the director of athletics at Michigan State and the current chair of the committee. “The emphasis of performing well on the road is important, as was the need for teams not to be penalized as much for road losses. Beating elite competition, regardless of the game location, will still be rewarded, but the committee wanted the team sheets to reflect that a road game against a team ranked 60th is mathematically more difficult and of higher quality than a home game versus a team ranked 35th. We feel this change accomplishes that.”
For the past several years, the committee has gauged the relative strength of teams by using several metrics, including the RPI. While the RPI is the metric used on the team sheets, other metrics such as the KenPom, Sagarin, KPI and BPI ratings, are available to the committee throughout the season and during selection week. After receiving a request from an ad hoc committee formed by the National Association of Basketball Coaches to explore the possibility of using a composite ranking of several metrics, the NCAA invited the analytics experts involved with the other metrics to Indianapolis in January to discuss the topic and get their feedback.
“There was a consensus among those involved that a composite rating was a better indicator than the RPI alone, but everyone also agreed that it isn’t mathematically sound to combine metrics that are results-oriented with those that are predictive in nature,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball. “The committee decided to use the upcoming season to study how different composite rankings would perform, and explore other options, as well. The bottom line is we recognize the need to continue using more modern metrics and the need to make those more front and center in the sorting of data for the selection and seeding process. However, it’s also critical to have a long-term solution that is tested in real time, so we can roll something out that we have complete confidence in, is mathematically sound and is acceptable in every stakeholder’s eyes.”
The committee elected Bernard Muir, the director of athletics at Stanford, to serve as the vice chair of the committee for the 2017-18 season and the chair for the 2018-19 season. Bruce Rasmussen, the director of athletics at Creighton, will chair the committee in 2017-18.