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Andy Katz | Correspondent | March 12, 2019

Get to know the NET rankings — and what they mean for the NCAA tournament

Selection committee chair Bernard Muir previews Saturday's current top 16 reveal

The NET will be the most common word heard throughout selection week and on Selection Sunday.

The purpose of the NCAA’s Evaluation Tool ranking (i.e. NET) is to sort teams into the four quadrants on the team sheets the men’s basketball selection committee uses for selection and seeding.

NET RANKINGS: College basketball rankings, scores from every Top 25 team

It is not a deciding factor.

It is not going to determine if a team is in or out of the bracket.

It is an organizational piece for the committee.

And with a month left in the regular season this is what you need to know:

The most important thing about the NET is that if you beat good teams, don’t lose to bad teams and have quality wins away from home on a road or neutral court, you’re going to have a solid net ranking.

The primary component of the NET is the TVI, a results-based factor that considers the strength of the opponent and the location of the game. If you beat a team that you’re expected to beat, then it doesn’t do as much for your ranking. Losing to teams that you were expected to beat will hurt your ranking.

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The committee has always, and will always, place emphasis on winning quality games, and the quadrant system introduced last season places greater importance on the location of the games. The formula of the average net efficiency (offensive efficiency minus the defensive efficiency) is a factor in computing the ranking. So, too, is the winning percentage, the adjusted winning percentage (based on where the game is played — home, neutral or road) and the scoring margin with a cap at 10 per game.

These analytical tools weren’t just created with no intention. The data scientists at Google Cloud looked at several years’ worth of data for late-season games played on neutral courts, including conference and NCAA tournament games. They used those results as test cases to measure the accuracy of the ranking system. The computer program considered many features, and it was determined that the aforementioned data points were the best ones to use for the ranking formula.

The NCAA tournament men’s selection committee and the NABC wanted to get rid of the old RPI. There was talk of at one point averaging a number of the other metrics available to the public. But the issue there would be a lack of control of each formula.

The NET treats all games the same, whether they are played in November or February. And that’s why teams that may have had strong non-conference schedules can continue to have a strong ranking even during a losing skid in conference.

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The goal of the NET was to produce a true ranking/sorting system for the selection committee for Selection Sunday. And while the NET is being released throughout the regular season, the end result is what it will look like as a final product, not after each game.

Valuing when a game is played is an individual choice of each member of the selection committee. But where the game was played and who it was against is used in determining the NET ranking, regardless of the time of the season.

When the season ends — the hope is it will show — that when you played and beat good teams you got rewarded, especially if the games were away from home.

Not all home games are created equal (see a Duke home win over Virginia versus a win over Boston College) but all road wins aren’t inherently valued more than a home win. Remember, the NET will help sort the teams for the selection committee to decide on selection and seeding. But it won’t be the ultimate factor in either decision.

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