MINNEAPOLIS -- Rest in peace, RPI.
The Rating Percentage Index had been a primary metric for qualifying men’s basketball programs for NCAA tournament selection since 1981, but this year it has been cast aside for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET.
NET will rely on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and quality wins and losses. When the games are played will be omitted, and margin of victory will be capped at 10 points to prevent an incentive to produce the biggest blowouts.
The Gophers are 8-2 this season, with a NET ranking that has been climbing. It sat at No. 55 as of Monday afternoon, Dec. 10, an improvement made from 57 and 67 in recent rankings.
The first NET rankings came out on Nov. 26, which seemed too early for Minnesota coach Richard Pitino. He felt like it should have been unveiled like the College Football Playoff rankings, coming out as the season is in full swing.
“It’s a good thing to get people talking,” said Pitino, who added he hasn’t tracked the ranking so far. “It’s interesting. … I just think it’s too early to be talking about it right now.”
The Gophers’ NET won’t be making any huge jumps with the final three nonconference games at Williams Arena. Minnesota plays host to North Florida (187 in NET) at 8 p.m. Tuesday, followed by North Carolina A&T (274) on Dec. 21 and Mount St. Mary’s (347 out of 352) on Dec. 30.
The NCAA introduced its quadrant system last year, ranking home, neutral and away game results into four levels. That system will remain this season, with NET replacing RPI as to how opponents are sorted.
“What has been developed is a contemporary method of looking at teams analytically, using results-based and predictive metrics that will assist the men’s basketball committee as it reviews games throughout the season,” Dan Gavitt, the NCAA senior vice president of basketball, said in a statement. “While no perfect rankings exist, using the results of past tournaments will help ensure that the rankings are built on an objective source of truth.”
NET was used in a test run in last year’s NCAA tournament and will be heard about a lot more as it sets the stage for the Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium in April.
Pitino feels like if his team stays healthy, they can make the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus. He wants to know exactly where his team stands. “There needs to be transparency in that process because it sees to change so much, year-in and year-out,” Pitino said.
Given the new selection format, Pitino said it has changed how coaches pull for other teams around the country.
“There used to be the days where you would root against other Big Ten teams,” Pitino said. “I was watching the Purdue-Texas game, and it’s no knock on Texas, I wanted Purdue to win (on Sunday) because, in order to make the NCAA tournament, you need to have quality win opportunities on your schedule.”
The Gophers will have to face the Boilermakers, which lost to the Longhorns, twice.
Thus far, the Gophers have played three teams above them on the NET ranking — Washington (43), Ohio State (13) and Nebraska (16). They beat the Huskies on a neutral site and the Cornhuskers at home, with a road loss to the Buckeyes.
Starting with North Florida (4-5) on Tuesday, Pitino said: “These (lower-level nonconference) teams that come in have nothing to lose. They are smaller so it’s a little bit more challenging, but I think that after 10 games, with Eric (Curry) being out and playing a lot of freshmen, I’m pretty happy with where we stand.”