It's time for the RPI to R.I.P. In lieu of sending flowers, check out a far better evaluator of college basketball teams: the predictor portion of the Sagarin computer rankings, published by USA Today.
For comparison purposes, consider the rankings of traditional powerhouse programs Kansas and Kentucky.
The Ratings Percentage Index, the system favored by national broadcasters and the NCAA Tournament selection committee, has Kentucky ranked seventh and Kansas 15th. Sagarin predictor has Kentucky ranked 21st, Kansas No. 2.
Last seen on the same court, Kansas blitzed Kentucky, 73-46, in Allen Fieldhouse last season. That was when Kentucky had Rajon Rondo and before the Jayhawks had Sherron Collins and Darrell Arthur.
How did that happen?
Easy. The problem with the RPI is it too heavily weighs strength of schedule and doesn't factor in margin of victory. The formula gives 25 percent weight to a team's winning percentage, 50 percent to opponents' winning percentage and 25 percent to opponents' opponents' winning percentage.
The Wildcats (19-9) are 1-7 against Associated Press Top-25 teams, and KU (25-4) is 1-1. According to the RPI, Kentucky deserves more credit for that record than Kansas does, an obvious flaw. Does anyone other than a computer really believe Kansas would have gone 0-6 in the six games against ranked Kentucky foes?
Getting blown out by Memphis is a better outcome than destroying Kansas State, according to RPI, but not according to Sagarin predictor, which takes into account margins of victory.
Sagarin predictor's top 10: 1. North Carolina; 2. Kansas; 3. Texas A&M; 4. Florida; 5. Memphis; 6. UCLA; 7. Ohio State (Could you believe your eyes when Buckeyes coach Thad Matta picked up that piece of gum off the arena floor and stuck it right back in his mouth?); 8. Duke; 9. Georgetown; 10. Wisconsin.
RPI's top 10: 1. UCLA; 2. North Carolina; 3. Ohio State; 4. Southern Illinois; 5. Pitt; 6. Wisconsin; 7. Kentucky; 8. Florida; 9. Memphis; 10. Duke.
Fill out your office tournament bracket in two weeks by advancing the team with the higher Sagarin predictor ranking, and you stand a chance to win. Do so based on the higher RPI, and you won't stand a chance.
Committee members prefer the RPI. Bookies like the Sagarin predictor better.
Look at it this way: If your financial well-being depended on winning bar bets, would you rather your opponent on the next stool be a bookmaker or one of those suits you see on Selection Sunday?
"So why School A and not School B?"
"We felt School A had better qualifications."
"Based on the factors we use to determine the field."
Thanks for what?
Fortunately, the selection committee only uses the computer ranking as a guide, not as a bible. Unfortunately, it uses the wrong computer ranking.
On an unrelated note, it's nice to see that Hollywood is so in touch with what's going on in the rest of the country it awarded an Oscar to a documentary all about global warming. Didn't I read that one of Al Gore's appearances was snowed out?