Monday, February 26, 2007


Keegan: Sagarin rankings superior


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?


DonnieDarko 12 years, 11 months ago

Keegan: "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?"

Gee, Tom, is that sarcasm, humor, a snide little attempt at political commentary from a mediocre sports writer, or a combination of all three?

DonnieDarko 12 years, 11 months ago

Solomon: "...environmental commentary from a mediocre politician".

Truly breathtaking analysis, Solomon. As usual, your level of denial is incredible. Maybe you and Keegan can get together, look at the snow in your backyards (when it's there) and say "nope, there sure ain't no global warming now, is there?"

I really love the "mediocre politician" line as you seem to apply it to Al Gore. Is that a slam? I'm working through your logic and....ta da! George Bush must be the "accomplished" politician.

Go stick your head back in the sand with the rest of neo-con idiots, Solomon. Keegan should stick to what he does semi-adequately (writing the most obvious commentaries about sports).

Carter Patterson 12 years, 11 months ago

Tom, you are right on....chief. You're going to get the enviromental terrorists out of the closet on this article, but you're right on about the RPI vs. Sagarin.

In the ABA, with 45+ teams in the league and with new teams coming on and old teams leaving, the ABA Power Rankings determine the playoffs, not the win-loss column. If the Atlanta Vision can take 3 out of 4 against the Wilmington SeaDawgs then I think we'll crack the rankings.

ryanjasondesch 12 years, 11 months ago

Didn't I say this in my post on here yesterday?

njthomas 12 years, 11 months ago

Environmental terrorists? Sounds like a contradiction in terms. Your traditional terrorist blows things up, thereby destroying the local environment while making the world a tiny bit hotter.

Oh. Wait a minute. I get it. It's a metaphor, designed to create incendiary arguments and/or get people who aren't paying attention to automatically dislike environmentalists without having to make a valid point about them.

I hate on-the-surface politics.

On the other hand, I'm totally pro using the Sagarin ratings. Also the Ken Pom ones. Both are way more awesome than the RPI.

Nutflush21 12 years, 11 months ago

Keegan makes a great point but I would like to know where he got his Sagarin top 10 from. The USA Today website says the top 6 are 1.UNC 2.UCLA 3.Ohio ST 4.Fla 5.A&M 6.KU

isolve4x 12 years, 11 months ago

Wow, it sure seems like we've lost sight of what's really important in KU basketball. I have pretty strong feelings about global warming, but I don't see it having a place on this discussion board. As far as the ranking systems, who cares?! I know we need a ranking system, but I for one don't want to be ranked number 1 or even number 2. It's like the Sports Illustrated jinx! It just puts a bullseye on teams, and they often get comfortable and lose their drive and edge. We are playing great ball and I know we could (not necessarily WOULD, but COULD) beat anyone in the country right now! Let's just stay focused on winning, and screw the rankings! ROCK CHALK!!! Let's get through March, then we can talk about global warming.

63BC 12 years, 11 months ago

The key point of this article is sound. Betting markets are almost always superior predictors of actual performance.

The problem here is not that RPI is political [like, say the AP rankings] but that its incentives are misplaced.

Specifically, RPI exists to reward teams for scheduling tough non-conference games, which generates ratings, which generates money for the people who decide to use RPI instead of Sagarin. See how this works?

NCAA doesn't particularly care if Kentucky loses its extra six top-25 games, only that more people will watch them lose so Kentucky is rewarded.

Not suprising then that Sagarin and betting lines are more accurate. Markets aggregate information and when real money is at stake, market actors are better at disregarding unreliable information. This is why markets are better at setting prices than governments.

As to the last paragraph, one can listen to the Oscar hype or pay attention to the fact that the futures market in alternative energy is lousy. If all this is going to happen, why aren't more people trying to make money off of it by cashing in on non-carbon sources?

See, basketball really is a window to all of life's questions...

quigley 12 years, 11 months ago

I would have put that gum back in my mouth too.

pjdeanwag 12 years, 11 months ago

Keegan. Nice crossover at the end. What? Are you kidding? People that read these articles are excited about basketball. Basketball......Basketball. We want 100% basketball. Not 90/10. I guess since you have some gravity in your position as sports editor, and you have the attention of the enthusiastic Kansas fans, you also have the ability to enlighten us with your opinions in other various areas of the world. (Hollywood, politics, ect. ect.) Not so much...enlighten us with basketball. There is a vessel for opinions at LJW. It's called the opinion page. Bottom line. You don't see major sporting news periodicals or their writers throwing out little cutsie comments about the Oscars after their stories. Why would you? (If I wanted that type of journalism I'll read Whitlock's stuff.)

webmocker 12 years, 11 months ago

I'm with pjdeanwag and TOB: please stick to sports, Mr. Keegan.

bg97 12 years, 11 months ago

Funny how the same folks have the same comments each day about Tom.. I mean, if you don't like him, quit reading his articles. Even worse, you take the time to comment on it. I'm not a fan either way, but it amazes me how some us get so worked up about such a non-issue.

dsinger 12 years, 11 months ago

We wouldn't have global warming if Turgeon was our coach.

Hey Keegan, you do realize that global warming doesn't mean it never snows, right? Also, you do know that you're technically supposed to use commas after introductory clauses, right? Just checking.

walkdog262 12 years, 11 months ago

dsinger's post is dead on. If only we had Turgeon. Or Larry Brown. Then the Earth would cool again and peace would reign supreme. I know: Since there's already been political debate prompted by an obviously tongue-in-cheek reference to Al Gore's movie, let's get another topic rolling - Man, I sure do appreciate the problems stem-cell research could solve.

rcaltrider 12 years, 11 months ago

" automatically dislike environmentalists without having to make a valid point about them."

As soon as the environmentalist (fund-raisers) wacko tree-huggers make a valid point, then I will worry about someone having to make a valid point about them. And by the way, it is about time Al Gore won an Oscar considering he invented the motion picture!

JayCeph 12 years, 11 months ago

I don't know... why talk about Basketball when we could debate the finer points of abortion and assisted suicide? I'd much rather get lost in the frothy diatribes of internet posts regarding politically charged topics instead of pouring over analysis on the conference standings for my favorite team.

When I could discuss the finer points of the Jayhawks' game or sift through the pointless pontifications of brown shirt/jackboot wearing neo-cons or patchouli smelling tree children, I'd have a hard time making up my mind. Gee, which way do we go?

How about to Norman to kick some Sooner crack?!?

kevbo 12 years, 11 months ago

LOL...I'm so glad you added that little comment on Gore. Nothing better than seeing basketball "analysts" on this page chime in on current events. Suddenly, everyone is a politico.

86finalfour 12 years, 11 months ago

I'm almost always in agreeance with Keegan -- Actually, I'm a big fan. But I have to agree with everyone else. What in the world were you talking about with that closing paragraph?? You should consider scolding your editors!

jayhawktownie 12 years, 11 months ago

i used to like keegan for his quirky writing but that last paragraph completely changed my mind about him. I'm not convinced he is an idiot who doesn't understand science.

actorman 12 years, 11 months ago

I'm not convinced he is an idiot who doesn't understand science.

I assume you mean "I'm NOW convinced ...," as am I. It's a shame, because I thought it was a good article and I enjoyed reading it until that idiotic last paragraph, which caused me to do one of those old vaudeville double-takes. What in the world were you "thinking," Keegan???

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