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Poor RPI means R.I.P. for bubble teams

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Posted: Wednesday March 07, 2001 4:10 AM
Updated: Sunday March 11, 2001 7:59 PM

  D.A. Layne and the Dawgs relied on a strong RPI to make up for a 16-14 record. AP

By Jacob Luft,

College athletics just can't get away from the power of three-letter acronyms.

Football has the BCS, an arcane formula that determines the national title game. College hoops has the RPI, an equally mysterious contraption that assists the NCAA in selecting which teams will play in its tournament.

Unlike the BCS, the RPI stops short of being the ultimate authority on who plays and who doesn't. However, the NCAA does use the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) as one of the main factors in seeding and selection of tournament teams.

Here are some nuggets on RPI rankings since 1994, when the formula was modified to its current format:

Power Players
The average RPI rankings for Final Four teams since 1994:
Year  Avg. 
2000  26 
1999  6.5 
1998  11 
1997  6.5 
1996  9.5 
1995  6.5 
1994  11 

  • Among eligible teams, the one with the best RPI ranking to miss the tournament was Oklahoma (33) in 1994. The team with the poorest RPI to make the Big Dance was New Mexico (74) in 1999.

  • Only one team with a winning record and a top 30 RPI ranking has missed the dance -- Texas Tech in 1997 -- and that was because of forfeited games.

  • Only 14 eligible teams with a top 40 RPI have been left out of the field. Of those 14, 10 were from major conferences. (This shows that even though the RPI gives an inherent advantage to the big conferences, the committee doesn't always follow suit in its picks.) Of the eligible teams with a top 40 RPI this season, only Mississippi State (40) was left out. Georgia's RPI of 27 made up for their 16-14 record.

  • Among teams with ratings of 50-plus, only 17 have been selected as at-large bids. None were chosen this season; the highest RPI at-large team was Oklahoma State (49). The team with the best RPI to miss the cut was Richmond (43).

  • Does RPI matter once the tournament starts? The worst RPI rating for a Final Four team was 41 (North Carolina, 2000). Of the 28 Final Four teams, 20 were top 15. The worst RPI for a national champion was 17 (Arizona, 1997).

    Squeaking In
    The schools with the worst RPI rankings to receive at-large NCAA tournament bids since 1994:
    Year  RPI  School  Rec.  Tourney 
    2001  49  Oklahoma State  19-9  -- 
    2000  52  Pepperdine  24-8  1-1 
    1999  74  New Mexico  23-8  1-1 
    1998  59  Western Michigan  20-7  1-1 
    1997  57  Georgetown  19-9  0-1 
    1996  52  California  17-10  0-1 
    1995  67  Minnesota  19-11  0-1 
    1994  61  George Washington  17-11  1-1 

    Related information
    Statitudes: 2001 Archive
    Statitudes: Duke's blowouts on the rise
    Statitudes: Conference titles bode well
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