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SOMETIMES, YOU CAN LOSE FOR WINNING
Alexander Wolff
March 03, 2003
As the cases of Alabama and Butler prove, it's not just how you play, it's whom you play
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March 03, 2003

Sometimes, You Can Lose For Winning

As the cases of Alabama and Butler prove, it's not just how you play, it's whom you play

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DIVISION 1 WON-LOST PCT.

 

ALABAMA

BUTLER

12/31

9-1

10-1

1/7

10-1

11-1

1/14

11-2

13-1

1/21

12-4

15-1

1/28

12-5

16-2

2/4

13-5

17-3

2/11

13-7

18-3

2/18

14-8

19-4

2/23

15-8

21-4

To illustrate how the RPI favors schools from major conferences and is stacked against members of low-profile leagues, take a look at Alabama and Butler, which began January with nearly identical records ( Alabama was 9-1, Butler 10—1) and with RPI ratings of .6225 (ranked No. 25) and .5922 (No. 49), respectively. Since then, as of Monday the Crimson Tide had gone 6-7, but its RPI had suffered only a gentle net decline, to .6134 (No. 23). The Bulldogs, on the other hand, had gone 11-3 during that span, yet they'd lost ground in the RPI, to .5839 (though their ranking had improved, to No. 40). This despite a brief jump after an 80-60 loss at Duke on Jan. 30, pointing out the importance of a team's nonconference schedule.

The Bulldogs are members of the Horizon League, which was 14th in the RPI conference ratings through Sunday (to No. 1 for Alabama's SEC), and their RPI will probably continue to sink, mostly because of their conference's relative weakness. Worse, they can't do much more to improve their nonleague schedule. "Butler's not going to get a power team to come to Indianapolis to play them, because there's a real probability of losing," says Jim Sukup, who produces The RPI Report.

Last year the Bulldogs had nonconference wins over Indiana, Purdue, Washington and usually strong Ball State, finished first in the Horizon and completed the regular season 25-5. After being upset in the first round of the Horizon tournament, however, Butler sat at No. 77 in the RPI and was shut out of the NCAA tournament. If the Bulldogs want to make sure the same scenario doesn't play out this March, they had better win the conference tournament—or arrange to lose to Duke every week.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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