Friday, January 22, 2010

RPI 101: A Guide to Confusion

I don’t claim to be Einstein or a mathematician for that matter, but I have always tried to learn the formulas involved with college basketball RPI aka rating percentage index. A low RPI can keep a team from dancing in March or allow one to make a magical sweet-16 run.

The formulas used by different online services can completely vary and bring into account very different aspects of the game and due to this will allow for drastic differences in rankings. For example take the 49ers men’s team. They are 13-5 on the year with a 7-1 home record, 4-4 on the road and 3-1 in conference games.

According to Real Time RPI, the Niners are the 56th best team in the nation and will finish the season at 19-11 with a 9-7 Atlantic 10 record. However Ken Pomeroy, the mathematical genius that runs, has the 49ers currently at 86th with a projected record of 20-10 and 10-6.

Mr. Pomeroy takes into account much more than your regular RPI, his ratings include; offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency, a team’s consistency, strength of schedule, non-conference SOS and even a team’s luck. I don’t know about you but I have no clue how to put a team’s luck into numbers but I think it has something to with E=MC^2 (not positive about that one).

Anyways back to the Niners, tomorrow they travel to La Salle to play the Fightin’ Explorers. Good Ol’ Kenny has coach Lutz’s team taking down La Salle, 74-73, while Real Time RPI has the Explorers winning 73-72.

With both games being so tightly predicted, what will be the determining factor in the game? Some would say an experienced point guard, but both teams start a senior point guard. Others would claim two big men are key to conference victories, but both teams feature two big men that combine to average near 20 points/game.

Three-point shooting has evolved the college and pro-game since its inception in the early-80s and is the quickest way to rack up points. La Salle comes into the game average .370 from downtown, while Charlotte is shooting the tri-fectas at .306 so maybe that could be the difference.

However, Charlotte proved against St. Louis that it doesn’t need to make three-pointers to register victories in the A-10.

So my mind travels to the one remaining factor that will determine tomorrow’s outcome: Luck.

The Niners boast a .131 differential in luck good for 9th in the nation, while the Explorers are at a meager .025 differential. I know what you are thinking a whole .106 differential and yeah that pretty drastic isn’t it.

I don't know if DiJuan Harris carries around a lucky rabbit foot or if Shamari Spears has a collection of four-leaf clovers in his locker, but the No. 9 Charlotte 49ers will take down No. 113 La Salle Explorers tomorrow because of Ol’ Lady Luck.

-- Patrick McCoy, Charlotte 49ers Media Relations --

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