March Madness is just around the corner, my friends.
Yes, with the annually amazing tournament only five weeks away, many fans, analysts and even coaches have their eyes fixated on the myriad of rankings that help decide which teams are the nation's top 68.
And if they're smart, everyone will start taking a look at ESPN's BPI to find out if their team is in or out.
Of the ratings systems, RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, is the most widely known and simple way to calculate who goes dancing in mid March. A team's RPI is based on their wins and losses, while factoring in SOS (Strength of Schedule). The formula is as follows: A team's winning percentage is worth 25 percent, opponents' winning percentage is 50 percent and the winning percentage of those opponents' opponents is 25 percent.
Simply, winning against good teams will boost your team's RPI, and when opponents enjoy big wins, it helps your team as well.
But for many, RPI is too simple a way to determine the top teams.
That's why many more rankings have popped up in recent years.
There's the Saragin Ratings and Ken Pomeroy's ratings as well, which go further by factoring in scoring margin and dig deeper into the SOS.
BPI – their Basketball Percentage Index – includes the pace of games, diminishing returns for blowouts, and unlike any other ratings system, “de-weights” games when teams miss their key players.
BPI takes into account the pace at which teams play, something they believe is essential for evaluation. Saragin and Kenpom do this as well, but RPI doesn't.
In BPI, wins are always more important than losses, which isn't always the case in the Saragin and Kenpom ratings. A close win at home is better than a close loss on the road, which is also the case with RPI. It also gives diminishing credit for blowouts, which ESPN argues better encapsulates a team's tournament resume.
The most unique part of BPI is that it takes into account when teams miss their key players, which is defined by one of the five that average the most minutes per game while playing at least half of the contests that season. In those games, teams are effectively given leeway in case they lose while without a key player. It could help determine seeding depending on a team's health as the NCAA Tournament approaches.
In his article explaining BPI, Dean Oliver uses Fab Melo as an example. In 2011-12, Melo was a vital piece to the Syracuse Orange team, one of the best college basketball squads in the country that season. He missed three games mid-year, including Syracuse's first loss, and they finished the year with a 90 BPI. But when the tournament started, Melo couldn't play, meaning they weren't the same team as had been dominating opponents all year. With this information, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee could possibly adjust their seedings appropriately which could result in better matchups.
But, how accurate is the new ratings system?
According to Oliver, it picked 74.4 percent of the matchups correctly from 2007-2011, slightly better than Saragin (73.2 percent) and Kenpom (71.9), meaning it's the most efficient evaluator of college basketball teams we have today.
Of course, by using all of the data together, we can get the clearest picture of the teams that deserve to be dancing in March, and where they should be properly seeded.
But, if past success is any indication, we'll all be hearing much about BPI very soon.