Even though most were resigned to Iowa’s NCAA-less fate, the no-show on Selection Sunday still stung. Did they deserve to be in the dance?
The fan in me screams yes while my head can accept the fact they were snubbed. However Iowa’s ‘snub’, along with a few others from high major leagues, restarts the debate on the value of the current RPI system.
Iowa finished 29th in both Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings as well as Ken Pomeroy’s temp-free rankings and 43rd in ESPN’s BPI. However, Iowa finished 79th in the RPI rankings which apparently still matter far more to selection committee members as opposed to the quality of play metrics offered by Pomeroy and the BPI.
The RPI has problems. Most everyone on the outside of the NCAA agrees with that to some extent. However, coaches and programs know the rules of engagement before the games begin and they were all reconfirmed this year: The portion of your schedule you control needs to not be filled with teams the cupcakes call cupcakes.
Iowa’s non-conference schedule in 2012-2013 was chock full of the latter. Hostess didn’t go out of business on Iowa’s account as they gobbled up lots of cupcakes.
Check out this graphic, a screen shot from KenPom.com and focus on the 314 by Texas Pan-American and scroll down.
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Five of Iowa’s out of 13 non-conference games came against teams that were ranked 307 or worse by Pomeroy’s system, or 38.5%. Seven out of 13 were ranked 238 or worse, or more than half. Iowa played just three teams who were ranked inside the Top 70 and lost badly to a team (Virginia Tech) who finished ranked 165th.
The NCAA doesn’t like to reward teams who play schedules like this, even teams who play 18 of their 31 games (58% of slate) in the true best conference in the nation. Is that fair? Let’s take a look at the ‘Last Four In’ to the tournament, the last four teams to receive an at large bid. I will list the number of games they played against teams ranked 200 or worse by Pomeroy’s rankings:
Middle Tennessee: 2 out of 11 non-conference games, 12 of 31 regular season games total.
La Salle: 5 of 13 in non-conference games, 7 out of 29 regular season games.
St Mary’s: 2 of 14 non-conference games plus one non-D1 team for 3 of 14, 9 of 31 regular season games total
Boise State: 5 of 14 non-conf plus two non-D1, so make it 7 of 14 for a total of 7 of 30 as no MWC teams were sub 200.
Iowa? Seven out of 31 (all non-conference), or a lower percentage of their overall regular season schedule playing teams ranked 200 or worse than any of the Last Four In, plus Iowa’s 18 conference games against teams from the best conference in the nation.
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Again, the RPI is what it is and everybody knows what it is. You need to schedule around the parameters or face the reality that Iowa is chewing on right now; step it up a little bit more in your out of conference or you could be on the outside looking in. It’s not like Iowa needs to go out and schedule Duke or Florida; just schedule less horrible teams…teams ranked in the 150 to 200 range or that you feel may wind up there and stay the heck away from teams in the 300’s.
That’s not so simple, as teams in the lower leagues can change a great deal year to year as far as their competitiveness is concerned. However, Iowa can do better and will starting next year. Fran McCaffery has said this year’s team wound up being better than what he thought it would be when he was scheduling the season. Even then, Iowa went 2-7 in games decided by four points or less in Big Ten play. If it would have gone 4-5 in those games, Iowa would likely be in the NCAA tournament with the schedule it played this year.