How could WSU improve it's RPI?

Washington State's RPI is very disappointing this year.  But why?

The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is comprised of a team's winning percentage (25%), its opponents' winning percentage (50%), and the winning percentage of those opponents' opponents (25%).

RPI is only a measure of a team's strength of schedule and the ability of the team to create a winning or losing record with that schedule.


Take this situation as an example:

Say that the Cougars only had two games on their schedule.  UCLA and Mississippi Valley State.

In scenario one, WSU loses to UCLA and beats MVSU.

In scenario two, WSU beats UCLA and loses to MVSU.

(both of these games happen at neutral courts)

From my understanding, WSU would have the exact same RPI in each of these scenarios. 

WSU's winning percentage would be the same (.500).  The winning percentage of WSU's opponents would be the same (more or less, one win would be taken from one opponent and given to another, but it amounts to the same numbers if both opponents played the same number of games in a season).  Also, the winning percentage of those opponent's opponents does not change.

However, the actual outcome of each of these scenarios is drastically different in the non-mathematical eyes of an observer.  A win against UCLA has tournament implications while a win against MVSU does not mean anything (although we really don't know what a loss against MVSU would say because that just doesn't happen much.  My guess is a loss against MVSU says that half the team was injured and the other half decided to party the night before.)

But now let's get back to the question we are trying to answer:  Why is WSU's RPI so bad this year?







But now let's get back to the question we are trying to answer:  Why is WSU's RPI so bad this year?

And the answer to that is not because we have been playing too many mid-major teams, but because we have been playing HORRIBLE mid-major teams.  I mean, these teams are horrible by even mid-major standards.

Here is the list of mid-major teams we have played this year (GU does not count) and their overall records followed by their conference records.

Mississippi Valley State:  6-23 (6-10)

Farleigh Dickinson:  7-23 (6-12)

Sacramento State:  2-27 (1-15)

Canisius:  10-19 (4-14)

Idaho State:  12-18 (9-7)

Idaho:  14-14 (7-7)

As you can see.  The best (and I use this word lightly) mid-major teams on our schedule happen to be in our neighboring state to the east.  And Idaho and Idaho State are still only average in their own conferences.  All of the other mid-major teams that WSU played can not even manage to get more wins than losses in their own conferences where they are playing other schools which are just as small as they are.  These large losing records (Especially 2-27 Sacramento State-  YIKES!) are significantly pulling down WSU's RPI.  Because remember, 50% of the RPI is based on our opponent's winning percentage- that is an even greater percentage then the 25% that is based on our own winning percentage.

Well, every big conference team plays mid-major teams in the non-conference schedule, right?  So why does this hurt WSU more than others?

And the reason for that is because other teams are playing 'better' mid-major teams.

For example:

This is a list of mid-major teams that are currently at the top of the respective conferences of WSU's mid-major opponents this year:

Alabama State:  17-8 (14-1)

Robert Morris:  21-10 (15-3)

Weber State:  20-8 (14-1)

Siena:  23-7 (16-2)

Portland State:  21-9 (11-5)       (Idaho State is in the same conference as Sacramento State, so I took Portland State who is 2nd in the conference)

Utah State:  26-4 (13-2)

Now, can you imagine what a schedule with these teams would do for WSU's RPI?  Granted, none of these teams would be a cake-walk.  But we would be highly favored against these teams, and more than likely we would win 90% of those games.  Especially if we played at home.

Now think about this.  Playing a 17-8 Alabama State team will do just about the same for our RPI as a 21-7 ASU team, or 21-8 Cal team, or it might even do more good then playing an 18-11 Arizona team.

The reason for this is because RPI does not look at team names to determine how good an opponent is, it only looks at overall records.  The only factor that might make playing ASU better for the RPI than playing Alabama State is that last 25% of the RPI which factors in the opponent's opponents winning percentage (ASU clearly would have a stonger schedule than Alabama State due to a much tougher conference schedule).  However, this difference is not as significant as the 50% devoted to opponents winning percentage.

The bottom line is that we can all agree that getting a win against Alabama State would be much easier than getting a win against ASU or Cal but it would have just about the same effect on RPI.

So why does WSU play such horrible mid-major teams?

That is a question someone might want to take up with Jim Sterk.

Some of the answer may be just bad luck with scheduling.  After all MVSU was 17-16 (12-6) last year and did end up winning their conference tournament only to get pummeled by UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tourney.  However, MVSU was not the strongest team in their conference last year, Alabama State was, but Alabama State got knocked out of their conference tourney early on as a fluke.

However, examples like this are often times the exception.  There is not an incredible amount of turnover from top to bottom of a mid-major conference just like there isn't all that much turnover in a major conference.  This is especially true with the bottom of the totem pole ie Sacramento State, Farleigh Dickinson, and Canisius.  Sacramento State-currently 2-27 (1-15)- Farleigh Dickinson- currently 7-23 (6-12)- and Canisius-currently 10-19 (4-14)  were 4-24 (2-14), 8-20 (4-14), and 5-24 (2-16) respectively last season.  Let's just say that these teams are probably not going to be competing for an NCAA tourney birth any time soon...

So what was Sterk thinking when he schedules these teams?  Yeah, I don't know who actually schedules these teams, it may be Sterk, and I do know that they often schedule the teams a couple years in advanced and set up a series of annual meetings, but why these teams?

Are we scheduling horrible mid-majors to guarantee even more so that we will accumulate wins?  Because that may or may not be a very good strategy.   Yeah, we will most definitely win those games, but as I have shown above, by playing these teams we are actually hurting are RPI more than if we didn't play these teams at all.  (This is despite the fact that we always win against the horrible teams, winning percentage means less than the strength of the team you are beating when it comes to RPI)

Why can't we schedule some good mid-major teams next year, or atleast schedule some semi-decent ones?  Please don't tell me that the reason we aren't scheduling better mid-major teams is because they don't want to have to come to Pullman.  That can not be the reason.  That is one of the excuses for not scheduling big name teams such as North Carolina or Michigan State, but can mid-majors really be that selective?  I don't think so.  And if that is the case, why not take a trip to Alabama State or Robert Morris every once in a while?

Question:  So how do the Cougars improve their RPI next season?

Answer:  By not playing low-life college basketball programs on a regular basis.



This FanPost does not necessarily reflect the views of the site's writers or editors, who may not have verified its accuracy. It does, however, reflect the views of this particular fan, which is just as important as the views of our writers or editors.

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