Earlier today, the NCAA announced a major upgrade to the tournament selection process: the NET, or the NCAA Evaluation Tool. Starting this season, the NET will replace the RPI as the primary metric the selection committee uses to choose and seed teams for the tournament.
Drew gave you an overview of the NET earlier, but here’s a little bit more about how it works and what it means for Kentucky.
According to the NCAA, the NET relies on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses. It was developed with input from the Selection Committee, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, basketball analytics experts, and Google Cloud Professional Services (!). Developers used late season games in test sets to predict outcomes and optimize the system until it was as accurate as possible.
It’s important to note that the NET isn’t the only metric the selection committee will use; it simply replaces the RPI as the sorting tool. Tournament team sheets will still use the quadrant system, ESPN’s BPI and Strength of Record, along with rankings by Kevin Pauga, KenPom, and Jeff Sagarin.
Scoring margin now matters…sort of
One big difference between the RPI and NET is that the NET accounts for scoring margin, whereas the RPI only ranked teams by wins, losses, and strength of schedule. Scoring margins now matter, BUT they’ll be capped at 10 points “to prevent rankings from encouraging unsportsmanlike play, such as needlessly running up the score in a game where the outcome was certain.”
Is it just me or does ten points seem like a low cap? The difference between a ten-point win and a 20-point win is huge. I’d raise that to 15, but that’s just me.
When a game takes place does not matter
The NET will factor in the location of the game, but it won’t consider the date, so Kentucky vs. Duke on November 6 will be just as important as a game in the SEC Tournament.
Yet another reason to beat Duke.
You’ll be able to check the NET daily
Starting in late November, NET rankings will be publicly available and updated daily through Selection Sunday and again after the tournament’s over. That means you’ll see it A LOT on this here website.
Unfortunately, we may never really know exactly how it works
CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander spoke with Dan Gavitt, the senior vice president of basketball for the NCAA, who said the NET algorithm is powered by artificial intelligence, so it’s not something that can fully be explained to the public, nor will the organization run it on previous seasons for comparison. So, essentially, you won’t really know how the sausage is made.
But, it’s better than the RPI, right? Baby steps.