Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Inside the RPI: Who have they beaten?

With Monday's release of the season's first Ratings Percentage Index, let's take a look inside the RPI at what really matters:  Good wins and bad losses.

It's all about who you've played and who you've beaten.  And for those teams with NCAA Tournament aspirations, it's also about avoiding bad losses.

Let's take a look at the Mountain West team by team, based on the current RPI.

San Diego State

RPI:  41
Best wins:  Notre Dame (39), Syracuse (47), Texas Tech (48)
Worst losses:  Stephen F. Austin (133), Virginia (99), Long Beach St. (77)

Analysis:  The Aztecs' RPI is based almost entirely on strength of schedule.  Of San Diego State's 31 games, 19 have been against the RPI top 100.  The Aztecs have avoided bad losses and have another chance at a marquee non-conference win at Cal State Fullerton on April 10.  The Titans are currently No. 32 in the RPI, despite a 15-17 overall record.  At this point, San Diego State's NCAA Tournament chances are good, but they hinge on finishing the season strong.  SDSU played an impressive seven games versus the RPI top 25, but went 0-7 in those contests.

New Mexico

RPI:  93
Best wins:  Oregon State (27), Auburn (65), Kansas (83)
Worst losses:  Yale (274), Hampton (203), A&M-Corpus Christi (198)

Analysis:  Based on the RPI, the Lobos have played a very uneven schedule.  New Mexico has faced a slew of top 25 powers, along with a lot of bad teams, and not too much in between.  The Lobos' loss to Yale is the worst (RPI-wise) among Mountain West teams, but the win over Oregon State is one of the better victories in the conference.  Despite being second-best in the Mountain West in current RPI, there is little in New Mexico's at-large NCAA profile to suggest it can earn a bid without winning the conference regular-season title.

UNLV

RPI:  100
Best wins:  Louisville (10), Tulsa (22), Virginia Tech (24)
Worst losses:  Weber State (261), Bryant (212), Loyola Marymount (187)

Analysis:  The Rebels have the most impressive wins of any Mountain West team, picking up three victories over the RPI top 25.  Unfortunately the losses to Bryant and Weber State will continue to haunt the Rebels all season long, especially the one to the woeful Wildcats.  It's quite possible, if not likely, that UNLV would have an RPI closer to 75 if not for those two bad losses.  If any team in the Mountain West is going to make a big leap in the RPI, it appears to be the Rebels because of the quality wins.  If UNLV can go on a winning streak and get into the NCAA at-large conversation, they'll have victories in their pocket that could make them attractive on Selection Sunday.  The Rebels play a doubleheader at Cal State Fullerton on April 20, and two wins over the Titans (currently No. 32 in the RPI) would be huge.

Fresno State

RPI:  104
Best wins:  Pacific (64), Kansas (83), Cal Poly (92)
Worst losses:  San Diego (176), Idaho State (154), Sacramento St. (144)

Analysis:  This was all about scheduling. The Bulldogs didn't attend the Mary Nutter Classic (formerly Cathedral City Classic) for the first time in eight years and didn't go to the Judi Garman Classic for the first time in a generation.  Not playing marquee opponents in the two highest-profile tourneys in the country this season meant Fresno State needed a gaudy record to make some RPI noise.  It hasn't happened.  Games with high-profile opponents Oregon and Oregon State were rained out, further hurting the Bulldogs' RPI.  On the plus side, the Bulldogs are the only Mountain West team other than San Diego State to avoid losing to a sub-200 RPI team.  Fresno State has just three top 100 wins though, nowhere near enough to be considered for an NCAA at-large bid.  Playing 14 non-conference games against teams outside the top 150 hurt this team significantly.  This will be the first time in school history a Bulldog softball team heads into conference play knowing it must win a regular-season crown in order to reach the NCAA Tournament for the 31st time in 32 years.

Nevada

RPI:  105
Best wins:  Hawaii (20), Pacific (64), Utah (72)
Worst losses:  Southern Utah (242), Idaho State (154), Sacramento St. (144)

Analysis:  Nevada and Fresno State are next to each other in the RPI and played very similar schedules.  Both beat top 100 teams Pacific and Cal Poly.  Both list defeats to Idaho State and Sacramento State as some of their worst.  The Wolf Pack have the significantly better win -- a victory over Hawaii in week two of the season.  But Nevada has worse losses, including three to Idaho State, which has really hampered the RPI.  While the Wolf Pack head into conference play with a Mountain West-best 20 wins, there aren't enough quality victories to be considered for an at-large NCAA bid.  Only 11 of Nevada's 33 non-conference games have been played against teams currently ranked in the RPI top 100.  In order to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years, the Wolf Pack will have to win the regular-season Mountain West title.

Boise State

RPI:  124
Best wins:  Texas Tech (48), Northwestern (61), UTSA (109)
Worst losses:  Utah State (241), Missouri State (185) Idaho State (154)

Analysis:  Nearly half of Boise State's losses (8 of 17) have come against teams ranked outside the RPI top 100.  That's a problem, and it's the main reason the Broncos have taken the steepest RPI fall in the last year among Mountain West teams.  The Broncos did manage a 6-6 tie with No. 22 Tulsa last weekend, going 0-1-1 in their two games with the Golden Hurricane.  Boise State has just two wins over the top 100, fewest among Mountain West teams.  With a lack of quality wins, the Broncos are yet another team that must win the regular-season conference title in order to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Colorado State

RPI:  128
Best wins:  Texas Tech (48), Long Beach St. (77), New Mexico St. (91)
Worst losses:  Miami-OH (246), Harvard (245), Loyola Marymount (187)

Analysis:  One loss to a sub-200 RPI team could be forgiven.  But two losses to teams 245 or worse in the RPI have doomed the Rams, and it's the main reason CSU ranks last in the Mountain West.  Also a mystery:  How Texas Tech remains 48th in the RPI having lost to four different teams in this conference, including the two with the worst RPIs.  It makes no sense, and there are always flukes like that.  Colorado State narrowly missed a chance at a much better RPI, losing three tight games to top 50 teams Georgia, Arkansas and Nebraska-Omaha.  The Rams blew a late lead in a 1-run loss to the Bulldogs, and lost in extra innings by one run to both the Razorbacks and UNO.