Monday, March 21, 2016

Initial RPI release: Fresno State is 20th; 4 MW teams in Top 100

The first Ratings Percentage Index of the season was released Monday morning, and Fresno State's impressive non-conference performance against one of the nation's strongest schedules is paying off.

Trisha Ford's Bulldogs arrive at No. 20 in the initial RPI release of 2016.  That's 24 spots better than a year ago at this point for Fresno State.  It's also the Bulldogs' highest RPI ranking in eight seasons.  The last time it was higher:  2008, when Fresno State was awarded one of 16 national seeds in the NCAA Tournament and named a regional host.

Notable teams ranked behind the Bulldogs in the RPI include perennial softball powers Tennessee (21st), Nebraska (22nd), Georgia (24th), Notre Dame (25th), Oregon State (26th), Arizona State (30th), Mississippi State (31st), Texas (37th), and California (43rd).

RPI Top 25 (click to enlarge)
In addition, the NCAA released strength of schedule numbers today, and it's easy to see how Fresno State is ranked so high in the RPI.  The Bulldogs have played the 10th toughest schedule in the country, according to the latest NCAA stats.  Also in the NCAA top 50 in strength of schedule:  San Jose State at 44.

In the RPI, Fresno State is the lone Top 25 or Top 50 team ranked from the Mountain West.  At this point last year, both the Bulldogs and San Diego State appeared in the RPI Top 50.  This time around, the Aztecs come in at No. 55, a somewhat precarious spot in in terms of NCAA at-large possibilities.

San Diego State was 30th at this point in the RPI a season ago.

Nevada ranks 93rd in the RPI, while New Mexico comes in at No. 100, giving the conference four Top 100 teams.  The Wolf Pack are an interesting case, entering Mountain West play with a 19-5 record, but against one of the nation's poorest schedules.  In the latest NCAA stats, Nevada's schedule ranks as the 15th worst in the country (281st of 295), and 18 of the Wolf Pack's 19 wins are over teams ranked outside the RPI Top 100.  Nevada has played just three of its 24 games against RPI Top 100 teams and is 1-2 in those contests.  When the Wolf Pack meet San Diego State on March 29 to begin a 3-game conference series, it will be the first time Nevada has faced an RPI Top 100 team in 45 days.

New Mexico, for the second straight season, has improved its RPI.  The Lobos are at No. 100 this season after being No. 144 at this point last year.  UNM joins Fresno State and San Diego State as teams with at least one win over a team in the RPI Top 25.  The Lobos defeated Nebraska 6-3 Saturday in Fullerton.

The Mountain West has seven teams in the top 130 of the RPI, compared to five a season ago, signifying a deeper overall league this year.  Bunched together are San Jose State at No. 111, Colorado State at No. 114, and UNLV, which comes in at No. 126.  From there, it's a steep drop-off, with Utah State (220th) and Boise State (222nd) languishing near the bottom of the RPI.