March 17, 2008


The NCAA brackets are posted at Facebook, so you can make your picks and the Scrabulous and Chess matches are going hot and heavy. We also set up a Brothers Judd group, which we'd be honored to have folks join.

You can also play against John McCain at his Website

-Win Your Office Pool: Thou shalt win with these Ten Commandments of bracketology (Greg Presto, 3/17/08, Men's Health)
-2008 NCAA Tournament (JONAH KERI, March 17, 2008, NY Sun)
-Selection Committee Again Leaves Fans Scratching Their Heads (JOHN HOLLINGER, March 17, 2008, NY Sun)

It's called the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI for short, and as usual it resulted in a few head-scratching decisions when Selection Sunday came for the NCAA men's basketball Tournament — most notably the decision to take flawed teams like St. Joseph's, Villanova, and Kentucky ahead of Arizona State, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.

To see why, we need to understand the big picture. The RPI is a poor measurement of a basketball team's quality for two reasons. First, it makes no distinction between a two-point loss to a great team (as in Virginia Tech's ACC Tournament loss to North Carolina this weekend, which likely cost the Hokies a bid) or a blowout defeat (as in Villanova's 19-point shellacking at the hands of Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals).

Second, and more importantly, it isn't even good at what it's designed to do. The NCAA is loathe to consider victory margin for one very good reason — it encourages teams to run up the score against weak opponents. Since a lot of college basketball games are mismatches talent-wise, this can make for some very poor sportsmanship at the very least.

The way RPI works, though, is to simply take a team's winning percentage and multiply it by its opponents winning percentage. This effectively means that playing a team like North Carolina will improve your RPI, even if you lose, while playing a team like Oregon State will make it worse, even if you win.

The kind folks at Picador just donated a couple of the Reykjavik thrillers by Arnaldur Indridason that we'll be giving away as prizes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2008 8:17 PM

Mr. Hollinger should have looked at the conference records of Arizona St. (9-9), Ohio St. (10-8), and Virginia Tech (10-8). Kentucky went 12-4 in the SEC. They most definitely deserve to be in over those other three teams.

Flawed yes, but better.

Posted by: Bartman at March 17, 2008 9:53 AM
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