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The NET is a good change in theory, but is far from perfect

Yesterday’s news is a positive, but how positive is it?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball rejoiced on Wednesday as the NCAA announced that it would be ditching the RPI and installing a new metric called the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) as the main metric for NCAA Tournament selection.

It’s a change that’s long overdue, and I don’t think anybody will be sad to see the RPI go.

The NCAA’s press release can be read here.

I didn’t get around to reading up on it until late last night, so I missed the initial discourse on Twitter. However, as a Real College Basketball Journalist, I’m required to offer up my takes on the new metric. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

  • Welcome to the modern age, NCAA. With advanced statistics and data becoming more prevalent in the college basketball landscape every year, it’s nice to see the NCAA finally ditch the archaic RPI for something that seems like it should lead to a more accurate NCAA Tournament field.
  • Why are both efficiency and scoring margin included? They’re essentially the same thing. Efficiency is just on a possession basis whereas scoring margin is on a game basis.
  • I don’t know if I love the scoring margin being capped at 10. Dan Gavitt told CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander that they ran the model with many different scenarios and margin caps. If 10 is the number they feel is the best, then so be it. It just seems like that could hurt mid-majors that traditionally have scoring margins that are much higher than that on a regular basis, such as Gonzaga. This is something I could see changing in the future.
  • I think it’s good that they’re still using the Quadrant system. It’s not perfect, but it’s a relatively simple and easily interpreted method of grouping a team’s opponents. The cutoffs should be evaluated regularly though to refine how we value opponents.
  • I feel sorry for bracketologists. They’re essentially going to be starting from zero. Good luck guys! (P.S: If anyone is good at bracketology and needs an outlet to share it on, hit my DMs)
  • We’ll be able to see how the rankings change throughout the season. The rankings will be made public and updated for a majority of the season. That’s very important.
  • This is a minor nitpick, but I don’t love the timing of the announcement, and here’s why: So many schools have already finalized their schedules. The NCAA is not putting together historical numbers, so coaches would not have been able to use it for scheduling. But so many - if not every - schedule was put together with the RPI in mind. There really isn’t a good way around it, but it’s just something I would hate to see cost a team a bid in the end.

It’s certainly going to be interesting to watch how the NET works and values teams. It’s still going to come down to how the Selection Committee evaluates and interprets the data, but the NET is absolutely an improvement on the RPI.