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Stats Corner: NET Ranking the Bottom 6

Looking how the NCAA ranks the bottom half of MWC

California v UNLV Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The first ever Stats Corner article (see here) was an explanation of the new NET Ranking the NCAA is using to offer suggestions, as an “organizational piece” (NCAA official website quote), to help the committee decide who gets into the tournament. Other quotes from the NCAA describe the NET ranking as “not a deciding factor” and “not going to determine if a team is in or out of the bracket.” You can come up with your own translation how this will affect mid-majors. This week we are going to look at the NET ranking (as of February 24th) for the bottom 6 teams in the Mountain West (the ones who are not playing in the post-season) and next week, we cover the top five teams and look at their post season chances. Quick review at the five influential items: Team Value Index, Team Efficiency, Scoring Margin (maxed out at 10 points), Wins, and Road vs. Home venues. Also, only games against Division 1 teams count towards the NET ranking.

The NCAA has created team sheets for each team. These contain all the information used to create the rankings. Remember there is not an algorithm, meaning there no formula for humans to recreate the rankings; the predictive-learning model does it. The team sheet divides the games into 4 quadrants for rankings. Quadrant 1 is the top opponents. If the team is playing at home, opponents who are ranked 1-30 are included, neutral courts are 1-50, and away from home includes 1-75. For quadrant 2 it is home 31-75, neutral 51-100, and away 76-135. Quadrant 3 is home 76-160, neutral 101-200, and away 136-240. Quadrant 4 is the easiest opponents and home over 161, neutral over 201, and away is over 241.

The bottom half of the conference is pathetic. Chris Murray wrote a piece (available here) calling this season the “Worst the Mountain West has ever been.” Unfortunately, he is not wrong (no offense Chris, but wish you were). The Mountain West was ranked 14th the NET conference rankings behind American Athletic, Mid-American, Atlantic 10, Ivy League, Conference USA, and Southern. The Ivy League’s top school is Yale, ranked 70th, and Conference USA best team is Old Dominion at 74th, compared to Nevada’s 18th, Utah State’s 37th, and Fresno State’s 89th. Even the WAC has a better out of conference record than the Mountain West (59-56 for 51.3% versus 65-64 for 50.4%). Here are the schools who are dragging the conference down and need to pick it up sooner rather than later. Click here to view all 353 NET sheets.

UNLV

NET Ranking 160. Average NET Win 236. Average Net Loss 120.

Win Loss Record Road Record SOS

DIV 1 Only 15-12 5-4 217

Non-Conference 6-6 1-1 156

Q1 0-3

Q2 1-2

Q3 3-6

Q4 11-1

UNLV is your average boring team. Usually beat the teams they should, lose to the team you expect. Their best win is against BYU (NET 83rd), earning bonus points for being on a neutral court. Almost beat Cincinnati (NET 24th) at home and Illinois (NET 90th) away. The home loss to Valparaiso (NET 182nd) hurts. For UNLV to help the conference, they need to be consistent, cannot go 3-6 in Q3. Four losses to teams with a NET ranking between 89-153 and two losses to teams 198-240 show that UNLV is not quite ready to move to the upper half of the conference. Also, note that while the NET ranking for San Diego St is the same for home and away at 129, they are classified at a Q2 team when played away and Q3 when played at home. Away games are much more valuable than home games.

New Mexico

NET Ranking 171. Average NET Win 231 Average Net Loss 93.

Win Loss Record Road Record SOS

DIV 1 Only 10-15 3-7 49

Non-Conference 5-6 2-1 67

Q1 1-4

Q2 0-4

Q3 3-7

Q4 6-0

New Mexico gets the fortuitous award (happening by lucky chance or fortunate). The absolute beat-down of Nevada on January 5th followed by losing 6 out of 7. However, one of those was a 2-point loss to Utah State on a bad last minute call, since it was at home it classifies as a Q2 loses, and the loss at Logan is a Q1. New Mexico was shorted because that win over Nevada only counts as a 10-point win (NCAA does not want school to show unsportsman like conduct and run up the score). Another case of beat bad teams, lose (mostly) to good teams, going 1-8 in Q1 and Q2 and 6-0 in Q4.

Colorado State

NET Ranking 191. Average NET Win 238 Average Net Loss 128.

Win Loss Record Road Record SOS

DIV 1 Only 10-16 2-7 109

Non-Conference 4-8 0-2 127

Q1 0-3

Q2 0-4

Q3 2-6

Q4 8-3

Colorado State gets hurt by their road losses and out of conference losses. Losing to Wyoming (NET 326) and Long Beach St (NET 245) hurt, despite playing out of state. Their ranking is helped by the 10-point rule, given that all their Q1 and Q1 loses are double digit, as are four of the six Q3 losses.

Air Force

NET Ranking 240. Average NET Win 233 Average Net Loss 137.

Win Loss Record Road Record SOS

DIV 1 Only 11-15 2-8 177

Non-Conference 4-7 0-3 197

Q1 0-3

Q2 1-3

Q3 4-4

Q4 6-5

Bonus points go to Air Force for beating Fresno St on the road. Because they won in California it goes down as a Q2 win, if it had been at home it would have be a Q3 win, hey get those quality wins and additional ranking points anyway you can. However, three home loses and two neutral site to Q4 teams, combined with only one Q4 away win by 2-points (San Jose St NET 339) drops Air Force’s ranking. It is possible that the Colorado loss will move to a Q2 lose since Colorado has a NET ranking of 76 and the cut-off is 75, so cheer for the Buffaloes to win some games. However, since it is a more than 10-point loss not going to help much. A better way to improve their ranking is to quit losing Q4 home games.

Wyoming

NET Ranking 326. Average NET Win 218 Average Net Loss 154.

Win Loss Record Road Record SOS

DIV 1 Only 2-21 0-10 192

Non-Conference 3-9 0-3 254

Q1 0-2

Q2 0-4

Q3 2-11

Q4 3-4

When your strength of schedule for Non-Conference games is 254 with only 3 road games, the conferences needs you to go better than 3-9. If you beat South Carolina (NET 81) at home, you should not lose at home to Grambling (NET 292), Niagara (NET 306) AND Denver (NET 327). In past years, this would be the low point of the conference. However….

San Jose State

NET Ranking 339. Average NET Win 293 Average Net Loss 160.

Win Loss Record Road Record SOS

DIV 1 Only 2-23 0-10 179

Non-Conference 2-9 0-3 236

Q1 0-3

Q2 0-2

Q3 0-10

Q4 2-8

There was a time with San Jose St won two games in a row Bethune-Cookman (NET 291) and Northern Arizona (291), then lost two close away games Stanford (NET 103) and Cal (NET 278). Things looked to be turning around. Then reality struck. Thank goodness for the 10-point cap rule, or this would be a worse ranking.