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Stats Corner: Which is better RPI or NET?

How did the new system affect the ranks of MWC Basketball Teams?

Texas Tech v Villanova Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Now that the regular season is completed and tournament season has begun, let’s look at how the new NET ranking benefited or impaired the Mountain West schools. With any change there is going to be unintended consequences, schools which unforeseen benefit is more or less than the average . The questions to ask are “are power conference schools getting a bigger boast than expected (not unintended)?” and “is the system being detrimental to small schools (also not unforeseen)?” Remember, that when the first NET rankings were released Ohio State was first, Texas Tech was third, and Loyola Marymount was top 10. Conversely Kansas, at 23-8, is currently ranked first in the RPI system followed by Duke, Virginia, and then North Carolina. Seems a little bias towards traditional powerhouses. Kansas does have a NET ranking of 20th which, in this case, does make the NET ranking seem a little more reasonable, however North Carolina State has a RPI of 104 but a NET ranking of 32. That is a difference between staying home and getting an 8th seed. Therefore, some power schools do better under one system than other, but how about the MWC?

The most important rankings are NET, RPI, AP top 25, and Coach’s poll. Included here are Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings (KenPom), CBS sports ranking, and College Basketball Power Index (BPI). BPI is a measure of team strength is used to be a best predictor of performance going forward. BPI represents how many points above or below average a team is.


RPI 17th, NET 18th, AP Top 25, 14th Coaches Poll, 17th KenPom 23rd, CBS Sports 21st, BPI 16th

Average Ranking 18th, RPI-NET: -1

The rankings for Nevada are pretty consistent (everyone agrees they are pretty good), and the change between systems is negligible, the biggest question is the NCAA Selection Committee and their seeding. They should be a 5th seed, perhaps a 4th seed if they win the tournament and beat Utah State in the finals, but where does the committee seed them? Remember NET is a suggestion, and I have a feeling that the committee might ignore the suggestion.

Utah State

RPI 33rd, NET 30th, AP Top 25 29th, Coaches Poll 29th, KenPom 40th, CBS Sports 44th BPI 51st

Average Ranking 36th RPI-NET: 3

The fun comparisons for Utah State is between pre-season rankings (think 270s) and end of season, that could be the biggest jump in rankings in NCAA history, and the reason Coach Smith is MW Coach of the Year (he should be considered for National Coach of the Year). The outside rankings KenPom, CBS, and BPI aren’t quite on the Utah State bandwagon, but 29, 29, 30, and 33 on the rankings that matter are consistent.

Fresno St

RPI 105th, NET 80th, KenPom 65th, CBS Sports 118th, BPI 67th

Average Ranking 87th RPI-NET: 25

Fresno has to be please currently with the NET system (that could change next year). The boost of 25 places should be enough for a NIT invite. CBS Sports doesn’t think as much about Fresno, but the other algorithms method rankings, KenPom and BPI, are much more favorable.

San Diego St

RPI 111th, NET 133rd, KenPom 135th, CBS Sports 123rd, BPI 112th

Average Ranking 123rd RPI-NET: -22

If Fresno is pleased, San Diego State, not so much. Their RPI ranking is so much higher than the other rankings and their NET ranking is near the bottom. It won’t affect their post-season much, but it is nicer to end the season close to top 100 rather than 22 places further back.


RPI 168th, NET 158th, KenPom 160th, CBS Sports 177th, BPI 151st

Average Ranking 163rd RPI-NET: 10

UNLV started the season with high hopes, but everyone ranks them middle of the college pack. Couple weeks ago, I called UNLV “your average boring team”. All the rankings support that.

Air Force

RPI 223rd, NET 244th, KenPom 244th, CBS Sports 212th, BPI 293rd

Average Ranking 243rd RPI-NET: -21

The NET system hurt them a little, but the bigger questions is why does RPI rank them at 223rd and BPI rank them 293rd? Both use analytics to predict, but that is a huge difference. And why is CBS Sports so high (relative to their ranking, not their actual performance) on Air Force?

Colorado St

RPI 217th, NET 182nd, KenPom 173rd, CBS Sports 214th, BPI 195th

Average Ranking 196th RPI-NET: 35

Schools from Colorado apparently place better in the conference than they do in the NET rankings, as both Air Force and Colorado were superior in conference standings than teams who are nationally ranked higher than them. A nice 35 ranking jump under the new system, good for second best jump in the conference. Just please, please, please, give us a few more 35 ranking jumps over the next few years.

Boise State

RPI 238th, NET 150th, KenPom 142nd, CBS Sports 218th, BPI 135th

Average Ranking 177th RPI-NET: 88

And the award for the biggest boost under the NET ranking goes to Boise State. Maybe this is a way to pay back the school for all the times the football team was left out of major bowl games. “To show we are not bias against Boise State football and keeping them from competing for a National Championship, the playoffs, New Year’s Day bowls, and from millions of dollars that otherwise went to power conferences, we will rank Boise State Basketball 88 places higher.” Not that it helps the team. That is a huge difference in rankings, but why is RPI so set against Boise as the other rankings are more consistent with the NET ranking. Is CBS Sports relying on RPI too much, or the other analytics too much like NET? Either way Boise’s rankings are all over the place.

New Mexico

PRI 202nd, NET 190th, KenPom 188th, CBS Sports 171st, BPI 184th

Average Ranking 187th RPI-NET: 12

Where do you rank a team that destroys Nevada, almost beats Utah State and loses to San Jose State AND Wyoming? Apparently middle of the pack. They get a slight boost in the NET rankings, due to Nevada being a Q1 win, but can’t get over losing to San Jose State.


RPI 325th, NET 320th, KenPom 315th, CBS Sports 321st, BPI 330th

Average Ranking 322nd RPI-NET: 5

The schools at the top of the ranking have little difference between RPI and NET because there isn’t much room to move them, same with schools at the bottom. A bump in ranking for Wyoming with NET, but when the first number is a 3 and it’s a three digit number, not good.

San Jose St

RPI 337th, NET 337th, KenPom 342nd, CBS Sports 336th, BPI 345th

Average Ranking 339th RPI-NET: 0

It’s not a good sign when your RPI and NET scores are the same because they can’t go much lower. Even CBS Sports could only place San Jose State one rank higher.

Outside of the anomaly of Boise State, the conference overall is about the same under the new NET system. Some a little higher, some a little lower. The upper schools were the least affect Nevada lost a rank, Utah State gained 3, which is most important. If one of those top schools was seriously lower under the new system it would be cause for worry. Currently the NET system seems fair to the Mountain West. Now all we need to do is find a way to improve the selection committee, have them rely more on the ranking, and have them stop underseeding Mountain West Schools.