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Stats Corner: NET Ranking the MWC Teams

Ranking the MWC teams based on their NET rankings

Nevada v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

Just two months ago the NCAA posted an article on “How the field of 68 D1 men’s teams is picked for March Madness.” There are 32 automatic qualifiers and 36 “best” at-large teams. From the article “The committee selects the 36 best teams not otherwise automatic qualifiers for their conference to fill the at-large berths. There is no limit on the number of at-large teams the committee may select from one conference”. So how are the best at large teams selected? Well, “Committee members have a wide-range of observation, consultation and data resources available to them throughout the season and during selection week.” And “each of the 12 committee members uses these various resources to form their own opinions”. There are several rankings available but the only one listed on the website is the NET ranking. “The NET is one of many resources/tools available to the committee in the selection, seeding and bracketing process. Computer models cannot accurately evaluate qualitative factors such as games missed by key players or coaches, travel difficulties and other effects of specific games. Each committee member independently evaluates a vast amount of information during the process to make individual decisions.”

Last week on Stats Corner, we covered how the NET and KenPom rankings were created. This week, we are going to rank the MWC conference on their NET rankings. This is not a power ranking or who I think are the best teams, it is a look at a team’s NET ranking and where it comes from so it is a “subjective opinion” as the NCAA described the NET rankings, which means it may or may not play a role in seeding depending how which team we are talking about and whether or not we want them in the NCAA tournament.

A quick refresher there are two parts to the NET ranking: The Team Value Index or the game results, the game location, and outcome, and net efficiency (offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency). The divisions for the quadrants are:

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75.

Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135.

Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240.

Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.

Record and rankings are as on games completed by Tuesday January 17th.

1) Boise State NET #20 (Q1 0-1, Q2 7-2, Q3 3-0, Q4 4-1)

While the Broncos are the highest ranked team in the country, they are not without their flaws. They have a Q4 loss, which hurts. They also have two Q2 losses, which are not deal breakers (#2 Tennessee is 4-2 in Q2). The problem for the Broncos is the no Q1 wins. Fortunately, there are several MWC teams who will qualify as Q1 victories when they host the Broncos. If the Broncos can win on the road, they will boast their resume with Q1 wins.

2) San Diego State NET #30 (Q1 1-3, Q2 2-1, Q3 8-0, Q4 1-0)

The Aztecs do not have a bad loss on their record, and have a Q1 win which is more than the Broncos. So why the lower ranking? It’s the 8 Q3 games. They had a weak non-conference schedule and are suffering for it. In their defense, they probably expected BYU (14-7), Stanford (5-12), and Ohio State (10-8) to be better when they scheduled them.

3) New Mexico NET #31 (Q1 2-0, Q2 2-0, Q3 6-2, Q4 6-0)

The last of the unbeaten, the most Q1 wins in the conference, undefeated in Q1 and Q2 games, but ranked 3rd by NET. Blame it on the two Q3 losses. Bad losses do impact the NET rankings. Also, like San Diego State, they played too many Q3 and Q4 teams during their non-conference run. Their next two games are Q1 games at home to Boise State and at Nevada (to show how location matters, if Nevada was at home it would be a Q2 game). If the Lobos can start 4-0 in Q1 games they will move to the top of the list.

4) Nevada NET #34 (Q1 1-4, Q2 4-1, Q3 5-0, Q4 4-0)

The bad news for the Wolfpack is they have 5 losses. The good news is four of them are Q1 and the other is Q2. They also have 5 Q1 and Q2 wins, #16 Baylor is 6-5 in Q1 and Q2 games, so they ranking is comparable.

5) Utah State NET #35 (Q1 0-2, Q2 3-0, Q3 8-0, Q4 3-2)

In years past the fifth ranked MWC teams would have a ranking closer to 150, so the fact that playing the 5th ranked team in the conference is a Q1 or Q2 game shows how strong the conference is. The Aggies have two issues, 0-2 in Q1 (no good wins) and 3-2 in Q4 meaning two really bad losses. The Aggies are sitting ok and are all the teams above them, and while none of them need to win out to make the NCAA tournament, no one in the top 5 can afford a Q3 or Q4 loss the rest of the season.

6) UNLV NET #76 (Q1, 1-3, Q2 3-1, Q3 3-2, Q4 4-0)

The first real dropout in the conference rankings, the Rebels started the season well victories over Minnesota and Washington State. But, only going 3-2 in Q3 has started to hurt them. It seems weird that a team with a 1-5 conference record is the sixth ranked team, but when you start out 10-0 your have something to work with, but time is running out for the Running Rebels.

7) Colorado State NET #113 (Q1 1-4, Q2 1-2, Q3 1-2, Q4 6-1)

In 2019 New Mexico was the 5th highest ranked team in the MWC at 119 and had gone 1-1 in Q1 and 1-3 in Q2. The fact that the Rams are the 7th highest ranked with a slightly better record means the conference is quite deep, which is good for everyone. The problem with Colorado State (see Utah State) is the 3 Q3 and Q4 losses, once again losing to teams they should be beating.

8) San Jose State NET #125 (Q1 0-4, Q2 2-1, Q3 2-2, Q4 7-0)

I know, at 3-3 in conference play San Jose State is ahead of 2-5 Colorado State and 1-5 UNLV, but we are going off of NET rankings. And both the Rebels and Rams have Q1 wins, while the Spartans are 0-4. With the NET rankings, who you play and beat does matter. They do have two Q1 games coming up at USU and at San Diego State (if they were playing at home, they would be Q2 games). Win one of those do not lose at home to Q3 Air Force and Q4 Wyoming and you could see the Spartans ranking rise.

9) Air Force NET #138 (Q1 0-1, Q2 1-2, Q3 2-1, Q4 9-3)

Decent overall record 12-7 and better conference record 3-3 than the three teams above them, so why so low. Only 4 Q1 and Q2 games to go with one win. The problem with the Falcons is their low strength of schedule, they did not play anyone, and their 3 Q4 losses. They do have 3 Q1 games in a row coming up at New Mexico, vs Boise State, and at Nevada. If they want to improve their rankings they need to win at least one probably two of those games. Only having 1 Q1 or Q2 win, is not going to help their ranking.

10) Fresno State NET #204 (Q1 0-2, Q2 2-4, Q3 0-4, Q4 3-1)

In 2019, the 10th best ranked team in the MWC was Wyoming at 326, while this is the second major drop off in rankings it is more than 100 places higher than it has in the past. A good sign for the conference. Other than a nice win of New Mexico, there is not a lot going for the Bulldogs. Going 0-4 in Q3 has to change. As shown against New Mexico, they can play with anyone, and of their 11 losses, 9 where by single digits. That means they are “unlucky” according to KenPom, they just need to catch some more breaks.

11) Wyoming NET #210 (Q1 0-4, Q2 0-4, Q3 1-3, Q4 3-2)

Three years ago, San Jose State was the lowest ranked MWC team at 339. So, a 210 ranking for Wyoming is a great improvement. They need to do better than the 0-8 in Q1 and Q2 and have a winning record in Q3. They have had their chances losing by 1 to New Mexico and by 5 to San Diego State, so a few Q1-Q2 victories by the end of the season are a possibility. But overall, a much deeper and better conference.