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NCAA’s NET Rankings and You: Does Arkansas Benefit From RPI’s Replacement?

The new NET rankings have been widely criticized already.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Basketball Tipoff Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t heard yet, the NCAA is ditching the RPI for a new ratings system. RIP to the RPI, also RIP to that joke after it’s been made for the millionth time. The new ratings system is called the NCAA Evaluation tool, or NET. Here’s some explainers on what the new system is about from the NCAA.

The NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET, will be the new barometer for the committee, and it will include game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.

So there’s roughly the formula. And the first rankings came out November 26th and have been updated daily on the NCAA’s website. How has it been received so far?

Well Mid Major Madness said “And you thought our rankings were bad”. Well that’s not a ringing endorsement. Let’s check in with FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver.

Oh no.

It’s clear the NCAA’s formula needs some work, but that isn’t going to happen this season. This is the ranking that will help determine postseason rankings this year. And to be fair the initial reaction was in part due to some small sample size weirdness. Things have straightened out some, for example Texas Tech is no longer ranked higher than Duke, but there is still some weirdness, even where the Hogs are.

Remember these are updated daily so things change quickly, but as of December 11th, Arkansas is ranked 60th. Here are some of the oddities surrounding the Hogs.

  • 11 spots behind San Diego
  • 26 spots ahead of Seton Hall
  • 15 spots behind Lipscomb
  • 22 spots behind Liberty (!)
  • 39 spots ahead of West Virginia (!!)

Some of these things will correct themselves as conference play happens but holy moly those are bad. But are these rankings bad in favor of Arkansas or against them?

The SEC currently has six teams in the top-50 (Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State, Kentucky, LSU, and Florida. Three teams are ranked 51-100 (Ole Miss, Arkansas and Vanderbilt). Four teams are 101-150 (Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas A&M), and South Carolina is currently the lowest ranked Power 5 school at 213.

Arkansas gets some help from Indiana being ranked high (currently 20th) and as mentioned earlier the rankings love Texas Tech (currently 4th) so that will be a big boost when the Hogs travel to Lubbock. Conversely, losses to Texas (currently 75th) and Western Kentucky (140th) are pretty big weights dragging the Hogs down, but if they get hot in conference play Arkansas can get through non conference play without any truly ugly losses. (knocks on all the wood within a five mile radius)

So overall? Pretty solid, the rankings like Arkansas enough that their in the middle of the pack of the SEC and shouldn’t bottom out. The rankings also weirdly like some of the Hogs opponents (Texas State at 80?) so that should be a plus for them as well. So as weird as it is, this flawed metric could be a benefit for the Hogs come March.

There’s also that weird Quadrant thing the NCAA introduced last season. Yeah that’s still a thing. It’s an incredibly dumb metric but the NCAA Selection Committee uses it so here’s a refresher on what that is.

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 135-240.

Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353.

Here’s the Hogs record and games remaining against each quadrant as things currently stand. Again, these rankings change daily so this won’t stay accurate through the year.

Q1: 1-0 (Indiana), 8 games remaining (at. Tennessee, at Ole Miss, at Texas Tech, at LSU, vs. Mississippi State, at Auburn, at Kentucky, at Vanderbilt)

Q2: 0-1 (Texas), 7 games remaining (vs. Georgia Tech, at Texas A&M, vs. Florida, vs. LSU, vs. Vanderbilt, at Missouri, vs. Ole Miss)

Q3: 1-1 (Colorado State, WKU), 7 games remaining (vs. Texas State, vs. Austin Peay, vs. Missouri, vs. Georgia, at South Carolina, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Alabama)

Q4: 4-0 (UC Davis, Montana State, UT-Arlington, FIU), 1 game remaining (vs. UTSA)

At first glance it looks pretty good, but there are some caveats. Out of these Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are likely to drop from Quadrant 1 games, and Austin Peay is perilously close to dropping to Quadrant 4. So long as most of the Hogs’ non-conference buy games don’t bottom out in their conference play, they should get through it with relatively few Q4 games which should help.

The other thing looking at this is that there is plenty of opportunity, but I wouldn’t favor the young Hogs to win many of those Q1 games. Seven of those eight chances come on the road against teams ranging from salty to downright elite. Arkansas should have a solid shot against Mississippi State but otherwise should be thanking their lucky stars that last Hoosier tip in didn’t fall. They also can’t afford to slip up against the lower half of the SEC like they did against Western Kentucky. Again, the youth of this team doesn’t favor the odds of that happening.

Mike Anderson has this team well ahead of schedule. Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe have been excellent compliments to Daniel Gafford and the supporting players have shown bright spots as well. The issue for them right now is consistency, and while there are plenty of chances to build that resume, that lack of consistency might come back to bite them just as often. But if the Hogs do pull some upsets, they can certainly point to the NET rankings, as flawed as they are, to their favor.