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NCAA announces new ‘NET’ ranking system to replace RPI in Division I Men’s Basketball

The evaluation system is used in the analysis process for March Madness seeding and Selection Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Virginia vs Clemson Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA announced a modernized metric, the NCAA Evaluation Tool or “NET,” to replace the RPI, or Rating Percentage Index, as the primary tool for evaluating teams ahead of the 2018-19 D1 men’s basketball season.

The new “NET” ranking system was approved in late July and announced on Wednesday after testing and refining using data from the 2017-18 season.

The tool uses game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses to create a ranking system that is accurate and evaluates team performance more fairly than the polarizing RPI system. It omits data like game date and order of opponents to give equal weight to games played at both the beginning and end of a season. It also caps how many points can be awarded for a win margin to prevent teams from raking up points intentionally in an unsportsmanlike way.

“What has been developed is a contemporary method of looking at teams analytically, using results-based and predictive metrics that will assist the Men’s Basketball Committee as it reviews games throughout the season,” said Dan Gavitt, senior vice president of basketball for the NCAA, in the league’s announcement. “While no perfect rankings exist, using the results of past tournaments will help ensure that the rankings are built on an objective source of truth.”

The NCAA also reiterated that although the new NET tool was designed to promote fairness in NCAA seeding and selection, “the committee won’t solely focus on metrics to select at-large teams and seed the field. There will always be a subjective element to the tournament selection process, too.”

RPI has been the traditional source of data for the NCAA’s Selection Sunday decisions since it was first used in 1981. It was designed to help the Men’s Basketball Committee select at-large teams and seeding and bracketing teams for March Madness each year, and, although the NET will be used for the men’s tournament, the RPI still will be used by other Division I sports committees, including the Women’s Basketball Committee for the 2018-19 season.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches, who was consulted in the development process, has been lobbying for advanced metrics to be used in the evaluation process for quite some time. Significant changes were made to the RPI system last year in response, including the addition of a quadrant system to place greater emphasis on away game wins and the inclusion of different previously missing metrics. Last season’s quadrant and metrics updates were widely accepted and will remain in place on team sheets and as part of the evaluation process.

The new NET system will simply serve to replace the RPI to sort games based on opponent’s rankings and utilize metrics in ranking creation. NET was designed as more of an overhaul of the system the NCAA was previously trying to fix in its RPI updates.