College Basketball Nation: BPI

Top-10 losses mean little in BPI rankings

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
6:28
PM ET
Four teams in the top 10 of ESPN’s Basketball Power Index lost last weekend, but the impact on the BPI rankings heading into this week’s major conference tournaments was minimal. The differences between the 0-to-100 BPI ratings of top teams meant that the drop in a team’s BPI after a loss often wasn’t enough to alter the rankings.

BPI No. 1 Arizona fell 64-57 at Oregon on Saturday and lost 0.7 in its BPI rating. But the Wildcats had enough of a cushion over No. 2 Florida that they maintained the hold on the top spot. Similarly, No. 9 Wisconsin, which lost at Nebraska on Sunday, maintained its ranking despite a 1.0 drop in BPI.

Kansas falls after Shockers’ victory
A 92-86 loss at West Virginia brought Kansas’ BPI rating down 0.7, and the Jayhawks kept their No. 3 BPI ranking after Saturday’s games.

After Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game Sunday, the Shockers got a bump of 0.2 in their BPI – a small bump, but large enough for Wichita State to move from No. 4 to No. 3 in the rankings, leapfrogging Kansas. The Jayhawks, who have the toughest schedule among BPI Top 15 teams, are No. 3 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings but fell from eighth to 10th in the weekly Associated Press poll.

Of the BPI Top 10 teams that lost, only Virginia (a 75-69 overtime loser at Maryland on Sunday) dropped in the rankings immediately after the defeat, from No. 7 to No. 8.

Pac-12 climber and faller
Oregon, in its BPI rating, gained less than Arizona lost after their game Saturday but climbed four spots in the rankings Sunday to No. 16. The Ducks have won seven games in a row (earning a BPI Game Score of at least 90 in five of them) and exceeded a 90 Game Score in its loss at Arizona on Feb. 6. The NCAA’s RPI has Oregon at No. 25, and the Ducks have the third-most votes among teams finishing out of the top 25 in the AP poll.

The biggest faller in BPI rankings among the Top 50 was UCLA. The Bruins lost 73-55 at No. 175 Washington State on Saturday and fell from 11th to 21st. UCLA earned a Game Score of 10.6 against Washington State, 10 points lower than any other game score for a team currently ranked in the BPI Top 25.

In the eye of the beholder
BPI and other team ranking systems weigh different factors, which explains why teams such as Michigan and Louisville can be regarded so differently.

Michigan is eighth in the AP poll, ninth in RPI and a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. In BPI, however, Michigan is 22nd. Of the Wolverines’ seven losses, four have been by at least 10 points; of their wins, seven have been by five points or fewer. Also, Michigan is 8-1 with an 88.7 BPI against opponents missing at least one of their top five players (in terms of minutes per game), and BPI de-weights those games.

Louisville rose from 11th to fifth in the AP poll, but the Cardinals are a projected No. 4 seed in Bracketology and are 22nd in RPI. BPI ranks the Cardinals fifth. All five of Louisville’s losses have been to BPI Top 50 teams and have been by an average of six points, whereas its five wins against Top-50 opponents have come by an average of 13.4 points.

BPI Talk: Could UNC win it all?

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
2:41
PM ET
Is it possible that the North Carolina Tar Heels could win the national championship?

The Tar Heels have the best BPI since Feb. 1. In each of the previous two seasons, the team with the best BPI between Feb. 1 and Selection Sunday went on to win the national championship –- Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville last year.

UNC is one of four teams with five wins against the BPI top 25 this season. The others are Wisconsin (7), Michigan (5) and Duke (5).

The Tar Heels are the only team with three wins against the BPI top 15 this season, having defeated Kentucky, Louisville and Duke.

Blind résumés: Pick your No. 1 seed

Let’s play a game called “blind résumés.” Take a look at the graphic to the right with three candidates for a No. 1 seed. Which team would you select?

Team A has the No. 1 RPI and No. 3 BPI with 11 top-50 wins, 17 top-100 wins and no bad losses against a very tough schedule that ranked No. 1 in nonconference play.

Team B and Team C have comparable BPI and RPI ranks, significantly lower than Team A's. Team B has just three top-50 wins and seven top-100 wins but had a fairly tough nonconference schedule.

Team C has eight top-50 wins and 16 top-100 wins but has a bad loss and played a nonconference schedule that doesn’t even rank in the top 100.

It seems as if Team A is the obvious choice, right?

That doesn’t seem to be the case. Team A is the Kansas Jayhawks, a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology. Team B –- the Wichita State Shockers –- and Team C -– the Syracuse Orange –- are both No. 1 seeds.

If Syracuse and Wichita State both get No. 1 seeds after being ranked outside the top eight in RPI, it would be the first time since 2000 that two No. 1 seeds were ranked No. 9 or worse in RPI.

That year was the only year in the past 20 seasons in which a team ranked outside the top eight in RPI earned a No. 1 seed over the team with the No. 1 RPI. The reason? The Cincinnati Bearcats were No. 1 in RPI and lost Kenyon Martin for the season with a broken leg in the Conference USA tournament.

Is Oklahoma State’s résumé underrated?

The Oklahoma State Cowboys have had quite the turbulent season. After losing seven straight, they’ve rebounded by winning two straight since Marcus Smart returned from suspension.

With Smart out (from Feb. 9 to Feb. 21), the Cowboys ranked No. 133 in BPI.

With Smart playing (all other days this season), Oklahoma State is ranked No. 18 in BPI.

The Cowboys are right on the bubble, according to Lunardi.

Oklahoma State doesn’t have a single loss outside the BPI top 100. The Cowboys also have three top-50 wins and seven top-100 wins.

Their biggest flaw on their résumé is nine losses against the BPI top 50.

Of teams currently ranked in the BPI top 100, only three teams have more than nine top-50 losses: Maryland, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Maryland is the only other top-50 team with at least nine losses against the BPI top 50.

Despite all of the losses, the Cowboys are still ranked No. 20 in BPI, although they're No. 47 in RPI. Why? They have eight losses by six or fewer points, two of which were in overtime.

Two of Oklahoma State’s losses –- against Kansas and Iowa State by a combined three points –- rank as two of the top 15 BPI game scores among losses in college basketball this season. No other team has two losses with BPI game scores that high.

BPI Talk: Why Florida is the best team

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
10:55
AM ET
Which team is the best team in college basketball? And how do we really measure that?

Syracuse is No. 1 in the AP Poll, but that is based on the subjective votes of media members.

Arizona is No. 1 in BPI and Kansas is No. 1 in RPI. But those metrics are based on formulas that factor in a team’s performance through the entire season.

The more insightful question is: Which team is the best with the roster we think each team will have in the NCAA Tournament?

For most teams, that's their current roster, but there are a few exceptions.

To evaluate that, we'll use each team's BPI with all of its key players. Those key players are defined as the five players who average the most minutes per game among players who have played at least half of the team's games. Games in which a key player played less than 10 minutes due to injury or foul trouble or any other reason are not included.

Florida reigns supreme
Based on this metric, the Florida Gators are the best team in college basketball.

With their current roster -- with Scott Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Michael Frazier II, Patric Young and Dorian Finney-Smith in the lineup together -- they are 17-1, with their only loss coming by one point to UConn on a buzzer-beater by Shabazz Napier.

Undefeated Syracuse comes in at No. 2, followed by Kansas at No. 3.

A healthy Michigan State is dangerous
Michigan State is expected to have Branden Dawson back for the NCAA Tournament. Based on Dawson’s returning, the Spartans would rank fourth with their full squad.

That's a significant jump from their overall No. 15 BPI rank. They've lost four of seven games since Dawson went out.

In their two games with all of their key players except Dawson, the Spartans have a 61.1 BPI (win against New Orleans, loss to Nebraska), which would rank well below any team expected to get an at-large bid. That’s how important a healthy Dawson could be to their chances of going deep in the NCAA Tournament.

Is Iowa a top-5 team?
Based on this metric, the Iowa Hawkeyes are No. 5. They're 18-4 with their full squad.

Jarrod Uthoff has played at least 10 minutes in all but two games (at Michigan and against Ohio State). Iowa lost both.

Arizona isn't top 10 without Brandon Ashley
The Arizona Wildcats have been a much different team without Brandon Ashley, who is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Based on this metric, the Wildcats are No. 13. They're 2-2 without Ashley. That includes losses at California and at Arizona State and a two-point home win against Oregon.

Arizona has the No. 1 BPI with Ashley in the lineup, but it's a different story without him. Ashley could be the difference between Arizona being the National Championship favorite and not even contending for a Final Four berth.

What about Oklahoma State and North Carolina?
Although Michael Cobbins isn't among the top-five Oklahoma State players in minutes per game, the Cowboys are a much different team without him. Their BPI without Cobbins but with Marcus Smart ranks 33rd in this metric among teams currently in the BPI top 40.

Oklahoma State is 4-6 without Cobbins and with Smart, with two wins against West Virginia and home wins against Texas and TCU.

North Carolina's current roster includes Leslie McDonald, who was ruled eligible Dec. 18 after he missed the first nine games of the season. Since then, the Tar Heels' current roster has the worst BPI of any team currently in the BPI top 40.

The Tar Heels are ranked No. 32 overall in BPI, but their three best wins of the season -- against Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky -- came without McDonald.

Since McDonald returned, they have losses to Wake Forest and Miami (FL) and didn't have a BPI top-50 win before Saturday's victory against Pittsburgh.

BPI Talk: Iowa State is No. 1

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
9:28
AM ET
The Iowa State Cyclones are perhaps the least-discussed team of the six remaining undefeated teams in college basketball. Now might be the time to start talking about the 13-0 Cyclones.

Iowa State is ranked No. 1 in BPI. Why are the Cyclones ranked ahead of fellow unbeatens Ohio State, Wisconsin, Arizona, Syracuse and Wichita State?

The Cyclones are the most consistent team in the country in terms of variation in BPI game score from game to game.

Their worst performance –- an 86.3 BPI game score in a two-point win at BYU –- is better than the best performance of 148 Division I teams this season.

Iowa State isn’t just some undefeated team that has played a bunch of cupcakes. Unlike the other five remaining unbeatens, the Cyclones have not faced a team ranked outside the top 300 in BPI.

The Cyclones are the only team in the country that is undefeated against the BPI top 100 and hasn’t faced a team ranked outside the top 300.

Iowa State has one of its toughest tests of the season thus far when it hosts Baylor (No. 36 BPI) tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

What about Pittsburgh?
What is it going to take for the Pittsburgh Panthers to get more respect?

Pittsburgh still has not entered the AP Top 25 despite being ranked No. 5 in BPI.

The lone blemish on Pitt’s schedule is a one-point loss on a neutral court against No. 26 Cincinnati. It came on a Titus Rubles offensive putback with less than five seconds remaining. That’s how close Pitt is to being undefeated right now.

Sure, Pitt hasn’t played the most difficult schedule –- its strength of schedule is ranked 90th.

But the Panthers have fared well against their toughest opponents. Other than their one-point loss to Cincinnati, they’ve won each of their other five games against top-100 opponents by at least nine points. Their average margin in those five wins is 17 points.

Thirteen of Pitt’s 14 wins are by at least 12 points. Its closest win was by nine points, 78-69 against No. 81 Penn State.

Inconsistency hurts Kansas State
The Kansas State Wildcats entered the AP Top 25 at No. 25 this week after defeating Oklahoma State on Saturday. But Kansas State is ranked No. 62 in BPI.

The Wildcats have quality top-100 wins lately over George Washington and Gonzaga, in addition to Oklahoma State. But we can’t forget about their early-season losses to No. 140 Northern Colorado at home and No. 97 Charlotte on a neutral court.

KSU is the most inconsistent team in the BPI top 90.

What happened to Drexel?
The Drexel Dragons started the season off strong, ranked No. 24 in BPI after the month of November. They had a win over Alabama and their only losses were by five points or fewer against UCLA and Arizona.

Since the calendar turned to December, Drexel hasn’t been the same. The Dragons rank 198th in BPI since Dec. 1. Their decrease in BPI is by far the largest decrease of any team currently ranked in the top 100.

In their last six games, they have three wins against teams ranked outside the BPI top 200, a three-point home win against No. 175 Buffalo and two road losses by a combined 37 points at Saint Joseph's and Southern Miss.

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