NCAA women’s hoops committee moves away from RPI to NET

Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) — The women’s basketball committee will start using the NCAA Evaluation Tool instead of RPI to help evaluate teams for the tournament starting with the upcoming season.

The Division I men’s basketball committee has been using NET since the 2018-19 season.

“It’s an exciting time for the game as we look to the future,” said Nina King, senior deputy athletics director and chief of staff at Duke, who chair the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee next season. “We felt after much analysis that the women’s basketball NET, which will be determined by who you played, where you played, how efficiently you played and the result of the game, is a more accurate tool and should be used by the committee going forward.”

The women’s basketball NET algorithm is similar to the one the men use, although it doesn’t take scoring margin into account. The men’s algorithm factors in scoring margin with a maximize of 10-point difference.

The men’s committee is meeting later this week and may make a few tweaks to their formula.

The women’s version is based on their data from the past decade.

“While the men’s and women’s basketball NET share high-level goals and individual components, the NET algorithm used in each is different,” said Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball. “The machine learning model developed for each sport utilizes only that sport’s data.”

The NCAA said looking back over the past decade, there isn’t much difference between the top teams in the RPI and the NET. Like the RPI before it, NET will be just one tool used by the selection committee to determine who makes the field of 64 and where the teams are seeded.

“What we found during our comparison analysis was that the NET does a more precise job measuring opponent quality given performance than RPI has been able to provide. Doing well on the court and beating good teams continues to be imperative,” King said.

The NCAA explained the new system to coaches on a call last week. Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors, who was a huge proponent of the RPI and helped the Pac-12 schedule better when he was at Washington, said he is adaptable to the NET, although still a bit skeptical.

“Introducing an uncertain thing for us in the most uncertain time in history is a challenge,” he said. “But some very smart people said it’s better for us. Debbie Richardson did an amazing job of getting through the analytic stuff and said it still matters who you play, where you play and how you play.”

Neighbors said he shared with the NCAA that it would be useful to potentially have the old NET data for the past decade and be able to compare it to the RPI to see how things would have been different.

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