NCAA officials to consider new metric in tourney selection process

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Saturday, January 14, 2017

The NCAA tournament selection committee's reliance on the RPI as a significant metric could end soon, with officials set to consult analytics experts on Jan. 20 in Indianapolis and discuss the creation of a new standard of analysis.

According to an article posted on on Friday, Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball, and Jim Schaus, Ohio's athletic director and a member of the NCAA tournament selection committee, will meet with Jeff Sagarin (Sagarin), Kevin Pauga (KPI), Ken Pomeroy ( and Ben Alamar (ESPN's BPI) to discuss the selection process and consider a new measuring stick.

The new metric could be implemented into the official selection process as early as the 2017-18 season.

Selection committee members have maintained the RPI is just one tool used in the selection process each year. While other metrics are likely considered by individual members, this would be the first time that advanced metrics became an official component of the process.

"You need to stay relevant in the age that you're operating in," Gavitt said on "Certainly relevant today is embracing analytics and technology to the appropriate level. In an imperfect process, I think what the committee strives to get as perfect as possible is to have justification and rationale for their decisions. And the more that can be rooted in fact and in data, the more comfortable they can be with those decisions and the more justifiable they can be in explaining them."

Gavitt said the National Association of Basketball Coaches wants advanced metrics -- an "even more powerful microscope" -- to play a bigger role in the selection process. That prompted next week's meeting.

The selection committee's use of the RPI, which assesses each team according to its résumé and strength of schedule, has long been criticized as an outdated barometer. It does not consider margin of victory, and the bulk of its value is determined by strength of schedule factors.

Pauga, who will participate in next week's meeting in Indianapolis, said the group hopes to enhance the selection process and the NCAA tournament.

"The selection process could benefit greatly from a composite metric, especially if it includes both results-based and predictive elements," Pauga told ESPN. "Having a few metrics together minimizes the effect of a single outlier. It also can provide context where if a team's results-based metrics are way better than the predictive, their résumé may be better than their team -- and vice versa."

Pauga also said "top-50 and top-100" wins, according to the RPI, can offer an inaccurate portrait of a team's potential and skew their seed line because the location of those victories matters.

Gavitt said current advanced metrics feature their own flaws. The analytics experts he'll meet next week have similar goals but different theories about the minutiae of a new metric, he said.

Still, the pros outweigh the cons in this effort, he said.

"Not one of them's perfect," Gavitt said. "And even a composite of all of them will still be imperfect. Hopefully it will be closer to perfect than what we currently have, and I think that's where the group feels it can be, and that's why we think it's so important to do this."