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This Year's Most Underrated and Overrated

Publication Date: February 25, 2003

The Background

There's a lot of background to this column, and I hate to make my long-time readers suffer through it again. On the other hand, I welcome my new readers, and I don't want to let them get lost, so here's a quick recap and a few links to old columns.

The quick version: There are predictable flaws in the RPI formula that the NCAA uses. It's actually possible with a reasonable degree of certainty to predict which teams will be more valuable to your RPI than they should be without being that hard to beat. There's no evidence, other than one email discussion I had with a coach a couple of years ago and a clinic that Jim Wright, the NCAA head statistician, had for the MWC coaches last year, that anyone is considering scheduling with this in mind, and there's absolutely no evidence that anyone is actually doing to. However, looking at schedules ahead of time based on last year's results can produce a nice list of teams most likely to be over- or underrated by the RPI at the end of the year.

Now, the links to old columns. Go read these if you haven't read them before (or even just haven't read them lately); I'll wait:

Gaming the RPI
Last Year's Overratedness Predictions
Schedulability Reviewed

What Those Schedules Mean

As with last year, most of the teams most likely to be overrated are not going to be that good, so it won't affect the postseason as much as it could, but there are a few names on here of interest:

 1. Holy Cross
 2. Canisius
 3. Princeton
 4. Binghamton
 5. Pace
 6. Delaware
 7. Rhode Island
 8. Fairfield
 9. LaSalle
10. North Carolina
11. West Virginia
12. Towson
13. Harvard
14. St. Joseph's
15. St. Peter's
16. Old Dominion
17. Liberty
18. Maryland
19. George Washington
20. Stony Brook
21. Niagara
22. Massachusetts
23. Clemson
24. William and Mary
25. New Orleans

Most of these aren't worrisome, in the sense that even I have trouble getting worked up over the difference in #170 and #210. The three ACC teams could be a problem, though; I expect Wake to deserve a #1 seed, and Clemson may, but UNC probably won't. Hopefully they haven't scheduled their way into an undeserved one. Most worrisome are the teams -- Delaware, West Virginia, Old Dominion, Liberty, William and Mary, and New Orleans -- who could finish behind better teams in their mid-major conferences and not deserve to be on the bubble but who could benefit from an unfairly-high RPI.

Here's the flip side; these are the teams most likely to be underrated by the RPI:

 1. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
 2. Cal State Sacramento
 3. San Jose State
 4. Western Illinois
 5. Loyola Marymount
 6. San Francisco
 7. Morris Brown
 8. Portland
 9. Santa Clara
10. St. Mary's
11. Gonzaga
12. Hawaii-Hilo
13. Pacific
14. Centenary
15. San Diego
16. UC Riverside
17. Southern Utah
18. Washington
19. Cal State Northridge
20. Oregon State
21. Coppin State
22. Brigham Young
23. Hawaii
24. Pepperdine
25. Cal-Irvine

As usual, this list is West Coast-heavy, although there are some surprises near the top. As far as the effect on the postseason, I'd guess that San Jose State, UC Riverside, and BYU are the teams on the list most likely to be mistreated because of the RPI; most of the rest are probably going to end up a bit below tourney caliber.

Other News

I generally stay away from pure news, simply because there are other sources for it, and I prefer to focus my energy on the stuff I do that's more nearly unique. Nonetheless, I wanted to pass along quick links to a couple of items of importance that might have slipped by you this week:

Miami, Florida, was put on probation this week. The cause was some excessive contact with potential recruits during summer camps; the case was considered major by the NCAA because of its proximity to the Hurricanes' probation from the mid-1990's. Nonetheless, there was no postseason ban or media coverage ban, just a reduction of scholarships and a few smaller penalties. This, of course, now means that the last two national champions are on probation.

The NCAA Championships and Competition Cabinet released its new recommendations for postseason formats. The upshot for baseball appears to be that the current system of seeding will continue. There is some language on geographic concerns in placement, but it appears that there will be considerably more latitude based on concerns such as "championship atmosphere" and "accessibility to fans", so we'll have to see how the back-channel discussions go in determining how much the committee can ship teams around. The rule on conference opponents is still that it's only forbidden for the first game, so we'll still have two same-conference teams in some regionals.

Pitch Count Watch

Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye -- the general threshold for listing is 120 actual pitches or 130 estimated, although short rest will also get a pitcher listed if I catch it. Don't blame me; I'm just the messenger.

Date   Team   Pitcher   Opponent   IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   AB   BF   Pitches
Feb 21 Kansas Kevin Wheeler Eastern Michigan 8.2 5 1 0 0 12 32 32 121
Feb 22 Stanford John Hudgins Texas 7.0 7 4 4 1 8 27 29 120
Feb 22 Louisiana Tech Adam Kirkendall Nebraska 7.0 7 5 4 1 6 28 31 128
Feb 23 Bethune-Cookman John Gragg Florida International 9.0 7 4 4 3 8 33 39 147 (*)
Feb 23 San Jose State Watt Winck Washington State 9.0 9 0 0 0 6 33 34 131
Feb 25 Gardner-Webb Abraham Gonzalez East Tennessee State 9.0 6 0 0 1 14 33 34 147 (*)
Feb 19 Northwestern State Zach Sanches Louisiana-Lafayette 9.0 5 0 0 0 6 30 31 106
Feb 22 Northwestern State Zach Sanches Northern Iowa 3.0 1 0 0 0 4 10 10 41 (*)
Feb 22 Northwestern State Zach Sanches Missouri 2.0 1 0 0 1 3 7 8 36 (*)

(*) Pitch count is estimated.

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