The RPI, the Rating Percentage Index used by the tournament selection committee, does use data to rank 351 college basketball teams.
The preseason polls do not. Pollsters submit their ballots before seeing any games much less collecting data on them.
So the RPI must be a better predictor of tournament success than the preseason polls, right?
Over on FiveThirtyEight, I wrote about how the preseason polls are better predictors of tournament success than the RPI. The wisdom of crowds beats bad mathematics.
In the article, I highlighted three teams from the current season.
First, I noted how Duke and Michigan started the season ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in the preseason AP and Coaches polls. This suggests both of these teams have the talent to make a deep tournament run despite not living up to their potential during the regular season.
Duke looked fantastic this past weekend, beating a solid Rhode Island team 87-62 to make the Sweet 16. In contrast, Michigan State shot 26% from the field to get stunned by Syracuse.
The article also highlighted Virginia, a team the committee deemed the number one overall seed but didn’t make the top 25 in either preseason poll. Before the tournament started, I had questioned whether Virginia had the NBA level talent necessary to win the tournament.
In no way does this suggest Virginia would lose to 16 seed UMBC. However, the preseason poll suggested this was a tiny bit more likely than any of us expected.
To read the article on FiveThirtyEight, click here.