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NCAA tournament selection committee placing greater emphasis on road wins

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It appears the selection committee is finally beginning to move away from the deeply-flawed RPI.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the emergence of numerous advanced statistical methods for evaluating college basketball teams, the NCAA tournament selection committee hasn’t evolved beyond RPI—but that is starting to change. Beginning this season, the NCAA is going to place a greater emphasis on winning road games against quality opponents.

From committee chairman Mark Hollis:

“The emphasis of performing well on the road is important, as was the need for teams not to be penalized as much for road losses. Beating elite competition, regardless of the game location, will still be rewarded, but the committee wanted the team sheets to reflect that a road game against a team ranked 60th is mathematically more difficult and of higher quality than a home game versus a team ranked 35th. We feel this change accomplishes that.”

That last part is the key distinction. In years past, top-50 RPI wins were the primary goal for teams hoping to make the tournament field, but there wasn’t as much emphasis, statistically, in where those games were played. That’s going to change, which is a positive step toward more accurately understanding the quality of any given team.

The NCAA met with a group of prominent analytics guys back in January—Ken Pomeroy included—to kick around ideas for evolving something more potent than the RPI, and according to this release, the committee hopes to install a new metric for the 2018-19 season. The future is happening! Finally.

What does this mean for NC State? Right now, next to nothing, because the Wolfpack is unlikely to contend for a tournament spot come March and Kevin Keatts is approaching his non-conference schedule accordingly. NC State isn’t obligated to play any tough non-conference road games this winter and you can bet it’s not seeking them out.

In the future, though, it may become more necessary for home-and-homes against decent-to-good non-conference foes. It also probably will be more prudent to honor 2-for-1 contracts with solid mid-majors like, oh, let’s say, Loyola-Chicago.