College Basketball: Which Teams Will Be Most Affected by Their Best Wins?
A large part of how a team is ranked throughout the season and viewed by the selection committee come tournament time is by the teams they have defeated.
With 351 Division I NCAA Basketball programs playing in 32 different conferences, record is an unreliable and sometimes misleading tool of measurement.
Enter RPI, or the Ratings Percentage Index, which is a number generated by a team’s wins, losses, and strength of schedule. RPI has become one of the most popular rankings in college basketball, alongside the Associated Press Poll and the Coaches Poll.
The main factor of landing on this list is how a team’s best wins rank relative to their current seeding and the rankings of the teams around them. Taking into consideration our current bracketology seeding and the average RPI of a team’s top-five victories thus far, these are the teams in the tournament or on the bubble that will either benefit or be hurt by the strength of their victories on Selection Sunday.
Teams That Will Benefit
Record: 23-6 (12-5 ACC)
Current Seed: 1
Top Five Victories: Villanova, Miami (FL), North Carolina, West Virginia, California
Virginia has compiled eight top-50 wins this season, aided by a tough non-conference schedule and a rugged ACC slate. Their top five wins are the best among qualifying teams. In addition to those listed above, all against teams currently in the top 16 in RPI, Virginia grabbed wins at Louisville, at Pittsburgh, and home against Notre Dame. These wins will come in handy in securing the Cavaliers a 1 seed in the tournament to help balance out a slow start in ACC play, which included three losses to teams outside the RPI top 50, at Florida State, at Georgia Tech, and their worst, at Virginia Tech.
Record: 19-11 (10-7 Big 12)
Current Seed: 5
Top Five Victories: Oklahoma, North Carolina, at West Virginia, West Virginia, Iowa State
Texas has had plenty of opportunities to grab big wins this season, as they have faced the number two strength of schedule in the country. The Big 12 being number one in conference RPI has given Texas several chances but has also led to Texas accruing 11 losses, including their worst to TCU, who falls outside the RPI top 150. The Longhorns' 8-7 record against the RPI top 50 also includes wins against Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, and at Baylor. Texas’ top five wins rank third amongst qualifying teams, which should help them push for a top-five seed despite double-digit losses.
Iowa State Cyclones
Record: 21-9 (10-7 Big 12)
Current Seed: 3
Top Five Victories: Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Texas, Texas Tech
Like Texas, Iowa State has gotten a boost from the strength of the Big 12. Although Iowa State has only won 6 of their 14 games against the RPI top 50, they are the only team to defeat both Kansas and Oklahoma this season, showing they can hang with anyone in the country. Iowa State’s other top-50 win came in the non-conference against Colorado. With their worst loss coming at Northern Iowa, the Cyclones do not have much on their resumè to make up for, and those big wins should help boost them over teams with a similar record.
Oregon State Beavers
Record: 17-10 (8-8 Pac 12)
Current Seed: 8
Top Five Victories: Oregon, Utah, California, Colorado, USC
In other seasons, Oregon State’s record would have them teetering on the fence of the tournament, but the combination of a weak bubble and great wins have them in the thick of the field. The Beavers have the sixth hardest strength of schedule thanks to the Pac 12 ranking second in conference RPI. No losses outside the top 100 will also help the selection committee focus on the positives of their big wins. With six top-50 wins, and three against the top of the strong Pac 12, Oregon State is making a push to qualify for their first NCAA tournament since 1990.
Teams That Will Be Hurt
Record: 25-4 (13-4 Big East)
Current Seed: 1
Top Five Victories: Villanova, Dayton, Seton Hall, USC, at Providence
Xavier has seven top-50 wins this season; however the quality of their victories, outside of their recent win against Villanova, is lacking some style points that other teams vying for a 1 seed possess. The lack of strength comes from a weaker schedule, ranking 49th in the country. Xavier grabbed three top-50 wins in the non-conference at the Advocare Invitational against Dayton, USC, and Alabama but otherwise faced an easy schedule before Big East play. Xavier will be a very tough out in the tournament, but their losses at Creighton and home to Georgetown will also hinder the Musketeers' chances of securing a 1 seed next week. Xavier’s best chance at boosting their resumè will come in the Big East tournament, where possible matchups with Villanova, Seton Hall, and Providence loom.
Record: 23-6 (11-5 Big Ten)
Current Seed: 4
Top Five Victories: Purdue, Iowa, at Wisconsin, Princeton (Neutral), UConn
Maryland has been struggling lately, losing three of four since being ranked second in the AP poll a few weeks ago. Now projected as a 4 seed, Maryland will have a tough time leaning on their resumè as they make a case to move up from that seed line. The Terrapins are only 4-4 against the top 50 and have the 41st ranked strength of schedule in the country. Part of the problem for Maryland comes from the lack of opportunity, as they only had one game against each Michigan State, Indiana, and Iowa. The Terps do have an opportunity of boosting their resumè Sunday at Indiana and in the Big Ten tournament if they are able to make a run. Their loss at Minnesota is the only real, but hideous, blemish this year.
Record: 22-6 (12-4 Atlantic 10)
Current Seed: 5
Top Five Victories: Iowa (Neutral), at St. Bonaventure, Alabama, at Vanderbilt, Monmouth (Neutral)
Throughout the season, pundits have been calling Dayton a dark horse contender for the final four; however, they will have to do this from a lower seed line if they do not make improvements to their resumè before next Sunday. Dayton was able to pick up a neutral court win against Iowa, which is looking less impressive as the Hawkeyes have dropped five of their last six. Outside of that, wins at St. Bonaventure and at Vanderbilt will be the most the Flyers will be able to boast. Losses to Rhode Island and La Salle will stain Dayton’s resumè, and anything less than being crowned champion of the Atlantic 10 tournament may drop Dayton lower than this projection.
Record: 22-7 (10-6 Pac 12)
Current Seed: 7
Top Five Victories: Oregon State, USC, at Stanford, at Gonzaga, at Washington
Although Arizona has had a spot in the AP poll every week, the lack of top-50 wins has haunted their resumè all season. The Wildcats are 2-6 against the top 50 and have the 114th toughest schedule in the country. Most of what has kept Arizona in the rankings this season is their 10-1 record against teams that rank between 51 and 100 in RPI. Arizona gets a shot at California Thursday and can grab wins to boost their resumè in the Pac 12 tournament, but as it stands right now, they are coming up short in the impressive wins department.