One National CBB Thought
The NCAA did a good thing, sort of. In August, they released their new ranking system — the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET — which will replace the outdated and much chagrined Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) after a 37-year run. The change comes after years of disdain from coaches and analysts alike who rightly criticized the RPI’s lack of acknowledgement of important factors that play a part in team success.
The NET accounts for five factors: Team Value Index, Team Efficiency, Wins, Adjusted Winning Percentage and Scoring Margin. If none of that means anything to you, don’t be alarmed. The NCAA tweeted a neat graphic that explains in layman’s terms the justification and rationale for each metric and how each will factor into a team‘s ultimate ranking.
On Monday, the NCAA released its first NET rankings of the year and will continue to do so each week until selection Sunday. As of week 1, most were shocked to see Ohio State seated at the top. Other baffling spots in the NET rankings are Radford (15), Kansas (16), and Kentucky (50).
Radford has two wins over non Division-1 schools, and doesn’t have a win over a team ranked within the NET’s top 15, whereas Kansas is undefeated and beat Tennessee (21) and Michigan State (24). Oh, and Kentucky barely scratches the top 50, yet their sole loss came at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils, AP’s No. 1 ranked team.
The NCAA’s new brainchild will certainly face scrutiny as each new weekly ranking is published, but as CBS Sports Matt Norlander pointed out on Monday, this is only one metric that the selection committee will consider in filling out the 68 teams who will make the tournament come March.
Three Ole Miss Things
1) This team will only go as far as Terence Davis can take them. After splitting their pair of games at the Emerald Coast Classic over Thanksgiving — games in which Davis scored 7 against Baylor and 0 against Cincinnati — it’s clear that as he goes, so does the team. Ole Miss prevailed against Baylor, but not easily. And if Davis simply hit his season average in their 14 point loss to Cincinnati (13.6 ppg), it’s a one point ball game. Davis thrives in front of the home crowd at the Pavilion, but if this team projects any success going forward, he’ll have to shoulder the burden, irrespective of what floor the ball is bouncing on.
2) There’s a new starter in town. Bruce Stevens has overtaken Dominik Olejniczak as Ole Miss’ new starting center in the lineup, and projects to stay there going forward. Stevens, who is demonstrably leaner than he was last season, is averaging 10 points per game and 4 boards on 54 percent shooting from the field. While the rebounding numbers might seem sparse for a big man, Kermit Davis’ 1-3-1 defense emphasizes boards by committee — evidenced by six-foot-two-inch guard Devontae Shuler leading the team at 5.2 per game.
3) After five games, there’s a legitimate excitement around the program. The win over Baylor and the losses to Butler and Cincinnati have signified that a gradual shift is taking place in Oxford. The loss to Butler came as a result of poor free throw shooting down the stretch; Ole Miss only shot 61 percent from the line, a deviation from the mean of a team whose free throw percentage ranks in the top 25 nationally. Combine on-court success with coach Kermit Davis’ first top-25 recruiting class, and the program looks as if it’s on the upswing.
One Look Ahead
There’s a very legitimate chance that at 3-2, Ole Miss could enter SEC play with a 9-2 record. According to KenPom.com, none of the Rebels next six opponents are ranked within the top 100. And with the exception of San Diego (103rd) and Illinois State (126th), the remaining four sit outside the top 190. Obviously rankings aren’t an indication of how well a team will play, but it does herald that Ole Miss has a list of very winnable games in the near future.
An undefeated run through the remainder of non-conference play will not only guarantee a morale boost in the locker room but also a considerably higher amount of bodies in seats for home SEC contests.