Trying — we repeat, trying — to make sense of RPI
October 19, 2016
We told you at the beginning of the year that the three most important letters were RPI.
We weren't kidding.
As we head down the homestretch of the fall sports season, I suspect Devils, Huskies, Gore Rangers and Saints of all sports have spent just as much time clicking and refreshing chsaanow.com checking for the rating-percentage index as they have been practicing — probably an exaggeration, but not by much.
Here's where we are and speculation on why.
• Battle Mountain is No. 12 in 4A with a 12-2 record, a 10-1 mark in the Slope and essentially a league championship match tonight at 6 against Steamboat Springs in Edwards.
The good news is that the Huskies have essentially clinched the playoffs and, with a win tonight against the Sailors, have a home game next week in the playoffs.
What is frustrating is that Battle Mountain's RPI has been undermined by two factors. First, the team scheduled Montrose. This was good scheduling with regard to RPI, as 50 percent of the formula is opponents' winning percentage. Form 2011-2015, the Indians have logged a combined record of 54-22-7 for a .692 winning percentage.
The Indians are 5-9 this year. If you're a college football team that schedules Michigan or Notre Dame, you generally expect those teams to be good, based on history. Why does Huskies soccer get dinged for another team having an off year?
But what is really killing the Huskies in the RPI — and their opponents' winning percentage .482, much lower than teams raked around them — is league play, more specifically, Palisade and Rifle. Palisade is 1-12-1; Rifle 0-12-2.
After winning at Palisade earlier, the normally even-mannered coach of the Huskies David Cope tweeted, "Knew this RPI system would be interesting. Drove three hours to play a league game, won 8-0, dropped 5 places."
Cope doesn't get upset often, so when he does, you generally should pay attention.
Again, the Huskies are not responsible that in the 4A Slope they have to play four games against noncompetitive opponents. My bet is that when basketball teams get affected by playing league opponents twice, the Slope will address this. CHSAA should, too
• Eagle Valley is No. 37, five spots outside the playoffs, going into its final game at Palisade. Given that Palisade is an RPI wrecker, I don't hold out much hope for the Devils making the playoffs. (Just as this system is not fair to Huskies soccer, it is not fair to the Devils.)
• Vail Mountain soccer has gotten a fair shake from RPI. Losing to Basalt on Tuesday hurts, but the Gore Rangers still are No. 3 in 3A as of this writing. (Being in the top four gets a school home games for the first three rounds of the playoffs.)
The Gore Rangers play Grand Valley (2-11-1) today to close league play. Will this drop them out of the top four? That would be unjust, again, as it's a league game, and you have to play those. There's also the factor, that if, VMS drops out of the top four, it would likely be replaced by Jefferson Academy, a team it beat, 4-0, last week. Hold your breath, folks.
• Eagle Valley volleyball should be loving the RPI. The Devils are No. 4 in the state right now. Again, we might question why Montrose is No. 3 — RPI apparently doesn't give a hoot about head-to-head — but Jackie Rindy's crew is well within the top 12 to host a regional.
The Devils have sought out good competition outside of conference with the Regis Jam Tournament and will see more at the Evergreen tourney at the end of the season. In the meantime, Eagle Valley's been making mincemeat of the Slope.
No.4 may be a bit high, but, the bottom line is that the Devils should be home for regionals, and we'll take as much room for margin for error as we can get.
• Battle Mountain is No. 13, still in contention for a home regional tournament. The following is an indictment against RPI, not the Huskies.
Battle Mountain is in this position because it's beaten 2A and 3A teams with good records — Vail Mountain, Vail Christian, Lutheran, Coal Ridge and Aspen. It wasn't intentional because this is third year of the Queen of the Mountain tournament, started two years before RPI was invented. This is loophole in the RPI system — classification in soccer and volleyball doesn't matter. This is a loophole that needs to be closed.
From the mere eye test, the Huskies aren't good enough to be in position possibly to host a regional. If you want to prove me wrong, ladies, please go ahead.
Eagle Valley got taken to the woodshed by Palisade and moved up four spots to No. 21. No shame in getting creamed by Palisade, boys. It happens to the best teams.
My question for the Devils and the RPI is "When does winning matter to this system?"
Perhaps better phrased, can Eagle Valley make the playoffs with a 4-6 record or does it need a 5-5 mark? The Devils moved up four spots by playing Palisade, which improved their opponents' winning percentage, again 50 percent of RPI. Presumably, even if the Devils lose at Rifle — we're, of course, rooting for a different result — Eagle Valley would move up in the ranks again — Rifle is 6-1 — which is strange.
Does Eagle Valley lose ground in the RPI then by winning against Battle Mountain and Glenwood Springs, since they have lower winning percentages than, say, Palisade and Rifle, both 6-1 teams?
R and P and I make for some strange, but consequential, letters.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.