High school basketball and the dreaded RPI
December 7, 2016
Eagle Valley boys basketball is 4-0. Devils girls basketball is 3-1. The Battle Mountain's boys and girls are 2-0.
Great starts for everyone, but will the rating-percentage index work for our 4A Western Slope teams?
If fall sports were any indication, then it's a lukewarm maybe.
Football wasn't an issue locally, though Eagle Valley's Murderers' Row schedule did boost the Devils higher in the RPI standings than it would for an average 3-7 team. Volleyball was fine — Eagle Valley was a state-worthy team. Perhaps, the No. 2 seed was a bit high, but we don't complain.
Soccer? Well, it didn't work.
The flaw in the system
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I know you probably think I have a bug up in an unmentionable place over soccer RPI, but it's not without cause and, for the same reason, I worry about basketball season for the Devils and Huskies alike.
Huskies soccer went 13-2 for the regular season, the portion of the slate RPI judges, and earned a No. 9 seed in the postseason. As we saw in the postseason, Battle Mountain was woefully under-ranked.
Kudos to the Huskies for playing their way to a state-title game, but do you know how rare it is for a No. 9 to make it to a championship match in state soccer?
The last 4A soccer team seeded ninth or worse to make it to Dick's Sporting Goods Park or its equivalent — they didn't play the title game in Commerce City then — was Mullen as a No. 23 seed in 2007.
Go through the brackets of the last 10 years or so, and the No. 9 Huskies are definitely the exception to the rule. Though a silly No. 6 seed won state in 2012 4A soccer, it's generally seed Nos. 1-4 that make it to the semifinals and finals.
CHSAA is recommending a change to the RPI formula from 25 percent based on a team's winning percentage, 50 percent on opponents' winning percentage and 25 percent of opponents' opponents' winning percentage to 35-35-30 for next soccer season.
This fall, that would have moved Battle Mountain from a ninth seed to No. 8. The second-round game against Silver Creek would have been in Edwards. That would have been nice, but is still a clear misread of Huskies soccer.
The biggest issue remains that 4A Western Slope soccer — because of geography — is only one of two leagues whose schools play everyone twice during conference play. Playing Palisade (1-13-1 and ranked No. 59 out of 68 4A soccer teams) and Rifle (0-13-2 and 61st) twice drags down Slope teams' RPI in the fall.
Battle Mountain clearly was a top-four team. Steamboat Springs was better than a No. 25 — the Sailors, playing with just 10 men because of a red card for a combined 50 minutes of regulation and overtime, went to kicks in Round 1 of the playoffs with Silver Creek, the same team the Huskies beat.
And Summit County (9-6) at No. 38, six spots from the playoffs, likely got jobbed.
The issue with 4A basketball could be the same with everyone playing each other twice. (By the way, since 2A basketball still has district and regional tournaments, RPI doesn't come into play until the state tournament, the last eight teams standing. If Vail Christian's boys and girls or Vail Mountain's boys get hosed in state seeding, we'll be happy to make their cases.)
Going off last year's 4A Slope boys basketball standings, Summit went 1-19 and Eagle Valley 6-14.
I'll make the bold prediction that the Devils will win more than six games this year. (Don't get cocky, fellas.) While not as bad as the Rifle-Palisade soccer combo, the point remains that playing 1-19 and 6-14 teams twice — whatever the name of the school — is not good for the RPI.
Playing every team in your league twice does give an accurate assessment of who is your champion. Rifle, 12-2 in the Slope and 19-5 overall last year, was the best of the Slope. But playing everyone twice also can result in everyone beating up everyone in the process. Palisade, second place in the Slope, was 10-10 in the regular season last winter — Glenwood was 11-9; Battle Mountain 10-10 and Steamboat 10-10.
How would that .500 mosh pit look to RPI? Would only Rifle have made the playoffs?
As always, a team can only control so much. As much as I hate to invoke Al Davis, "Just win, baby." Go Devils. Go Huskies.
It would be nice, though, if CHSAA actually addressed this situation.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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