Early peek at RPI system reveals curious rankings
Welcome to RPI 101.
This would be the rating-percentage index, which will figure how most teams make the playoffs.
RPI is a combination of a team’s winning percentage, its opponents’ winning percentage, and those opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage. The thrust of this is that strength of schedule is a major factor in the rating — your opponents’ winning percentage is 50 percent of the number, while the other two are 25 percent.
In theory, this is good way of doing things. I hate seeing big-time college football teams playing Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle State in nonconference play.
But we’re seeing some funky things so far, particularly in local soccer and volleyball. (FYI, football RPI doesn’t come out until after Week 6.)
In 4A, Battle Mountain is No. 18, which is good since 32 teams make the playoffs. What is a head-scratcher is that Steamboat Springs is No. 15. If you read the paper — and we encourage it — we could have sworn that the Huskies won 3-0 at Steamboat on Tuesday. (And, yes, the soccer and volleyball rankings are updated daily on chsaa.com.)
The Classical Academy is ranked No. 1 in 4A. The Titans certainly made believers of the Huskies on Friday night with a 6-0 win in Edwards. However, TCA is 4-2, and two of its losses are to No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain and No. 4 Air Academy.
Yes, TCA is an outstanding team, state finalists the last two years. Yes, the Titans’ are playing a beast of a schedule — their opponents’ winning percentage is 0.861 as of this writing.
But isn’t head-to-head a better determinant? Computers are nice when comparing, say, Durango to Windsor since it’s unlikely these two teams would play. But TCA and Cheyenne Mountain have played. The Indians are better until a possible playoff meeting proves otherwise.
In 3A, Basalt is No. 6 and Vail Mountain School No. 7. Anyone know how Saturday’s tilt between the Longhorns and the Gore Rangers went? (Freud slams head against desk now.)
Some of this has to be the number of games everyone’s played. For instance, VMS (3-1) has only played four games. This is of particular interest to Battle Mountain as the Huskies handed the Gore Rangers their only loss.
As VMS starts to get into the meat of its schedule, you can be sure that the Huskies will be singing, “Fight on Gore Rangers,” at the top of their lungs. The more VMS wins, the happier the Huskies are and vice versa.
Eagle Valley opened the season by sweeping Montrose, so naturally the Indians at 6-3 are ranked No. 3, while the Devils at 7-2 are lucky 13.
What is troubling here is that Eagle Valley’s only losses are to higher-classification schools. St. Teresa of Kansas City, Missouri, is Class 4 in the Show Me State, and there are only four classes there. The Stars were in the state final last fall and 13-1-1 so far this season. (No idea how you get a tie in volleyball. I’m just reporting what maxpreps.com says.) We can safely say that’s an excellent opponent.
Class 4A Eagle Valley’s other loss is to Legend, a 5A school. However, in all sports, but football, classification is not a factor in RPI. (This space says it should be because there is a big difference between Eagle Valley with 817 kids, according to CHSAA count, and Legend, which has 2,032 students.)
The worry and the solution
RPI got its first test run during baseball season last spring. The 4A Slope sent three teams to the postseason — Delta (No. 9), Rifle (15) and Palisade (16), a just result. The league was assigned three spots under the old system, and the Slope got three under RPI.
What was bizarre was that Battle Mountain finished one spot ahead of Eagle Valley (Nos. 46 and 47). Neither team deserved to be in the playoffs, but the Devils swept their doubleheader from the Huskies. (I know. I froze my rear end off.)
The reason the Huskies finished ahead of the Devils in RPI was that the former pulled off a miracle win against Montrose, while those same Indians beat the Devils. Upsets are great, and the Huskies had their day in the sun, or, more correctly, the snow.
But it’s troubling that fluke result altered the RPI.
I have no clue how this is going to work out. I am hoping that as the season progresses, that particularly the head-to-head discrepancies will work themselves out mathematically.
As for all our local teams, the advice is simple. You can only play who’s on your schedule. Win and win some more and hope the numbers take care of themselves.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.