Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Prior to FSU’s better-than-most-people-realize victory over Charlotte, FSU’s RPI sat in the high 190s. One site even had it as low as 200 prior to tip-off. After the Seminoles’ successful trip into North Carolina (by the way, that’s FSU’s 9th win out of the last 10 games against teams from the Tar Heel state…but who’s counting), the RPI shot all the way up to 119 (according to the 12/25 daily RPI on www.realtimeRPI.com). That’s obviously much better, but it’s still a good bit lower than FSU’s ranking on KenPom.com—71st—and much lower than where one would want it to be to feel good about their team’s NCAA Tourney chances.
Meanwhile, North Carolina only sits one game better than FSU in the win-loss column at 8-3, and their SOS is actually lower than FSU’s currently, ranked 108th compared to 99th for the Noles. Yet the Tarheel’s RPI is more than 50 spots higher at 52.
Further still, North Carolina has only 1 top 100 win (against McNeese St—a team that will be hard pressed to end the year in the RPI top 100) compared to FSU’s two (BYU and Charlotte). So what gives? Why does a team with a similar record, fewer top 100 wins, and an easier strength of schedule have so much better of an RPI? For the answer we look to real estate. We all know one of the major determining factors in the value of a home is location, location, location. Well, in FSU’s case one of the biggest anchors on the value of their early-season resume is the location, location, location of their losses.
In the season preview we highlighted some of the intricacies of the RPI, but let’s look again at why home losses are so bad. Starting with the 2004-05 season, games were given different weights in the RPI according to where they are played. Home wins are only weighted at .6 of a win, while home losses count 1.4 times. FSU, a team who only lost five home games in the previous two seasons combined, has already tasted defeat four times at home in the first 11 games of the season. Therefore, while FSU’s actual game record is 7-4, according to the RPI FSU has already lost 5.6 games. Contrast that with UNC, who is 8-3 but has yet to drop a game at the Dean Dome. In fact, two of their three losses are in true road games, which are only weighted .6 by the RPI. So to the computers of the RPI, UNC has only lost 2.2 games. Location, location, location.
Another item of import highlighted in the season preview was strength of schedule. For the full breakdown see the previous article, but basically just think of it like Ron Burgandy; it’s kind of a big deal. With that in mind let’s check in on some of the recent fortunes and follies for teams on FSU’s schedule:
BYU (8-4) – The Cougs don’t really have a good win but, like UNC, they have yet to lose at home. This has allowed them to rise to number 38 in the RPI. It would be fantastic if they stayed in the top 50 all year.
St. Joes (5-4) – The Hawks dropped out of the RPI top 100 after they blew a late lead against Fairfield. That’s unfortunate, but ironically could help if both of us end up on the bubble. They have a home game against a pretty good Iona team on Friday.
South Alabama (5-5) – Lost to three horrible teams right after they beat the Noles, but have since rebounded to start Sunbelt play 3-0. Good luck, Jags.
Mercer (5-6) – Upset Alabama on the road to vault into the top 200 of the RPI. The Bears play Stetson on New Year’s Eve before a huge conference tilt with Florida Gulf Coast on the 2nd.
Minnesota (12-1) – Chugging along with just the lone loss to Duke. Open up Big 10 play with Michigan St at home on Dec. 31st.
Maryland (10-1) – Have won 10 straight—against mostly terrible competition—since kicking off the season with a loss to Kentucky. In the middle of an eight game home stand that concludes with a visit from the Noles on January 9th.
NCSU (9-2) – Rebounded nicely since the blowout loss to Oklahoma St. Only other defeat is on the road to the number two team in the country, Michigan. Solid wins against UConn, Stanford, St. Bonaventure, and UMass. RPI of #5 thanks to the 4th best SOS in the country.
Finally, let’s briefly re-visit the ACC. Most teams still have two OOC games to go before embarking on the first 18-game schedule in ACC history, but teams have played enough games now to have a better feel for how they all stack up. My Christmas Day Power Rankings are:
4. Maryland (still hard to tell due to abysmal schedule)
Not only is Duke number 1, but in my opinion the gap between them and State is currently bigger than the gap between State and FSU. However, teams like FSU, UNC, and even UVA are still breaking in bundles of freshman and should begin to make big strides over the next month or so.