ESPN analyst Jay Bilas predicted that the NCAA’s new metric, the NET, would be a “disaster” before Selection Sunday.
The assessment tool replaced the RPI this year with the aim of incorporating in-game statistics to gauge how good a team is instead of simply measuring home and away wins and losses and results-driven data.
“Nobody knows what to make of it because it’s all over the place,” Bilas told USA TODAY Sports in early March. “Some of these teams wouldn’t be in shouting distance of getting in. There are some crazy numbers you cannot justify. Hopefully, they match up the NET with everything else and say, ‘Okay, this would be historically bad if we put them in, let’s not do that.'”
Enter North Carolina State, the team with the highest NET score (33) to get snubbed by the selection committee. The Wolfpack had an RPI of 97. They also had the 352nd worst non-conference strength of schedule (out of 353 Division 1 teams) in the country, making an argument that they benefited from the NET’s focus on scoring margin (N.C. State pummeled lesser opponents in a majority of its schedule).
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Teams like Belmont (47 NET score), Temple (56), Arizona State (63), and St. John’s (73) squeezed into the field of 68, but ACC teams like N.C. State and Clemson (35 NET score) didn’t.
“Based on the metrics (cited) above that the NCAA indicated they would use to evaluate team performance, we are disappointed for our athletes, coaches and fans that our total body of work was not rewarded with selection to the NCAA tournament,” N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow wrote on Sunday in a statement released by the school.
Selection committee chair Bernard Muir said on the CBS Selection Sunday broadcast that the NET is “one of many sorting tools” and that a team’s full body of work would be considered.
N.C. State, despite playing in the ACC, only went 3-9 against Quadrant 1 (top-30 home, top-50 neutral, top-75 away) opponents, whereas Belmont, a team with far less opportunity, went 2-2. St. John’s, the worst NET-ranked team to get in, went 5-7 in Quad 1 games.
“N.C. State is ranked No. 33 in the NET, 32 in the KenPom, 26 in the BPI and 24 in the Sagarin,” Yow countered. “Our Strength of Schedule is 179 and only the Kevin Pauga ranking is higher than No. 33 at 66. …We finished 8-9 versus quad 1 and 2 programs ([in NET rankings), with five of those games outside of our home arena, while playing 14 games against teams in the top 50 of the NET rankings and having only two losses outside of the top 22 in the NET. This included a win against the SEC Champions, Auburn, and five games against the field’s No. 1 seeds.”
UNC-Greensboro was listed on the NCAA tournament selection show as the first team left out of the field. Coach Wes Miller was left frustrated with his team’s fate, questioning whether they’d be in had the RPI been used instead of the NET.
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The Spartans’ NET ranking on Selection Sunday was 60, compared to a 31 RPI — which would have tied for the second lowest RPI of a team to get snubbed from the tournament since 1985.
“I’m a fan of the RPI being considered in the 2018-19 season because selfishly it’d play in our favor,” Miller told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t think using one metric is fair and a lot of metrics should be incorporated because we’re better (than a 60 NET score). …I’m trying to wait to reserve judgment on the NET until we see how it goes over the next few years. Right now, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
All major bracketology projections, including USA TODAY Sports, ESPN and CBS, had TCU making the field. But the committee ultimately snubbed the Horned Frogs, leaving coach Jamie Dixon puzzled.
“You look at the NET, there are six teams that had a lower NETs than us,” Dixon said in a news conference Sunday. “They created a tool and talked about it and then there are six teams there that are lower than us that are in.”