Temple’s Tournament Chances and ESPN’s BPI Index Is Bullshit

Yes, has nothing to do with Temple.  Still makes ESPN look silly.

Ha, Dick Vitale in drag sitting behind Dick Vitale.

ESPN: With March Madness just about a month away, talk of bubble teams is on the rise. One such club at the moment is Temple. And our own Jay Williams likes the program’s chances at making a sixth consecutive appearance at the Big Dance.

At just 14-7 with an inexplicable loss to Canisius on their resume, the Owls still have work to do. But Fran Dunphy always seems to get the most out of his players when it matters most, and their victory over Syracuse in late December gives them a huge win to lean on. Plus, the majority of their key remaining games — including tonight’s matchup with Charlotte — are at home, where they’re currently 9-1.

Khalif Wyatt and his 18.6 points per night give Temple a legitimate scoring threat every time he hits the floor, while Scootie Randall and Anthony Lee give the Owls some solid secondary offense to fall back on as well. As Williams contends, this is a group that could not only make the trip to the NCAA Tournament, it has the potential to cause some problems for opponents if it gets there.

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I think Temple is fine. They are #47 in RPI and #58 in BPI. Typically, teams in the top 60 of those rankings are fairly safe in terms of receiving bids for the NCAA tournament. They have games left against quality opponents like La Salle and VCU. Both of those games are at home and Temple could win. If Temple can beat VCU (and everyone else they are expected to beat), I think they are a lock (regardless of how they do in the A-10 tournament). Luckily, the selection committee isn’t ESPN using nonsensical BPI rating that uses subjective data such as “pace of game” and “diminishing returns for blowouts.” I know ESPN will talk up their ranking system because, well, it’s THEIR system.

For example, BPI will weight a win or loss differently if a key player (as defined by ESPN – more subjective data) does or does not play in a game. There, in fact, is ESPN turning a team game into being more about individuals. If a player goes down, it should be the next man up. There are too many games and too many players where minor injuries (requiring a player to miss 1-3 games) occur all the time. That should not have any bearing on rating a team’s win or loss.

Another way BPI tries to differentiate itself from RPI, and other systems, is by counting “scoring margin.” I do not get this part of BPI. If a school plays another school and blows them out, that actually lowers their BPI compared to winning a close game. I kid you not, “Another way that BPI can rank teams differently than Sagarin or Kenpom is counting close games at home versus on the road. In BPI, a close win at home is better than a close loss on the road against the same opponent. This isn’t necessarily true in other methods and, in methods that do that, they don’t typically account for bigger wins. BPI gives marginally decreasing credit for bigger wins, with a 30-point win being only about 20 percent better than a 15-point win, not twice as good, which can happen in other methods.” Is this a joke, ESPN? Take, for example, UMass playing URI last night. UMass just embarrassed URI and ran them off the court. They won 81-53. They proved URI did not deserve to be in the same gym as them. ESPN is saying that UMass beating URI by 28 actually had a lesser impact on their BPI than if they only beat URI by 5. If I were on the selection committee and deciding the tournament field as of today, and UMass was a bubble team, I would be more likely to put them in the field with the 28-point drubbing. If UMass only beat URI by 5, I would think “if a team like URI can push UMass to the brink, what would much better teams do to this team” and maybe not let them in. ESPN’s logic seems almost counterintuitive.

“By capturing blowouts, but not overweighting them, BPI credits the ability of good teams to easily beat poor teams without providing incentive to win by 30 when 20 is a safe margin. By capturing both blowouts and close games in this way, BPI summarizes a team’s résumé for the NCAA tournament well.” What in the hell does that even mean, ESPN? When playing the game, a team should continue to score until the other team can stop them. What do you expect to happen, ESPN? For schools to say “well we’re at 20 points, let’s just dribble out the clock and keep taking shot-clock violations because only winning by 20 is more favorable than winning by 30”?

Luckily, for Temple and everybody else, the selection committee uses rankings indices like RPI instead of BPI. BPI is just ESPN coming out with another rating system that they can call “proprietary” and pat themselves on the back for coming up with it. It will catch on as well as their bullshit “Total QBR” system. ESPN needs to learn that creating any ranking system that is based on subjective data is inherently flawed. It is flawed because those data points mean something different to everyone. What a blowout is to ESPN may not be a blowout to you, or me, or the selection committee. Same can be said for trying to quantify the impact of a single player.

I think Temple should get in and I think ESPN tries too hard and needs to cool it a bit.

UPDATE: Duquesne beat Temple last night. That is a terrible loss for a bubble team. Now I think Temple needs to beat VCU or else it’s time to gear up for the NIT.

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One thought on “Temple’s Tournament Chances and ESPN’s BPI Index Is Bullshit

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