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Roll ‘Bama Roll Bracketology: The NET killed Cinderella

I loathe the NET with every fiber of my being, and Jerry Stackhouse explains exactly why it’s so dumb.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia vs UMBC Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports


First off, let’s jump in with projected Brackets. Despite Purdue dropping a couple of games in a rapidly-diminishing B1G, Lunardi still has Purdue as a 1-seed, though by the numbers, you can make just as compelling a case for the UCLA Bruins or the Texas Longhorns. And it is still very possible that two wins by UT gives the B12 another 1-seed, BTW.

But what is really interesting here are the bubble teams and what they foretell next week when the Tourney begins in Nashville.

On March 1, Lunardi already had Auburn among the bubble teams before another loss on Wednesday, with the Tigers are squarely on the Bubble and No. 12 Tennessee coming to town (My god, that game is going to be so ugly.) An expected loss there takes them to 9-9 and the SEC 7-seed, where they would face the also-gross Gators, with their reward being Texas A&M on Friday (a team that has stomped two mudholes in Auburn’s ass already this season). It is conceivable the Tigers don’t make it past Thursday though, and likely not Friday even if they do.

Finishing the season 2-5 with no quality wins is how you wind up hosting NIT games — and is one of the reasons I predicted last week that Auburn would fall out, in favor of the MSU Bulldogs.

Since that prediction, CLANGA has only helped their case, moving to No. 42 in the NET and dropping Texas A&M at home. The Bulldog’s first game is doozy though on Thursday, against the Arkansas Razorbacks in a filthy 8-9 game, with tourney invites on the line. I figure the winner is in and the loser gets a field of 68 play-in game.

Back in December, when Mississippi State was 7-0 or something like that, I said on Twitter that I had absolutely no idea if Mississippi State is really good or not.

Three months later, I still don’t know.

If you’re Alabama, you want to finish the season strong and lock-down the No. 1 overall seed. This year figures to have two, perhaps three, simply brutal regions with a lot of imbalance.

And, both Palm and Lunardi are in accord: the No. 1 overall is practically gifted a second weekend. But that has been true since the NET system became the NCAATSC’s touchstone. The NET has had one main effect, it is one I have bitched about the last few years, and like the College Football Playoff, I suspect it was always the case — it has been a Power 5 bid-grab that has resulted in chalk-heavy second weekends full of major conference programs.

You’re not getting the Loyolas of the world in 2025; you’re getting Iowas.

It was a complaint that I had last week in relation to the Commodores, and one that now seems prescient. That very same night, Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse.

“When you start talking all this NET stuff and different things like that, you talk about winning by a certain amount, it’s disappointing a little bit,” Stackhouse said. “I hate the fact that we get up 16 or 18 points, and the guys that have helped us get here are the practice guys — you can’t even really put them in the game. It sucks, because that is not the way the game is supposed to be played, and those guys deserve to maybe get a few minutes there at the end. But because we are aware of trying to get something, we have have to do some things to keep our foot on the gas a little bit. But we will get to the point where we won’t put ourselves in that position and we will be able to do the right things the right way.”

At 16-13 overall, 9-7 in the SEC and with the nation’s No. 24 strength of schedule, Vanderbilt ranks No. 87 in the NET but No. 55 in RPI. Wake Forest, another team on the bubble’s outer fringes, similarly ranks No. 84 with a record of 18-11. Meanwhile, Big Ten cellar-dweller Ohio State ranks No. 71 despite owning a record of 11-17. Florida and Oklahoma are additional sub-.500 teams that rank higher than multiple bubble contenders.

Like computer models such as KenPom, the NET rankings draw from teams’ offensive and defensive efficiency among other factors. While the NET’s formula does not explicitly consider margin of victory, margin is an inherent part of a team’s efficiency rankings.

He’s right, you know? Every word is gospel truth.

Under the old system, which used the RPI as one of its metrics, the Selection Committee took a lot more qualitative factors into account: whether the team had improved over the season, how a team finished down the stretch (particularly its last 10 games), if there were injuries that would diminish a prospective team, etc. It also rewarded the difficulty of the schedule, rather than just “winning X game by Y points.”

Margin of victory simply wasn’t an issue...and nor should it have been, given the grotesque unevenness of different conferences. Kansas is 25-5, plays in the toughest conference in teh country (one that is being bandied about as the toughest single year for any conference), and yet just won the Big 12 regulars season title.

Taking Kansas to a double-overtime one-point loss in the Phog is a lot more impressive than beating someone like Tennessee at home: but the NET treats one vastly differently. You’re rewarded for one in the RPI, penalized for it under the NET. And god forbid if you win both that Kansas road game and the Vols home game under NET: they’re identical ticks in the Q1 checkbox, when, in reality, anyone with eyeballs knows damned good and well which game is the better indicator of a team’s ability and tourney-worthiness.

The end result of the double-secret NET — that doesn’t even give you the formulae for weightings, how efficiency is calculated, etc — is to reward larger conferences in a sport that had previously been one of the more egalitarian ones. The Dance was an event where David — multiple Davids — frequently loaded his sling and came after Goliath.

The NET killed Cinderella, and like College Football, these changes done in service of more money for the traditional powers has only diminished the sport. And it may seem hokey to say this, but with March being cheapened, I can’t help but feel that just the teensiest bit of the quality of our lives has been diminished as well.

Besides, seriously, look at this garbage.

  • Tennessee has lost as many Q1 games as Houston has even played. That’s an insult to both teams, by the way. And guess which one is No. 1 and which is No. 3? (RPI SOS 20th for UT, 66th for Houston).
  • St. Mary’s (24-6) is 2-2 in Q1 games, has played 18 of its 30 games against teams ranked 200 or lower, has two Q3 losses, and is ahead of Arizona, Gonzaga, Texas, Baylor, Marquette, Kansas State and about three dozen other teams that would devour them. The NET ranks them 8th. (RPI SOS 49th).
  • Does anyone think that Kansas, who has played an ungodly 20 games against Q1 (15-5), is just the 6th best team in the country? (RPI SOS 1st)
  • If you thought St. Mary’s was weak sauce. Check out FAU. 20 of their 29 games are against teams 200th and below. Against Q1 and Q2, they are 5-3. Does anyone seriously think Florida Atlantic is the 15th best team in the country, ahead of Kansas State, Arkansas, Kentucky and others? (RPI SOS 121st).

I’m sorry, I just can’t take this shit seriously. Nor should we accept a system that rewards running it up over developing depth, that does not value tough road losses, that simultaneously overvalues a few select midmajors while punishing the rest, that acts as inverse Robin Hood with bid-thieving in favor of rich conferences, and which produces such patently laughable results so as to be risible.

By the Numbers

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Meanwhile, here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands by the numbers in the 2022-2023 season.

  • Ranking: AP 2 (LW 2) / CBS Coaches 2 (LW 2)
  • RPI: 1st (LW 1st)
  • SOS: 4th (LW 3rd)
  • KenPom: 3rd (LW 3rd), 19th offense (LW 15th), 5th defense (LW 5th)
  • Sagarin: 2nd (LW 2nd)
  • Bart Torvik: 2nd (LW 2nd); 13th adj. offense (LW 12th); 2nd adj. defense (LW 2nd)
  • True Tempo: 2nd — 73.4 adj. possessions per game (LW, 3rd)
  • Offense PPG: 83.6 PPG
  • Defense PPG: 70.9 PPG
  • NET ranking: 2nd (LW 3rd)

When next we meet, we’ll be prepping for SEC Tournament play. For now, have a great one.

Roll Tide.


Should Alabama rest up on Saturday, and get ready for postseason play?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    No, you really want the No. 1 overall seed, and the team has to get back on track.
    (204 votes)
  • 14%
    Yes, they’re plainly tired, they’ve been distracted for the last two weeks, and the mental and physical break will only help them
    (38 votes)
  • 10%
    (27 votes)
269 votes total Vote Now