It’s been roughly six weeks since the NCAA released its first NET Rankings, the organization’s new formula-based ranking system that replaces the RPI used to evaluate the team statistically.
The NET was met with immediate scrutiny as it clearly didn’t have enough data to develop an accurate assessment of teams as it put teams like Belmont at No. 12, while San Francisco and Georgia Southern were put ahead of Tennessee, widely considered one of the best teams in the country this season.
Since then, things have evened out a bit, but on his radio show Wednesday night, LSU head coach Will Wade said that there are some fundamental problems with the formula that will have to be addressed before next season.
“They’re going to have to adjust their formula,” Wade said during the show. “Their formula is wrong. They’re going to have to go back and adjust it in the offseason.”
When the NET was announced, one of its primary selling points was that it wouldn’t reward teams for blowing out opponents, dissuading such behavior on the court, especially in nonconference games.
But Wade pointed out that in practice, the formula is actually doing the opposite.
“There’s a play on numbers that’s wrong,” Wade said. “The fifth most important category in the NET is your margin of victory, and it’s capped at 10 points. The second most important is your offensive and defensive efficiency, and there is no cap.
“Well, to go your offensive and defensive efficiency where you need it to be, you need to run the score up on people. …So they’re going to have to readjust the formula because they don’t want people to blow people out, but they’re basically telling people to blow people out because that’s weighted more than the 10-point (cap).
Wade went on to discuss how the new formula is beneficial for mid-majors who generally dominate their conference schedule while hurting Power 5 schools who have to wade through the bog of a league filled with difficult teams.
“If I was still at VCU where we were in the Atlantic 10 and you got the best team, you’re efficiencies are going to be better because you’re just not playing (as difficult of teams),” Wade said. “In our league you get bogged down into tractor pulls in the 50’s and 60’s and your efficiencies aren’t going to be as good”
Wade did point out that it doesn’t change much from LSU’s standpoint. The main goal continues to be to find good opponents in nonconference and win the games it plays.
He pointed out the way these formulas have changed the way teams schedule, however, so much so that he has “a guy who crunches numbers out west” who sends him advice on who to schedule and when.
“The No. 1 thing is that you want to schedule teams that you can beat that are going to win games,” Wade said.
That’s how the Tigers ended up playing UNC-Greensboro in their second game of the season. A veteran and well-coached squad, the Spartans represented a tricky challenge for the young and inexperienced Tigers, especially that early in the season.
“But the way I look at it is if you can’t beat those guys at home, you probably don’t deserve to make it anyway. So you might as well schedule them and try to beat them and put ourselves in the best light.”
Overall, Wade doesn’t seem to have too big an issue with the NET ranking system as a whole, especially right now as the formula puts LSU at No. 22 in the country.
And as long as he knows what the formula looks like, he said he’s pretty comfortable with scheduling and even predicting where the Tigers will be at any given point in the season.
“I pretty much have a good idea when we set the schedule, I can guess within five spots either way what our NET or RPI will end up being,” Wade said. “We have a good idea of what it is.”