Selection committee not interested in polls

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Arkansas' Michael Qualls, right, shoots up and over Marcus Thornton of Georgia Saturday, March 1, 2014, during the first half of the game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Samantha Baker
Arkansas' Michael Qualls, right, shoots up and over Marcus Thornton of Georgia Saturday, March 1, 2014, during the first half of the game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Arkansas’ fifth consecutive victory, its seventh in eight games, has most experts putting the Hogs on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Being on the bubble means a team has a chance to get an at-large berth in the field of 68. Nothing is guaranteed just because someone on TV or a website said it.

These guys often start projecting the NCAA Tournament field as soon as the season starts and update it almost weekly from December until the final conference tournament game is played.

One thing the Razorbacks’ run hasn’t done is impress members of the media or the coaches who vote in their respective polls.

Kentucky (21-8, 11-5) dropped all the way to No. 25 in The Associated Press poll after losing at home to the Hogs on Thursday and then at South Carolina on Saturday. The Razorbacks didn’t even make the others receiving votes list. North Carolina Central and Southern Miss got a vote. Arkansas didn’t get jack squat.

Kentucky slipped to No. 24 in the USA Today coaches poll. Arkansas got no attention. None. Zero.

No one should have expected the Razorbacks to jump into the top 25 with nine losses, but to be totally ignored was something of a mild surprise.

This is the time of year when basketball fans start throwing letters around, notably RPI, BPI and SOS. And while SOS (strength of schedule) could be a cry for help, it isn’t, unless you are above 100 in that category. If that’s the case, your season is a game or two away from being over unless you win your conference tournament.

RPI is Ratings Performance Index and it is very similar to Sagarin, Massey and Ken Pomeroy ratings. The RPI has been used by the selection committee since 1981. It is based 25 percent on a team’s winning percentage, 50 percent on opponents’ winning percentage and 25 percent on the winning percentage of the opponents of a team’s opponents.

Lots of computer-savvy sports fans can figure the RPI, but it is only a small part of the formula used to determine the field for March Madness. How a team played its last 10 games also counts, and the Razorbacks have a shot at finishing 9-1.

Arkansas is ranked No. 57 in RPI. That’s not a strong number.

BPI is Basketball Power Index and was developed by ESPN for ESPN, which uses the RPI but includes actual scores of games and if players were sitting out for any reason. There are other components.

The Razorbacks are No. 35 in the BPI, and that’s a decent number, especially since the NCAA invites 36 at-large teams to play with 32 conference tournament champions.

Arkansas’ SOS is 75, not a good number, especially considering quality victories over Kentucky (twice), SMU, Minnesota and Clemson.

The two remaining teams on Arkansas’ schedule - Ole Miss and Alabama - don’t provide the Razorbacks with much chance of improving those ratings, but losing either of those games could be devastating to their Big Dance dreams.

The Hogs and Tennessee are tied for fourth in the SEC standings. If it stays that way, the Razorbacks would get the fifth seed in next week’s SEC Tournament and the Volunteers No. 4, which means a double bye to Friday’s action, because the Hogs lost to UT.

Tennessee appears to have an easy road to that No. 4 seed with games at Auburn and at home against Missouri.

Getting the No. 5 seed isn’t all bad because the Razorbacks would play the winner of the 12-13 game, most likely matching Auburn and South Carolina, 24 hours after those teams meet.

The best news is those fine men and women on the selection committee don’t consider the AP or Coaches Poll. A couple of places the Razorbacks got absolutely zero respect, which makes you wonder who gave North Carolina Central and Southern Miss a vote.

Sports, Pages 13 on 03/04/2014