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Villanova Basketball’s “New” NCAA Report Card

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The NCAA’s new “Quad” metric is better for college basketball, but is it better for Villanova?

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Syracuse Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA, specifically when it comes to college basketball, gets a lot of things wrong. A LOT. But the one thing they’ve gotten right, for the most part, is the NCAA Tournament. It’s widely considered the greatest post-season in all of sports, and it’s the measuring stick by which program’s are publicly judged.

While there are a lot more pressing issues facing the sport and its governing body right now, the NCAA has slowly been taking steps to improve upon their Championship Tournament. The latest is to take into account where a team gets its wins and losses when evaluating seeding, not just who they came against.

The full details can be found in a great piece by Andy Katz, but here’s the quick summary. Previously, a team’s wins and losses were broken down into four categories: Top 50, Top 100, Top 200, and 201+. The rankings were determined by the often criticized RPI, but they only took into account how highly a team was ranked and not where the games were played. The new system puts each game into a weighted Quad system that takes into account the location as well as the opponent.

New NCAA Quad Metric Using NET Rank

Quadrant Home Neutral Away
Quadrant Home Neutral Away
Quad 1 1-30 1-50 1-75
Quad 2 31-75 51-100 76-135
Quad 3 76-160 101-200 136-240
Quad 4 161+ 201+ 241+

In the old system, every game was being treated the same way a Neutral court game would be treated in the new system. Now, home wins against lesser opponents will be slightly downgraded, while away games against better competition will be upgraded. For example, a game against the 50th best team at home would fall into Quad 2. But play that same team on a neutral court or in a true away game, and it falls into Quad 1.

The move is being applauded pretty unanimously by coaches and statisticians alike. Home court advantage is a big part of the college game, and now the decisions on seeding it’s most important event will finally take that into consideration. While this will likely have some significant effects on non-conference scheduling down the road, let’s look at the immediate impact that this will have on Villanova this season.

Comparing the Old to the New

Before we even get started, let’s all agree on one thing. The RPI is awful. Not only is it awful, it’s even worse early in the season. Don’t believe me? As of Thursday when I’m writing this, Missouri, Temple, and Arkansas, which are all two loss teams outside of the AP Poll’s Top 25, are all in the RPI Top 10. I’m not saying these aren’t good teams, but I am absolutely saying they’re not the cream of the crop.

Basically, the RPI rankings won’t be at least close until January or February. However, even if they’re off now, we can still use them to demonstrate how the new Quad system will effect Villanova’s NCAA Tournament resume. First, let’s look at how this season would be viewed in the old metric:

Old RPI Rank Metric

Nova's NCAA Sheet Top 50 Top 100 Top 200 201+
Nova's NCAA Sheet Top 50 Top 100 Top 200 201+
Wins 3 1 3 2
Losses 0 0 0 0
Conf. Schedule 12 2 2 2
Total Schedule 16 4 7 4
% of Schedule 52% 13% 23% 13%

Obviously Villanova is looking strong with three Top 50 wins already, and the schedule isn’t looking too shabby either. 52% of Nova’s opponents this year currently rank in the RPI Top 50, and that includes 23 of the Big East Schedule. But that was the old way of looking at things, here’s how the new metric lays out:

New Quad Metric

Nova's NCAA Sheet Quad 1 Quad 2 Quad 3 Quad 4
Nova's NCAA Sheet Quad 1 Quad 2 Quad 3 Quad 4
Wins 3 1 3 2
Losses 0 0 0 0
Conf. Schedule 9 4 2 3
Total Schedule 13 7 6 5
% of Schedule 42% 23% 19% 16%

I knew it! All new things are bad! Give me the old metric back! Where did all my good Big East games go? WHAT’S HAPPENING!?!?

I get it, at first glance the new system looks like it’s only weakening Villanova’s resume. But now I’m going to remind you of our #1 rule when evaluating this thing: the RPI is awful.

Let’s start by looking at Villanova’s wins so far. Right now it’s identical in both systems. But get this, Gonzaga is currently ranked 77th in RPI. They’re our lone Quad 2 victory. So who are the three Quad 1 wins? That would be Western Kentucky (#34), Tennessee (#7), and UNI (#30), our three victories at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Clearly these rankings are going to go down, but that’s where the new system is going to give Villanova an advantage.

Most teams will be picking up their quality and cupcake wins on home courts this season, but Villanova has been forced to play the majority of its non-conference at neutral sites and on the road. That means that Villanova’s games are going to be more valuable than teams like Kentucky that don’t leave home unless they have to. While the comparison between the two systems may not look great right now, that extra advantage may be the reason Villanova gets bumped up a seed line at the end of the season.

The other reason this change helps Villanova beyond this year is the impact it will have on the Big 5 games. Look at La Salle for example. The Explorers finished last season ranked 133 in RPI, which would have landed them in the third “Top 150” column. But because it was an away game, the metric would place them in the “Quad 2” column. Even though we hope the rest of the Big 5 can start getting better in a hurry, this new system will at least lessen the hit we take in the two away games we play each season.

So What Will This Look Like In March?

In truth, it’s hard to find any ranking system that works especially well this early in the season. Teams play inconsistently early on and there just haven’t been enough games played yet to get a true sense of the field. But maybe taking a sampling from a bunch of rankings can get us a more accurate answer.

I wanted to see what Villanova’s Quad metric would look like if we used other ranking systems. KenPom is probably the most widely quoted of the alternate/advanced ranking systems, but there are a few others like Sagarin and Massey that get some attention as well. So I pulled them all in to see how they stack up against the RPI:

Quad Metric Rankings Comparison

Ranking Systems Quad 1 Quad 2 Quad 3 Quad 4
Ranking Systems Quad 1 Quad 2 Quad 3 Quad 4
RPI Schedule 13 7 6 5
KenPom Schedule 12 10 6 3
Sagarin Schedule 13 10 5 3
Massey Schedule 14 8 6 3

Again, nothing is set in stone, but I think the other three ranking systems paint a more realistic picture of how Villanova’s resume will look at the end of the year. So far the general consensus is that Nova would have two wins in Quad 1 (Ten., Gonzaga), three wins in Quad 2 (WKU, UNI, St. Joe’s), one win in Quad 3 (Penn), and three wins in Quad 4 (Columbia, Nicholls, Lafayette). Even better, it suggests that over 70% of Villanova’s games this season would fall into Quad 1 or 2.

Given that both wins came on neutral courts, I feel pretty good about Tennessee and Gonzaga staying locked into Quad 1. Western Kentucky, and UNI will probably be on the fence between Quads 2 & 3, but because it was on a neutral court they just need to stay in the Top 100. St. Joe’s just needs to stay in the Top 135 because they were an away game, but knowing them they’ll finish at 136 out of spite. The bottom line is that this new system is going to provide the Wildcats with plenty of Quad 1 games, while elevating some of our less competitive road games to Quad 2.

Villanova is playing great right now, and knowing Wright they’re still going to improve before March. While some of the smaller and mid-major schools will probably get a bigger bump from the new Quad system, it’s still a net gain for Villanova both now and in the long run. The Cats control their own destiny at this point if they want to grab the #1 Seed in the East Region, and I think they’re going to be able to do it.

At least I hope they do... I already bought tickets for Boston.