NCAA tournament committee to emphasize quality road wins

The men's basketball selection committee will put a greater emphasis on quality road wins beginning next season, the NCAA announced Friday.

Next year, teams aiming for the NCAA tournament will be evaluated according to quality home wins (top 30 in the RPI), neutral-site wins (top 50) and road wins (top 75). The tiers expand from there with the same criteria.

A team that plays on the road and beats an opponent rated 50th will get more credit for that victory than it would for a home win over a squad ranked 40th. The change also will ensure teams will not suffer the same penalties for road losses as they do for home losses in the selection process.

"We consulted with experts within the coaching and analytics fields who looked at historical data, based on winning percentages by game location, to come up with these dividing lines within each of the columns," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, the current chair of the committee, said in a news release.

"The emphasis of performing well on the road is important, as was the need for teams not to be penalized as much for road losses. Beating elite competition, regardless of the game location, will still be rewarded, but the committee wanted the team sheets to reflect that a road game against a team ranked 60th is mathematically more difficult and of higher quality than a home game versus a team ranked 35th. We feel this change accomplishes that."

Translation: It's harder to win on the road and it's time to accurately acknowledge that within the evaluation process.

The move also signals an ongoing move away from the RPI, largely a raw strength-of-schedule metric that values quality wins and minimizes the impact of location, as a significant factor in the committee's decisions. Per the NCAA release, the committee expects to employ a new composite metric by the 2018-19 season after meeting with various experts in recent months.

The RPI formula is a combination of a team's wins and losses, its opponents' wins and losses, and its opponents' opponents' wins and losses with a limited emphasis on location of the contests.

For years, many programs have manipulated their nonconference résumés by facing solid opponents at home and avoiding road matchups against quality teams before conference play. But this adjustment could encourage a shift toward more high-profile road games for contenders and perhaps the restart of true home-and-home series that coaches have squashed in recent years because of fears they'll damage their résumés.

The new composite metric will likely incorporate the new analytics tools that offer a more complete picture of a team.

"There was a consensus among those involved that a composite rating was a better indicator than the RPI alone, but everyone also agreed that it isn't mathematically sound to combine metrics that are results-oriented with those that are predictive in nature," Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball, said in the release.

"The committee decided to use the upcoming season to study how different composite rankings would perform, and explore other options, as well. The bottom line is we recognize the need to continue using more modern metrics and the need to make those more front and center in the sorting of data for the selection and seeding process."