Kansas State is in the NCAA baseball tournament and I’m not sure I understand why.
I’m telling you right up front, I’m no math major. RPIs are voodoo to me with mathematical equations so difficult that it makes me want to drop the class. A little story here: I dropped several math classes at Wichita State, eventually giving up on getting a journalism degree and settling for a General Studies degree. All because of the math requirements. So, you see, I’m a big wuss when it comes to math.
That being said, Kansas State gets in, the sixth of six Big 12 teams to do so. The Big 12, of course, is a very fine baseball conference. Boyd’s World has it ranked as the third best in the country.
But, BW has the Missouri Valley Conference ranked as the seventh best baseball conference in America. I’m not sure I understand why, but that is the case. The Valley jumps all over the place in RPI from year to year. Just last season, it was ranked No. 15. It dropped as low as No. 16 in 2004 and has been at No. 7 now twice, including in 2005.
I’m surprised the Valley is the No. 7 conference. From what I’ve seen of the MVC, it’s been slightly better this season than in most seasons. But I would hardly call it a power conference.
What I say, though, doesn’t matter. The RPI thinks highly of the MVC, yet the Valley has only one team in the 64-team NCAA Tournament. If the Valley had a No. 7 ranking in men’s basketball, it would get two, three or maybe even four teams into the Big Dance.
Wichita State is No. 71 in RPI, according to Boyd’s World, with a No. 114 strength of schedule. WarrenNolan.com has the Shockers at 71 in RPI, too, but at No. 100 in SOS. The Shockers’ RPI is behind that of Creighton (26), of course. The Bluejays won the regular-season championship and beat WSU in the championship game of the Valley tournament.
But WSU also ranks behind Missouri State (61) and Illinois State (65) in RPI.
Remember, I’m not a math guy so I’m sure my opinion about the RPI is tainted. But I think it’s all a big cover-up for selection committees to hide behind when it comes time to picking teams for NCAA Tournaments.
Numbers can be crunched a variety of ways, and can end up supporting almost any argument.
Kansas State, for instance, is just 7-14 against the rest of the NCAA Tournament field, 6-12 against fellow Big 12 teams and 1-2 in non-conference games. That’s right, K-State played only three non-conference games this season against teams that made the NCAA Tournament, one each against Creighton, California and Coastal Carolina.
Wichita State was 10-5 against teams in the NCAA Tournament and 8-3 against non-conference teams in the field: 2-0 vs. Alcorn State; 2-0 vs. Arizona; 1-0 vs. Dallas Baptist; 1-1 vs. Oral Roberts; 1-1 vs. Kansas State; and 1-1 vs. Oklahoma State.
Is Kansas State’s body of work that much more impressive than that of the Shockers?
Kansas State did benefit from playing in the Big 12. But the Wildcats were 2-11 in games against Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas.
K-State, it’s safe to say, is in the NCAAs because of its 4-1 record against Oklahoma, which is a No. 2 seed at the Fort Worth Regional this week hosted by TCU. The Wildcats beat the Sooners twice in the conference tournament last week and would have been in the championship game had it not been for an extra-inning loss to Texas A&M.
Kudos to Kansas State for getting in, even though I’m not sure why the Wildcats are a more-deserving team than Wichita State. Then again, it was a foregone conclusion that the only way the Shockers were going to get into the NCAA Tournament was to win the Valley tournament in Omaha last week.
Wichita State is partly a victim of its non-conference schedule, which included games against Niagara, North Dakota and Alcorn State, all teams with ugly RPIs. And the Shockers are partly a victim of their conference, even though the Valley received high RPI marks this season.
I don’t think the RPI is a great tool for measuring a team’s strength, and especially not in baseball. There are just too many nuances in the game, too many factors that can’t be gauged by computers.