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OldWiseOne

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So there's a thread on the board about RPI and how it's factored.  I don't know the OP's methods and don't want to debate what he posted, but thought I'd share some ideas about RPI, scheduling and the misconceptions about RPI as we head into the first rankings next week.

Most people who want to debate RPI should know these basics but here they are again.  The RPI formula is a simple number but one that's often misunderstood.  RPI is basically 3 categories plus the bonus/penalty structure.

25% - your winning %
50% - your opponents winning %
25% - your opponents opponents winning %
Bonus points for W vs. non-conference opponents in top 50 RPI
Penalty points for L vs. non-conference opponents 150 RPI or higher

The first RPI is going to be skewed because of the total number of variables involved and that's the deeper analysis needed to truly understand RPI.  As the season progresses, the numbers start to balance out as the variables increase.

To understand why things may be skewed at the beginning and how many teams will move greatly once conference play starts, you have to understand the number of variables involved.

25% - your winning percentage - right now most teams are going to have only 20-28 games played so they have 20-28 variables for this category
50% - your opponents winning percentage - here is where the variables start to increase greatly - if you've played 25 games and your opponents have all played 25 games, then you have 625 variables in this category.  By the end of the season, if you play 53 games and your opponents all play 53 games, you will have over 2800 variables.  The larger number of variables in this category skew this 50% as there really is minimal movement in here other than those conferences who start playing conference games against teams with losing or winning records. 
25% - your opponents opponents winning percentage - this category ends up with SO many variables that it is virtually negated.  Right now, if you've played 25 games and your opponents have played 25 games and their opponents have played 25 games, you have over 15,000 variables.  By the end of the season if everyone plays 53 games, you have close to 150,000 variables.  The total volume of variables makes this category all but void in the end.

Based on the number of variables, the single biggest factor in RPI is your non-conference winning percentage and in turn, the non-conference winning percentage of all the other teams in your conference.  Even though it's only 25% of the total, your winning percentage has the fewest number of variables and thus you have greater control over this category.  By contrast, your opponents winning percentage counts for 50% but has over 2,800 variables and thus will see minimal movement in this category.

Where teams and conferences as a whole misunderstand how to schedule is based on a few misconceptions:

1.  Playing a tough schedule early will earn me a high RPI - this is true ONLY if you win those games.  If you play 30 non-conference games and 15 are against top 50 teams but you lose 12 of those, your winning percentage is so low that it hurts you more than playing those teams and their winning records because of the number of variables.  The perceived gain by playing those teams with winning records is negated by the losses because of the number of variables in each category.

2.  To have a high RPI, you need to play teams with a high RPI - this is wrong on for a couple of reasons.  First, if you don't win the games as mentioned above, it doesn't help you.  Secondly, the RPI formula only uses the team RPI for the bonus/penalty portion but not for the actual percentages.  Finally, even though a team has a high RPI doesn't mean they have a great winning percentage.  There is usually a Power 5 team that has a top 70 or top 60 RPI but has a losing record.  Just because I play the 60th RPI team doesn't help me if they have a losing record.

The way to having a high RPI is much more involved than just playing highly ranked teams by yourself.  In the end, it comes down to what the conference is doing as a whole that affects each team's RPI. 

Example 1: Mid major team 1 plays a tough schedule and wins some of them but has a winning percentage around 60% when conference play starts.  The other teams in the conference all have losing records.  When team 1 starts playing the conference schedule, everything they did in the non-conference portion is negated by the rest of the conference teams poor records.  The conference eats itself alive, even if that top team wins a lot of conference games because they all have losing records.

Example 2: SEC team 1 plays a weak non-conference schedule but wins 80% of their games.  The rest of the conference all have winning percentages over .750 heading into conference play.  SEC team 1 goes 5-19 in conference but still ends up with a top 25 RPI.  The reason this happens is because ALL the teams in the conference have a high non-conference winning percentage so when they start playing each other, their strength of schedules AND their high winning percentages help to build the other teams up.

To understand this, let's compare the current SEC and Big 10 standings.  Before conference play, all the SEC teams have winning non-conference records.  They have 6 teams with winning percentages over .900, 5 over .800, 1 over .700 and only 1 team just over .500.  Those winning percentages will just feed off of each other the last 8 weeks of the season and pump up each other's 50% category.  In contrast, the Big 10 has 5 teams below .500, 3 teams just above .500, 4 teams over .600 and just 1 team above .700 and 1 team above .900.  Michigan will be fine at the top but the next tier teams will be hurt as they have to play all those teams with losing records. 

At the end of the day, the best thing conferences can do to get more teams into the NCAA tournament is to have ALL teams play schedules that allow them to win the maximum number of games.  Obviously there are other factors involved when making the final decisions and having a weak SOS will keep teams with RPI's in the 40's and 50's out of the tournament.  BUT, if mid-major conferences all have high non-conference winning percentages, it will propel the top 2 or 3 teams HIGHER in the RPI than if those top teams have to play a bunch of teams with losing records in conference which would bring them down into the 40's and 50's and eliminate any possible at-large bids. 

While the SEC and the PAC12 will get the maximum number of teams in the tournament, it's not because of some bias but because the numbers play out in their favor during conference play.  Mid-major conferences will never get the same number of teams in as the Power 5 conferences but they can increase their numbers by having EVERYONE in the conference play schedules that they can WIN and thus propelling the top teams in those conferences higher in the RPI.

AnotherSBFan

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Reply with quote  #2 
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldWiseOne


2.  To have a high RPI, you need to play teams with a high RPI - this is wrong on for a couple of reasons.  First, if you don't win the games as mentioned above, it doesn't help you.  Secondly, the RPI formula only uses the team RPI for the bonus/penalty portion but not for the actual percentages.  Finally, even though a team has a high RPI doesn't mean they have a great winning percentage.  There is usually a Power 5 team that has a top 70 or top 60 RPI but has a losing record.  Just because I play the 60th RPI team doesn't help me if they have a losing record.





So glad you added this part. This goes widely unrealized not just in softball but also in other sports.
CajunAmos

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Reply with quote  #3 
There was an effort made to add a home/road component at the last time changes were made to the RPI formula that didn't pass.
3leftturns

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Reply with quote  #4 

The SEC's 13 teams have averaged THREE losses OOC this year (39 total)... INCREDIBLE.

Pac next at 40 losses (4.44 per team) going into tonight's Cal-Minnesota match.

ACC at 7.68 per team
Big 12 at 9.14 per team
BigTen at 10.79 per team

lurker123

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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3leftturns

The SEC's 13 teams have averaged THREE losses OOC this year (39 total)... INCREDIBLE.

Pac next at 40 losses (4.44 per team) going into tonight's Cal-Minnesota match.

ACC at 7.68 per team
Big 12 at 9.14 per team
BigTen at 10.79 per team




Thanks for the breakdown at the start of the thread. Always good for a refresher.

The Sun Belt is just 7 losses per team and the CAA is just 7.63 losses per team so far but I don't think anyone is ready to say they are better than the ACC, Big 12 or Big 10.

To digress with the RPI talk does anyone really think "SEC Team 1" deserves a tournament bid based on the example?
AleDawg

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Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lurker123



To digress with the RPI talk does anyone really think "SEC Team 1" deserves a tournament bid based on the example?


Stanford dis just about this in 2014. (25-6 out of conference 5-19 within). They ended up with a #49 RPI and were left out. So, no, I don't think that this team would/should make it despite the 5 wins in a tough conference.

If you look at the top 25 RPI (or even the top 35) over the last several years you don't see a .500 SEC or PAC team.

While technically possible, it doesn't happen.

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Prowler

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Reply with quote  #7 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lurker123



Thanks for the breakdown at the start of the thread. Always good for a refresher.

The Sun Belt is just 7 losses per team and the CAA is just 7.63 losses per team so far but I don't think anyone is ready to say they are better than the ACC, Big 12 or Big 10.

To digress with the RPI talk does anyone really think "SEC Team 1" deserves a tournament bid based on the example?


At least as much as some mid-major which finished third or fourth in a mid-tier (or lower) league that took few chances to play up out of conference.

I saw one mid-major a couple of years ago (forget which one now) that people were arguing got screwed when it didn't get a bid -- it didn't win (or even finish second) its league and it played out-of-conference tournaments against all lower-tier mid-majors -- like St. John's and Qunnipiac and Popcorn A&T. It had zero meaningful wins OOC and didn't beat the top teams in its own conference. But it had a shiny record.

I'd also say going 5-19 in the SEC -- especially if those wins are one against Alabama, one against Auburn, one against Georgia, one against LSU and say two against Tennessee, and maybe took Florida and Texas A&M to extra innings and had a lot of one-run losses -- is more impressive than a mid-major that played like five games against major-conference teams OOC and lost four of them, only beating a team that ended with a losing record in the Big 12 or some such. I'd wager that the mid-major I just described would do no better in the SEC, and would probably do worse based on its performance against major-conference teams.

Too many variables to say 'yes' or 'no,' but any mid-major team that wants to argue later about how it deserved to get in should play as many upper-tier teams as possible -- so the committee can at least get a valid idea of how it might have done against a similar SEC or Pac schedule.
jayrot

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AleDawg


Stanford dis just about this in 2014. (25-6 out of conference 5-19 within). They ended up with a #49 RPI and were left out. So, no, I don't think that this team would/should make it despite the 5 wins in a tough conference.

If you look at the top 25 RPI (or even the top 35) over the last several years you don't see a .500 SEC or PAC team.

While technically possible, it doesn't happen.


I mean is SEC Team 1 not Mississippi State?
3leftturns

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lurker123



Thanks for the breakdown at the start of the thread. Always good for a refresher.

The Sun Belt is just 7 losses per team and the CAA is just 7.63 losses per team so far but I don't think anyone is ready to say they are better than the ACC, Big 12 or Big 10.

To digress with the RPI talk does anyone really think "SEC Team 1" deserves a tournament bid based on the example?
SEC team 1?
RahOKU

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Reply with quote  #10 
Then again, could the SEC/Pac 12 benchmark for everyone else be a little overrated? 

Oklahoma -- from the lowly Big 12 that placed just 4 teams in last year's NCAA tournament -- beat 4 SEC teams in the NCAAs (Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU and Auburn 2x) on the way to last year's national championship. The Sooners were a ho-hum 5-4 in regular season games against SEC/Pac 12 opponents.

My point is that the most important thing -- more than conference pedigree, more than RPI, more than regular-season matchups -- is to be hot when it counts, to be the hottest team going into the NCAAs and then the WCWS.

To be sure, that's not where this year's Oklahoma team is right now. But bear in mind that last year's national champs lost their last regular-season game on April 2 against Kansas (Kansas!). All isn't necessarily lost for this year's Sooners.

Just stirring the pot a little waiting for the next round of games ...
AleDawg

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayrot


I mean is SEC Team 1 not Mississippi State?


When?? If this year then it remains to be seen.

2013 they were 32-25 and 8-16 in conference and made the tourney as 38 RPI.

2016 they were 26-31 3-21 in conference and failed to make the Tourney as a 39 RPI.

So, interesting data vis a vis the RPI but slightly different than the example.



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3leftturns

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Well, all data out the window with a sub-.500 record
AleDawg

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Quote:
Originally Posted by RahOKU
Then again, could the SEC/Pac 12 benchmark for everyone else be a little overrated? 


Just stirring the pot a little waiting for the next round of games ...


I think if you are asking about SEC/Pac 12 be the benchmark for strength of schedule, then, yes they should be the benchmarks.

Per the NCAA:

http://stats.ncaa.org/rankings?sport_code=WSB&division=1

8 of the top 10  most difficult schedules remaining are Pac teams. (I know this is a bit skewed as there are still a few OOC games to be played by teams but it's pretty solid indicator of in-conference SoS.) The SEC has 9 teams in spots 6-19.

 

Then we see the likes of a few Sun Belts and Mountain West teams with more SEC teams. A CUSA and a MVC team and then we get to the first BIG 12 team, Ok St, at #35.

I guess the point of this is, you are more likely to have a tough conference schedule (and reap the RPI benefits) in the Mountain West and Sun Belt than in the BIG 12.

 

Not to say that Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor can't get hot at the right time as you say and win it all.


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CajunAmos

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Reply with quote  #14 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prowler
At least as much as some mid-major which finished third or fourth in a mid-tier (or lower) league that took few chances to play up out of conference. I saw one mid-major a couple of years ago (forget which one now) that people were arguing got screwed when it didn't get a bid -- it didn't win (or even finish second) its league and it played out-of-conference tournaments against all lower-tier mid-majors -- like St. John's and Qunnipiac and Popcorn A&T. It had zero meaningful wins OOC and didn't beat the top teams in its own conference. But it had a shiny record. I'd also say going 5-19 in the SEC -- especially if those wins are one against Alabama, one against Auburn, one against Georgia, one against LSU and say two against Tennessee, and maybe took Florida and Texas A&M to extra innings and had a lot of one-run losses -- is more impressive than a mid-major that played like five games against major-conference teams OOC and lost four of them, only beating a team that ended with a losing record in the Big 12 or some such. I'd wager that the mid-major I just described would do no better in the SEC, and would probably do worse based on its performance against major-conference teams. Too many variables to say 'yes' or 'no,' but any mid-major team that wants to argue later about how it deserved to get in should play as many upper-tier teams as possible -- so the committee can at least get a valid idea of how it might have done against a similar SEC or Pac schedule.


I'd say your suggestion that putting the mid-major against the SEC without success may be true for a year or two, but depending on the mid-major if you give them the $60M revenue bump from television revenues into their athletic budget I'd bet that mid-major could make some surprising inroads in performance and facilities. As to mid-major success against majors issue you bring up, very few of those "majors' would play that mid-major on the road. Due to plenty of years of high RPI's and tournament success the Cajuns over the past five years or so have been able to host a number of major conference teams (with a pretty successful result). My belief is that success at home is much easier than success on the road.
jayrot

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AleDawg


When?? If this year then it remains to be seen.

2013 they were 32-25 and 8-16 in conference and made the tourney as 38 RPI.

2016 they were 26-31 3-21 in conference and failed to make the Tourney as a 39 RPI.

So, interesting data vis a vis the RPI but slightly different than the example.




I was just asking. I didn't do the research. I just always see MSU having those kind of records and knew their rpi floated around that 25 cutoff for awhile.
RahOKU

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Reply with quote  #16 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AleDawg



I think if you are asking about SEC/Pac 12 be the benchmark for strength of schedule, then, yes they should be the benchmarks.

Per the NCAA:

http://stats.ncaa.org/rankings?sport_code=WSB&division=1

8 of the top 10  most difficult schedules remaining are Pac teams. (I know this is a bit skewed as there are still a few OOC games to be played by teams but it's pretty solid indicator of in-conference SoS.) The SEC has 9 teams in spots 6-19.

 

Then we see the likes of a few Sun Belts and Mountain West teams with more SEC teams. A CUSA and a MVC team and then we get to the first BIG 12 team, Ok St, at #35.

I guess the point of this is, you are more likely to have a tough conference schedule (and reap the RPI benefits) in the Mountain West and Sun Belt than in the BIG 12.

 

Not to say that Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor can't get hot at the right time as you say and win it all.



Fair enough. Sometimes, I think, these discussions sound like the overarching objective is achieving a high RPI rank. And I understand why: The odds are against your team if you're not hosting in the NCAAs, either in the first round or SR round.

While no team not in the top 8 has ever won the WCWS, that time will arrive. It almost did the year OU went to Alabama for a SR and came within a Runyon HR of ending that streak. Thanks again, Bama fans, for reminding everyone what a great SR that was, and how both those teams were WCWS caliber -- but only one could advance, largely because of an RPI ranking.



Prowler

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CajunAmos


I'd say your suggestion that putting the mid-major against the SEC without success may be true for a year or two, but depending on the mid-major if you give them the $60M revenue bump from television revenues into their athletic budget I'd bet that mid-major could make some surprising inroads in performance and facilities. As to mid-major success against majors issue you bring up, very few of those "majors' would play that mid-major on the road. Due to plenty of years of high RPI's and tournament success the Cajuns over the past five years or so have been able to host a number of major conference teams (with a pretty successful result). My belief is that success at home is much easier than success on the road.


Yes, but if they're truly competive then those mid-majors would win some of those games against SEC and other upper-level opposition on the road.

Every SEC team plays half its conference games on the road. Should their road losses not count against them either?

And a great deal of such games take place at neutral-site tournaments, too, yet I don't see a lot of mid-major teams coming out with winning records from the California tourneys.

Not sure what budgets have to do with it. That's life. I wouldn't object to a Super Division of 60-something true majors and let the others play at what we used to call the D-IA level (as they do in football), but that doesn't appear to be the way they want to structure it.
CajunAmos

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Prowler
Yes, but if they're truly competive then those mid-majors would win some of those games against SEC and other upper-level opposition on the road. Every SEC team plays half its conference games on the road. Should their road losses not count against them either? And a great deal of such games take place at neutral-site tournaments, too, yet I don't see a lot of mid-major teams coming out with winning records from the California tourneys. Not sure what budgets have to do with it. That's life. I wouldn't object to a Super Division of 60-something true majors and let the others play at what we used to call the D-IA level (as they do in football), but that doesn't appear to be the way they want to structure it.


It's been a few years, but I think the Cajuns did win the Judy Garman a number of years back.
3leftturns

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When was the Garman last a bracketed tournament?
CajunAmos

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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3leftturns
When was the Garman last a bracketed tournament?


Not sure, but the Cajuns win was in 1994 when Yvette Girouard was still here. It was still the time of the PAC before the SEC started putting money into the sport. Michigan was the exception, but the east was mostly Florida State, South Carolina, and the Cajuns who were playing as an independent at that time (I think).
Prowler

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Reply with quote  #21 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CajunAmos


It's been a few years, but I think the Cajuns did win the Judy Garman a number of years back.


The Cajuns have certainly proven that they can compete with the big girls. And their seedings have reflected their accomplishments on the field BECAUSE they schedule against power conference teams and win enough of those games that it's obvious (most years) that they would be competitive.

But if Popcorn A&T goes 2-3 at the Garmin with losses to the only three major conference teams it plays -- and does the same against other power conference teams on the schedule (home or away or neutral) ... I'm not going to assume they could do better than the hypothetical Mississippi State team that wins five games in SEC play.
CajunAmos

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Reply with quote  #22 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prowler
The Cajuns have certainly proven that they can compete with the big girls. And their seedings have reflected their accomplishments on the field BECAUSE they schedule against power conference teams and win enough of those games that it's obvious (most years) that they would be competitive. But if Popcorn A&T goes 2-3 at the Garmin with losses to the only three major conference teams it plays -- and does the same against other power conference teams on the schedule (home or away or neutral) ... I'm not going to assume they could do better than the hypothetical Mississippi State team that wins five games in SEC play.


I agree in principal. There are a number of mid-majors who play high majors competitively but don't win consistently. I think money/exposure and the ability to hire good coaches (funding) could make those competitive in major conferences. I'm thinking about South Alabama, Texas State, Western Kentucky, and FIU off the top of my head as they are all current or former Sun Belt teams of which I'm familiar. At least it puts you in the discussion of being one of those teams who can finish with a 0.500 or so record in conference and have a top 40 RPI due to the conference bump.

At least it makes for an interesting discussion from my perspective, but maybe not yours.
MadDogsDad

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Reply with quote  #23 



Expanding the NCAA tournament to 64 was never about giving more teams a shot at the title or getting the 64 best teams in the tournament. If it was they would do away with automatic berths and just have 1-64. It's about exposure for the sport. Theoretically, the more teams that have a chance to play the more interest there is.

I have a spreadsheet somewhere where I charted the participants from every WCWS since it expanded to 64. I will find it tonight. But it isn't very often that a 3 or 4 seed advanced to a super regional, let alone the WCWS. So the reality is there are about 20 teams with a realistic shot at the title and about 32 teams with a realistic shot at getting to OKC. Meaning the 10th place team in the SEC or the 9th place Pac12 team has roughly the same odds of an unranked number 2 team from a mid major as getting to OKC.


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OldWiseOne

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Reply with quote  #24 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jayrot


I mean is SEC Team 1 not Mississippi State?


I was referencing Kentucky from 2 or 3 years ago. They were 24-5 in nonconference play and 5-19 in the SEC but we're still a top 30 RPI. I'll go back and examine their schedule breakdown tomorrow and compare it to Stanford.

And it's not whether or not they deserve to be in the tournament. It's what the numbers say. A team like that who's RPI is so high it doesn't matter if they deserving it. You can't NOT put a team like that in. If they were in the 40's they wouldn't make it.
jayrot

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Reply with quote  #25 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3leftturns
When was the Garman last a bracketed tournament?


I actually went back and looked - 2007.

https://csufullerton.prestosports.com/sports/w-softbl/archives/links/07_judi_garman

Watched most of those games as Becca Heteniak was pitching for DePaul and then 7 years later ended up working with her mother.
Prowler

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Reply with quote  #26 
Not just from this thread but similar discussions over the past few years, it's almost like some people have an idea of which teams should and shouldn't be in -- and how they should be seeded -- and want to find a formula or tweak the RPI to make it match their preconceived notions.

Which sounds like a bass-ackward approach.

A big one is the 'bonus for road win, less value for home win' adjustment to the RPI that some people want.

I just did a spot check on Florida's losses from 2014-16. It's a small sample, three seasons, and only one team -- but it's a hard team to beat, as hard as any in college softball.

By my quick count (and some correct me if I messed it up): UF has lost 13 games at home, 8 on the road and 4 at neutral sites (counting the SEC Tournament and WCWS).

So that tells me Florida is more likely to lose at home than it is to lose on the road, or roughly even if you lump "non-home" with road and neutral together.

Now, yes, Florida does have a winning home record (and that includes some cupcakes, but even against better teams Florida is more likely to win than lose at home). But Florida also has an equally impressive road record over the same span, moreso really if you look at only losses.

To change the way things are done just because someone perceives "it's harder to win on the road than at home" without any imperical evidence or a close study of where losses and wins occur makes no sense. I believe it's harder for a team from east of the Mississippi to win games at the Mary Nutter than it is for Pac-12 teams (or anyone west of the Rockies), but I don't have anything to back that up. A road game played an hour or two's drive away maybe shouldn't equal one that involves a whole day on a plane if we're going to go down that road -- should all road games be equal?

I saw a Minnesota fan indignant over the idea that road wins don't count for more, but two years ago the Gophes were 9-3 and home and 20-3 on the road. So of course he/she wants the 'bonus.' But with about a dozen home games per year, Minnesota loses three of those each season. It's not radically different statistically from the road record, and could easily be accounted for by showing a tougher strength of schedule (playing better teams in some cases) on the road.

So to me it sounds simply like a way to try to fix the system to favor some teams based upon perception and not reality.
jayrot

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Reply with quote  #27 
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldWiseOne


I was referencing Kentucky from 2 or 3 years ago. They were 24-5 in nonconference play and 5-19 in the SEC but we're still a top 30 RPI. I'll go back and examine their schedule breakdown tomorrow and compare it to Stanford.

And it's not whether or not they deserve to be in the tournament. It's what the numbers say. A team like that who's RPI is so high it doesn't matter if they deserving it. You can't NOT put a team like that in. If they were in the 40's they wouldn't make it.


Dang that's it. That was the year Kentucky got hosed having to face like all 6 of the top sec teams (or something like that).
olddawg

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Reply with quote  #28 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jayrot
Dang that's it. That was the year Kentucky got hosed having to face like all 6 of the top sec teams (or something like that).


Somebody is always going to get hosed and somebody is always going to have an easy road as long as they all don't have to play everyone in the conference every year or at least every other year.
jayrot

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Reply with quote  #29 
Quote:
Originally Posted by olddawg


Somebody is always going to get hosed and somebody is always going to have an easy road as long as they all don't have to play everyone in the conference every year or at least every other year.


agreed!
olddawg

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Reply with quote  #30 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jayrot


agreed!


You are an SEC guy.  What reason, if any, do thy give for not leveling the playing field?  Do you buy whatever they give?  Do you have an opinion on the question?
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