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  • Ted House

RPI 401 - Guest Column by Arpy Iguy

Greetings all,

Many ask me why I have given my life’s work to the study of Ratings Percentage Index, but it should be obvious.  When born to Mister and Misses Iguy a few decades ago, they thought they’d map out my future (and get a little chuckle) by giving me the first name of Arpy.  So much for the study of neurosurgery.

But on to the business at hand.

I understand that in your state, you actually have two variations of an RPI.  One, used by all boys and girls teams in all classifications in the state, with a formula set by the WIAA.  The other, is confined to District 1 only, and involves the 2A and 3A boys and girls teams in the Northwest and Wesco Conferences.

Since the Northwest and Wesco have two RPI’s to deal with, I will attempt to compare and contrast the two, and hopefully, in a manner that you can understand. 

I came out of the basement, brushed the chip crumbs off my sweats, and hunkered down for this, so pay attention.

Let’s start with the state RPI, which involves every team.

This system doesn’t care what classification you belong to.  There is no extra credit if a 1B team whips a 4A team.

The math is as follows:  40 percent of your score is your own winning percentage.  Another 40 percent is the average winning percentage of your opponents (the teams you have played so far).  The final 20 percent is the average winning percentage of all the opponents that your opponents have played.  So, it reaches out there a ways.  These three percentages are added together to be your final RPI.  All games, including post-season district tournaments count in your RPI.

You do not qualify for your state tournament by being in the top 16 in RPI.  (Top 20 for the 3A classification because they have more teams than the other classifications).  You still have to qualify for state the “old fashioned way,” by placing in your district tournament. 

Once all teams are qualified, the RPI is used to help the seeding committee place teams in order from 1-16 (or 1-20). 

There is no classification adjustment, so it does not give an advantage to smaller schools for playing bigger schools or penalize the bigger schools for playing teams from smaller classifications.  Basketball teams can be competitive no matter what their enrollment is.

I tend to feel that it’s better to play a team with a good record and lose, than to beat a team with a bad record.  Though that theory has not been peer reviewed.  Teams with bad records tend to play the same in non-league games, so it can be difficult for those teams to score a high RPI over the season.  Whereas, good programs tend to play other good programs, thus their 40/40/20 will produce a higher RPI.

Some teams play games against teams from outside the state of Washington.  The formula cannot follow the entire season of those teams and their opponents, so they have a set formula.  The teams you play from outside the state carry an automatic .500 winning percentage, along with their opponents and their opponents-opponents. 

This system, which has been tweaked over the years, seems to have started in the 2016-17 school year.  It has been used for all team sports.

In the first few years of this RPI, once teams were qualified, they were placed by final RPI only.  With this in play for a few more years, a seeding committee was formed to oversee the seeding of teams.  There were a few instances where teams were a much lower seed than they deserved due to playing in a conference that was not very competitive.  1A Kings boys and 2A Foss boys were two examples.

Kings was bouncing around leagues, moving from the Cascade to the North Sound, and now to the Emerald Sound League.  In the late teens, they had really good teams, highly ranked in the media and coaches polls, but did not garner a high RPI due to their schedule.  They played as tough of a non-conference schedule as they could, but their league wasn’t very good, and held their numbers down.

The Knights took sixth place as a 16-seed in 2018 and placed third as a 10-seed the next year.  In 2020, the Knights won the 1A title as a 14-seed.

In 2017, 2A Foss won the state championship as a 13-seed, and a record of 21-5 heading into regionals.

These are two examples of why the seeding committee was put in place, and the RPI is now a tool, instead of a list.

When you see the first RPI list come out, it should never be taken seriously because there isn’t enough information gathered if teams have played less than ten games, for sure.  The more games that are played, the less movement there is.  When you get to about a dozen games played, then it makes more sense.

When you see the first RPI standings released, do not complain that the #7 team should be ranked higher than the #4 team that they defeated.  It doesn’t work that way.  The RPI is based on every game played, plus the opponents, etc, etc.

You can even see that scenario in basic league standings.  The sixth-place team may have knocked off the second-place team, but that doesn’t mean they are better over the entire season.  Just that one game.  You can’t place teams in order of “who beat who.”

The District 1 RPI has a completely different mathematical formula, which has been adjusted over the years.

RPI is used by District 1 in 2A and 3A because the Northwest Conference and the Wesco Conference are multi-classification leagues that come together for district tournaments.  The NWC, of course, has 1A, 2A, and 3A teams.  The Wesco has 2A and 3A.

Prior to the RPI, when it came to the district tournament, teams that participated in the 2A tournament from outside of the NWC, or from District 2, were placed into a negotiated slot. 

This meant that (or those) teams would get the same seed in the district tournament every year, no matter how good their record may be.  The RPI allows for a better comparison.

Because teams from these two leagues play teams from bigger and smaller classifications, the formula does account for that.  Teams get a slight bump for beating a 3A team, and less of a bump for 2A and 1A.

In the NWC, 2A and 3A teams may, theoretically, get more conference wins because they have to play fewer bigger school teams.  In the Wesco, however, their schedule should, again, theoretically, be more difficult because of the larger number of 3A teams.  The mathematical formula is in place to even the opportunity. Only league games are counted in the district RPI. 

When district tournaments come around, the eight NWC 2A teams and the two 2A Wesco teams are seeded by their final league RPI (not the WIAA RPI) and placed 1-10.

In 3A, there are 17 teams involved, with 14 from the Wesco and three from the NWC.  The top 12 by RPI qualify for the tournament.  For NWC teams, only two of the three can qualify, and they must be in the top 12.  If the third best NWC team finishes in the top 12, they do not qualify.

True, it’s not neurosurgery, but it’s pretty darn complicated.

That’s it for now.  I may be available later for some late season scenarios, until then, back to the basement, and pass the Pringles.

~ Arpy Iguy

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