What if the ACC Lacrosse "Tournament" Didn't Exist?

Crunch. I broke your brain. via 2.bp.blogspot.com

Remember when I called the ACC lacrosse "tournament" an "RPI shamfest"?  Do you?  Do you, do you, do you?

Do you also remember when the NCAA released its first iteration of the lacrosse RPI, featuring all four ACC teams in the top-15?  Do you, do you, do you?

Aside: Still love you, Mars Blackmon.

Well, good for you, son.  We're on the same page, which is a major plus for this particular discussion.  Your B.A. in "Genius" from the University of Intelligence is serving you quite well. 

Anyway, I sat down at my computing machine and ran a revised mock RPI calculation, eliminating the ACC lacrosse "tournament."  The results, I think, are important for two reasons:

  1. As previously noted, the NCAA relies heavily on RPI calculations (especially the RPI strength of schedule component) to determine NCAA tournament at-large invitees.
  2. The ACC lacrosse "tournament," as currently treated, carries huge NCAA tournament implications despite the fact that the ACC lacrosse "tournament" carries no direct NCAA tournament implications (e.g., there's not auto-bid).  Essentially, all the ACC lacrosse "tournament" truthfully decides is who gets to hang a banner.

The results, I think, were a little surprising.  Here's a quick chart illustrating the results:

ACC RPI: IS IT A SHAM?
TEAM RPI RPI* SOS SOS*
Duke 5 7 4 5
Maryland 11 16 22 32
North Carolina 13 12 12 14
Virginia 7 4 2 2

RPI: RPI rank as calculated by the NCAA. Includes ACC lacrosse "tournament" results.
SOS: RPI strength of schedule rank as computed by LaxPower.
RPI*: RPI rank as calculated as if the ACC lacrosse "tournament" didn't exist.  Otherwise known as "utopia."
SOS*: RPI strength of schedule rank computed as if the ACC lacrosse "tournament" didn't exist.

So, what the hell are we learning from this?

  • Everyone, save Virginia, is getting a strength of schedule boost for playing in this cockamamie "tournament."  The real focus is on Maryland.  That's a significant, significant increase in rank.  Without the ACC lacrosse "tournament" Maryland may be an unseeded team; with the "tournament" they really make their case as one of the top-eight teams in the country.
  • With the exception of Maryland, no team is changing all that much in terms of the actual RPI rank if you eliminate the "tournament."  Two wins in that sucker have obviously helped the Terps in rank value.  North Carolina and Virginia move back a bit because they lost in the "tournament's" first round.  DERP! 

    I guess you could argue that the ACC lacrosse "tournament" both helps and hurts teams with reference to the straight RPI value.  To this I would argue: That doesn't matter; the issue is that the RPI is still impacted by a "tournament" that has no functional implications.  If there is going to be impact to the RPI, and if the RPI is used as a major component to selecting at-large teams and seeding particular teams, no consideration should be made relative to a bogus play-down.
  • There another piece of the puzzle here that is somewhat muted this year but may have been more prevalent in prior years.  Look at Duke's RPI.  With the ACC lacrosse "tournament" included, they're in the top-five in the metric.  Without it, the Blue Devils are outside the top-five. Why is this important?  Quality wins against teams based on RPI tiers (1-5, 6-10, 11-20, below 20) is a criterion for at-large selection.  So, with the ACC lacrosse "tournament" a win against Duke is a huge deal. Without the "tournament," it's not quite as big. 

    Again, Maryland can thank its lucky stars that it got to play Duke in the "tournament" final.  That could be a huge factor in terms of seeding the Terrapins.  (The flip side is obviously Virginia, but I don't really care.  The focus here, again, is that the "tournament" is impacting the RPI and NCAA tournament selection despite the fact that the ACC lacrosse "tournament" provides no direct bid to the big show.)

If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments below.  

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