Thursday, February 28, 2008

TAPE: Raising the Bar

Up to this point, a team's TAPE has been a representation of their expected winning percentage against an average team. The problem is, with 341 teams in Division I, there are between 160 and 170 teams that are better than average at any given moment. Average teams, unless they're lucky enough to play in the Ivy League or the SWAC or the Patriot League or the MEAC, aren't even among the best teams in their own conference. Average teams are nowhere near the postseason radar. Using an average team as a reference point in a Division I ratings system just doesn't make any sense at all.

So, if average is out, what is in? Every year around this time, bubble talk begins in earnest. While an increasing number of mid-majors are getting bubble attention, most of the focus rightfully is on the teams from the six BCS conferences. (Yes, I do realize that it's silly to use a football term in a basketball context, but, really, what other nomenclature would work? "Power conference" sounds like a meeting of energy executives, and a "high major" is a marching band leader with an illegal smile, so, as much as I hate the sport with the funny-shaped ball, I'll stick with the BCS.) When it comes to assessing those teams, the most important bit of information seems to be whether or not they have a winning conference record.

With that in mind, TAPE has now been changed to reflect how each team would fare not against the average Division I team, but what their record might look like if they played their entire schedule against BCS-level competition. The number of teams with ratings better than .500 has dropped from 165 to 48. It just so happens that if the NCAA field was built using TAPE, the cut line for at-large bids would be .500. Neat, huh?

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