Should Rutgers Be a #1 Seed?

The NCAA Women's basketball selection show will reveal the seedings, pairings, and participants of the 2008 tournament on Monday evening. Until then, speculation as to where everyone's favorite team will be headed will continue. One characteristic in RU's favor is the RPI, but the human polls aren't quite as agreeable when it comes to the Scarlet Knights' possible seed.

Rutgers (24-6, 14-2) didn't do itself any favors when it lost its last two games, at Connecticut in a game that was to determine the Big East regular season champion and in the quarterfinal round of the Big East postseason tournament, to runner-up Louisville. Consequently, both polls, which were issued a day after RU's Big East quarterfinal loss, dropped the Scarlet Knights to #7. Outside of Duke, which has nine losses on the season, only Rutgers and California suffered six losses but remained ranked in the Top 10. Clearly, the human polls did take into consideration the high level of competition that both squads enjoyed.

But, how does this compare to the more objective evaluation known as the Rating Percentage Index [RPI] and more importantly, which will the selection committee value more, come selection time?

The latter question cannot be answered now, but the initial question we can at least take a cursory look at.

ESPN/USA Today Poll
1. Connecticut: 31-1/RPI:2
The Huskies no longer have the opportunity to face the Volunteers in the regular season though they retained the third most difficult schedule in the land while only suffering one loss.

2. North Carolina: 30-2/RPI:3
The Tar Heels suffered a pair of losses on the season, to UConn and Tennessee, and while sporting the sixth most difficult schedule in the nation, did manage six wins vs RPI Top 25.

3. Tennessee: 30-2/RPI:1
The Volunteers did defeat UNC, but their more recent loss (to LSU) dropped them below the Tar Heels in the rankings. UT, while facing the most difficult schedule in the nation, posted an impressive 17 wins vs RPI Top 50 teams.

4. Stanford: 30-3/RPI:6
The Cardinal had a strength of schedule (SOS) that fell outside of the Top 25 (27) but 18 consecutive victories has catapulted them near the top of the rankings. An impressive 7 victories vs Top 25 competition was balanced by 11 wins (of their 18 straight) against RPI Top 100 teams, or lower.

5. LSU: 27-5/RPI:7
LSU's five losses are the most of any team in the Top 5, have the 19th toughest SOS - they have one loss to a team outside of the Top 50 (Middle Tenn. State) and have only 5 wins vs the RPI Top 50.

6. Maryland: 30-3/RPI:5
Maryland finds itself with only three losses, all to Top 10 RPI teams, one of the toughest schedules in the country, but their loss to Duke in the ACC semis didn't sit well with the humans.

7. Rutgers: 24-6/RPI:4
The Scarlet Knights boast the second most difficult schedule in the land, and despite two straight defeats, are still very respected by the machines. RU has 8 wins vs RPI Top 25 teams and of the Scarlet Knights losses, WVU has the lowest RPI, at 20.

8. Baylor: 24-5/RPI:10
There is inconsistency between Baylor's ranking, issued on the 10th, and Baylor's RPI, which includes an additional loss (a 6th loss) not accounted for by the humans. Like RU Baylor has lost two straight, but unlike RU, BU has also dropped four of its last eight.

9. California: 26-6/RPI:19
Cal has played the 44th most difficult SOS, has defeated only 1 team in the RPI Top 25, and has a loss to sub-.500 Washington (RPI 159), yet remains in a virtual love fest with the human polls.

10. Duke: 23-9/RPI:8
The Blue Devils have played the fourth most difficult schedule but one team that didn't figure in that computation was North Carolina Central, a win that Duke was not given credit for, according to the RPI, as UNCC is in the transition to D-I. Nevertheless, Duke does have four victories versus the RPI Top 25. Outside of Penn State (RPI 104), Duke's losses have all been to teams in the RPI Top 20.

Matei may be reached at mgeorge@rutgersfootball.com

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