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Quality road wins now count more, apparently

New selection committee focus could mean better non-con matchups

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Florida State
A bigger emphasis on road wins may incentivize harder hitting matchups.
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Not sure how much of this is “news” in the breaking sense, but the NCAA selection committee officially confirmed that it will be placing a greater emphasis on quality road wins this season when determining the final bracket (I know, I know. I linked to a Myron piece; I’ve already said three Hail Marys and watched a Bronson Koenig highlight video as penance).

Two things come to mind with this announcement:

  • Um, wasn’t this already a criteria?
  • Hey, great! Common sense is starting to win out.

We’ve never gotten a straight story from the committee about what it truly uses to evaluate at-large teams and seeds, and it has evolved over the years. But, it’s a further departure from the long-held RPI metric, which has come under fire in the age of KenPom and advanced metrics as not being the most accurate predictor of success. To quote the chair of the committee:

"The emphasis of performing well on the road is important, as was the need for teams not to be penalized as much for road losses. Beating elite competition, regardless of the game location, will still be rewarded, but the committee wanted the team sheets to reflect that a road game against a team ranked 60th is mathematically more difficult and of higher quality than a home game versus a team ranked 35th. We feel this change accomplishes that."

With RPI as a key metric, teams were incentivized to play it safe and rack up wins in the safe confines of a home arena, rather than hit the road and gamble against stiffer competition. The result is a watered down schedule that has fans hitting the snooze button until late December when teams start conference play.

What this will hopefully do is encourage teams to play more high-profile road games or set up home-and-homes with legitimate competition in non-conference play. Duke, for instance, didn’t play a single road game during the non-conference season.

The Gophers seemed to be ahead of this announcement, with the back half of their home-and-home with Arkansas scheduled this year, when they’ll travel to Fayetteville, so it sounds like they’ll benefit from this immediate “official” emphasis on true road games. And, who knows, maybe this means we’ll have fewer Woffords and more BCS-level competition on the schedule in future years.

I can’t help but ask the question, though. Wasn’t this already a major consideration for the selection committee? There’s always talk about how important road wins are in college basketball, so it’s not like they were massively discounted yet already. Who knows if this will actually change the mentality of teams to gamble with a road game when they could notch a win at home.

What they do need to tackle, and this is probably a rant for a separate post, is the treatment of mid-majors who dominate their conference regular season and slip up in the conference tournament. A 29-1 Murray State team that loses the conference championship deserves to represent the OVC in the tournament.