DAYTON (OH) -- It's time to stop providing opinions and start producing facts about the competitive balance of the seven Big East private catholic basketball-only institutions and their rival counterpart: the Atlantic10 conference. We have em'.
For months, we've heard these comments:
"The Big East basketball schools are completely superior to the A10 private schools of XU, UD, SLU, and St. Joe. In fact, the Big East basketball schools are vastly superior to the A10 as a whole. The A10 members would drop everything to join us. When we say jump, they say 'how high?'"
"The A10 is terrible at the bottom. This is why the private schools in the Big East are far superior and should not join the A10. The A10 would pull us down."
"Dayton needs to leave the A10 to form a new basketball conference with the Big East private catholic schools. It would be a huge step up."
Now for some actual facts.
As of this writing, the Atlantic10 is a better basketball conference than the seven private catholic members of the Big East, and it's not me saying it -- its the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). Why is this important? The seven private members of the Big East (Marquette, DePaul, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, and Georgetown) are adamant about holding the face cards in any future conference re-alignment posturing that focuses on basketball.
Love or hate the RPI all you like, but it's the standard computer metric that all basketball programs and all conferences jockey for position. The RPI is the control value in the scientific method. Everyone knows it, uses it, and proclaims superiority within it when times are good.
But the stats suggest the superiority perceived by the private catholic members of the Big East is just that -- based on perception and not reality. Much of the conversation on the Internet is based on two things: perception and emotion. Unfortunately, neither of those feelings are objective.
We took the liberty of doing what nobody else has bothered to do: evaluate the seven basketball members of the Big East as their own product, and weigh their strength against existing conditions in the college basketball world. The results are ego-shattering and crush many well-intentioned but entirely incorrect beliefs about inferiority of the Atlantic10.
As you know, we calculate the RPI several times a day for D-I college basketball. We are one of the few who work closely with the NCAA to confirm venue designations for home and away, along with data-checking calculations and rankings.
Our continually updated RPI is here:
Since we have the data and horsepower to calculate the RPI, we can also tweak the data and run our own calculations by moving teams to different conferences, edit W/L records, and change venues.
We did just that with the seven Big East basketball members by throwing them out of the existing Big East Conference and creating a new league called the Big East 7
. Here, the members of the Big East 7 must stand alone and be evaluated for what they are and are not, just like every other conference in the country. No longer are they protected by the perceived power and value of the traditional Big East. No longer are they able to hide behind the success of Connecticut and Louisville. Turns out, the seven Big East basketball schools aren't as strong and superior as they suggest. In fact, they are inferior
to the existing Atlantic10.
Our What-If RPI based on the seven Big East basketball schools occupying their own conference:
What does the data show? Two important realities:
1. The Atlantic10
-- unaltered as it exists now even with the bottom-feeders such as Rhode Island
-- is ranked AHEAD of the Big East 7 Conference
. The A10 is ranked #6, while the Big East 7 is ranked #7. You can find the conference rankings toward the bottom of the RPI page.
The remaining members
of the Big East are STILL the #2 rated conference in the country -- despite losing all seven basketball-only institutions. What does this mean? It means the basketball power resides squarely with the football schools and the basketball-only schools are not improving the league by any appreciable measure. In fact, the basketball schools are a DRAG on Big East RPI
. The Big East has a .5792 rating as it exists today. Losing the seven aforementioned basketball-only schools improves
that rating to .5956.
The Atlantic10 remains sixth in both league rankings, one spot ahead of the Big East 7 when those schools are evaluated on their own. This is all the more impressive considering the A10 has been forced to apologize for a weak bottom floor for several years. In many ways, the A10 is the sixth best conference IN SPITE of typical cellar dwellers like Fordham and Duquesne
. A10 fans have been putting up with insults for years about how bad the bottom of the conference is. Turns out it's still a better league than the alternative.
What's this say about the changing college basketball landscape? The devil is in the details and fans must step away from their emotional arguments and dive deep into the data and evaluate conference affiliation on far more than the perceived value of a name brand -- especially if it is at the expense of stability, security, and existing competitiveness that stands shoulder to shoulder with the snake oil.
Does that mean Dayton will never leave the A10? Not exactly. The Flyers will do what is in the best personal interest of the university. Most schools are out for themselves and that's probably still the case when push comes to shove. But the power in the A10 resides in its collectivism. The brass in the league control their own destinies. But they also control the destiny of schools beyond the A10's border.
Those schools include the seven private basketball-only members of the Big East. They cannot go it alone and expect to steal the thunder from the ever-improving Atlantic10. The A10 is a forward-thinking league that has owned a 5-7 year jump-start on long-term stability. While Big East schools were counting greenbacks, A10 schools were aligning themselves with similar schools that found each other mutually equitable in shared success
There remains nothing equitable about the Big East basketball schools -- unless we're talking RPI. Perceptions still dominate however and even concrete data will unlikely change the minds of those who continue to live the lie. We're not suggesting that the Big East 7 has no value. We're merely showing -- with data -- that the value is far over-stated.
Its much easier to see the holes in the cheese when you strip the Big East basketball-only members into their own category. Through Wednesday Dec. 12, they don't own a single victory over the RPI Top-50. They have won a total of six road games. The body of work simply doesn't match the perception of superiority.
This is about the time where I start getting emails titled "The RPI is meaningless". It might be meaningless, but its the rulebook everyone calls their plays from. It levels the playing field and allows us to compare apples to apples.
Looking at the data, it appears the Atlantic10 has some apples of their own.