The Sock 'Em, Bust 'Em Board Because that's our custom

(photo by Tom Bragg)

Prior to last season, the NCAA did away with the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) system it used to help determine postseason tournament bids in favor of its NET ranking system. The first batch of those rankings for the 2019-2020 college basketball season were released Monday, with West Virginia appearing pretty high up the list.

The Mountaineers check in at No. 12 in the initial NET rankings with a No. 9 Strength of Schedule. Only Kansas, which comes in at No. 2 overall in the NET rankings, has played a tougher schedule (ranked No. 3 in SOS) than WVU among the top 25 teams on the initial list — which will be updated each day for the rest of the season.

WVU also moved up to No. 25 in the KenPom ratings after hovering in the 30s for a while. The Associated Press Top 25 is out this afternoon and it will be interesting to see if West Virginia can crack the list this week after multiple blowout wins — notably against lesser competition — last week. I have a vote in the AP Top 25 and will update this post will all of that information once the poll is released in a few hours.

(photo by Tom Bragg)

The NCAA moved the 3-point line for men’s college basketball back to the international standard distance of 22 feet, 1 and 3/4 inches this season, and through eight games it is safe to say veteran West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is not exactly a fan of the change as his Mountaineers have struggled to shoot from distance.

However, when asked if he thought the change was part of WVU’s problem, Huggins said he didn’t think so.

“No,” Huggins said. “I think our guys are trying to prove they couldn’t make NBA 3s.”

West Virginia currently sits at fifth in the 10-team Big 12 with a 32.1 percent 3-point average (43 of 134). Players like Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil were brought in largely for their shooting ability but have been streaky at best so far while veterans such as senior Chase Harler and sophomore Jordan McCabe have had trouble sinking long-range shots.

Huggins downplayed the new distance making much of a difference to most players, but did acknowledge how much the change has hurt anyone’s ability to attempt 3-pointers from either corner. With the line extended, and already tight space is now even tighter and players chances are if you’ve watched enough college basketball this season you’ve seen someone spot up in the corner and get called out of bounds upon receiving the ball.

“It makes a difference in the corner, but that’s it,” Huggins said. “How many times can you watch a guy step out of bounds? It’s happening all the time and we knew it was going to happen. We’re sitting in that room and that’s what the coaches in the room are talking about. We’re going to have to spend time making sure, and kids today, for whatever reason, they step back before they go forward.”

Of course, Huggins was one of the coaches on the committee which debated the most recent batch of NCAA rule changes. He said the idea — one he was not exactly on board with — was the extend the 3-point line and as a result the area inside the line would be more open for free-flowing play.

“That was the theory, but you guard guys who can shoot, and the guys who can’t shoot you really don’t guard,” Huggins said. “It’s not like [WVU forward] Derek [Culver] doesn’t have people sitting in his lap all the time. I think that’s a total fallacy. I think we’re trying to do — seemingly, and this is just my opinion — but we seemingly are trying to eliminate post play all together. They’re trying to eliminate the physicality in the game.”

West Virginia, unbeaten at 7-0 to start the season and receiving votes in both the Associated Press and coaches polls this week, plays former Big East rival St. John’s on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. WVU coach Bob Huggins hopped on a conference call with members of the media to take some questions ahead of the Mountaineers trip to NYC to take on the Red Storm.

AP photo

The Rating Percentage Index was a metric used to help determine what teams did and did not get into the NCAA basketball tournament from the early 1980s through 2018. However, just because RPI isn’t used officially to narrow down the March Madness field anymore doesn’t mean it has vanished. RPI is still calculated, and as it currently stands West Virginia has the highest rating in the country.

The RPI isn’t the only computer ranking that likes the 7-0 Mountaineers at the moment. WVU sits at No. 14 in the most recent (updated after Tuesday’s games) batch of Sagarin ratings. The also popular KenPom ratings, however, have West Virginia much lower at No. 34. 

NET rankings — the metric used by the NCAA selection committee to replace RPI — have not been released yet this season.

RPI also likes the conference WVU plays in. The Big 12 is currently the top-rated league in the country according to RPI, ahead of the Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten and Big East (in that order).

West Virginia, at the moment, seems like a popular pick to make it back to the NCAA tournament this season. In Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology update for ESPN, WVU is the No. 10 seed in the East Region. In this scenario, West Virginia would play No. 7 Saint Mary’s in Cleveland with No. 2 Ohio State, No. 15 South Dakota, No. 3 Auburn, No. 6 Xavier, No. 11 Indiana and No. 14 Colgate also appearing in the Mountaineers’ half of the East bracket.

Lunardi’s current No. 1 seeds are Virginia (East), Michigan (West), Kansas (South) and Louisville (Midwest).

photo by Sean McNamara

photo by Sean McNamara

The West Virginia University men’s basketball team is among the teams receiving votes just outside the top 25 in this week’s Associated Press poll. 

WVU (7-0) is coming off a week which saw the Mountaineers beat Northern Iowa and Wichita State to win the Cancun Challenge in Mexico then returned home to hold off a pesky Rhode Island team on Sunday in the Coliseum.

West Virginia’s next game is this weekend, when the Mountaineers play St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

WVU received a total of  28 points in this week’s poll and was ranked as high as No. 20 by one voter and appeared on eight ballots this week — including mine which you can view here.