Head coach Kevin Hanson and his Thunderbirds may not be seeded No. 1 in the Canada West despite a 17-1 record. (UBC athletics photo) (UBC athletics photo)
Feature University Men's Basketball

No. 2-ranked, 17-1 UBC men’s hoops at mercy of RPI numbers

VANCOUVER — They say that times are tough all over, but it seems especially so locally in Canada West men’s basketball circles.

And that’s because 17-1 conference records and No. 2 national rankings don’t quite hold the same cache value they once did.

Barring a mass of upsets in the quarterfinal round of the upcoming Canada West men’s basketball playoffs, it seems unlikely that the UBC Thunderbirds, despite that 17-1 mark, will be in a position to host the conference’s Final Four semifinals because this season, its coaches voted in a new proposal that will see the final 12 playoff qualifiers seeded for the post-season based on their RPI index, a number which represents a number of factors including its strength of schedule.

UBC, which goes into its final two games of the regular season Friday at Trinity Western, has the potential to finish as high as 19-1.

Yet their RPI number may not be high enough to be seeded first.

Despite the fact that they took on all comers with a schedule they had no part in determining, there remained a very realistic chance that unless two or three separate outcomes occur on this, the final weekend of the regular season, they would not have the highest RPI index.

Thus the only way they could then host the conference’s semifinal tournament would be if all of the teams ranked above them were to lose in their respective quarterfinal series.

In the old system, based on their current record, all they would had to have done was win their quarterfinal series.

“The coaches that I have talked to, I’m not sure they 100 per cent knew what they were getting into,” says CCAA coach Paul Eberhardt, a longtime fixture in the B.C. basketball community and the bench boss of the men’s team at Vancouver’s Langara College. “RPI was designed for the NCAA schools so they couldn’t play cupcakes out of their conference (and boost their win totals).

“And that makes sense,” Eberhardt continued. “But it doesn’t make sense when you can’t choose who you play and have no real true exhibition season.”

Those factors outlined by Eberhardt have certainly been a talking point this week in Vancouver.

Because the Canada West season is unbalanced, and because the schools can’t choose who they play in the conference, so much is taken out of the control of teams, something that is magnified by UBC’s 17-1 record.

For example, UBC’s RPI before it’s one-sided sweep of UNBC (4-14) last weekend was .around 650. After those wins, over a team with a current .449 RPI, UBC’s number dropped to .617.

Logic then tells you that if the ‘Birds are able to sweep Trinity Western (3-15, .3617) over its final regular season games this weekend, that number would drop again.

At the winter break, UBC was 8-0 yet had a lower RPI index than Manitoba, which was at 4-6. To note, UBC beat Manitoba twice in that period.

UBC sits first in the Canada West, and Calgary at 14-4 sits second. Yet the two teams have not played each other for the past two regular seasons and they are not scheduled to face each other during the 2017-18 regular season.

All of this aside, using RPI as the final arbiter of conference seeding takes away a fan’s ability to fully cheer for their team because really, what are they cheering for?

“There is no chance the general public, or even those that go to games will understand any of this,” adds Eberhardt. “It is going to alienate fans. RPI doesn’t work in the Canadian system. You end up punishing teams who didn’t even get to choose their own schedules.”

If you’re reading this story on any other website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. Varsityletters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at varsitylettersbc@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *