Saturday, March 14, 2009
Jim Nantz, the smarmy, overly self-confident play-by-play announcer, has always been a bit of an oxymoron for me. On one hand his voice is an instant Pavlovian trigger exciting the unbridled love I have for the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, I think he's a moron.
Some of my ire is due to the company Nantz keeps. Spending season after season next to that ultimate blowhard, Billy Packer, would sully the reputation of Mother Teresa. Now that Nantz has a competent partner in Clark Kellogg, the idiocy is fully in Nantz's lap.
During today's Big Ten Tournament game between Ohio St. and Michigan St. Nantz and Kellogg were discussing a graphic of the top ten RPI teams. Turning back to game action, Nantz punctuated the conversation by saying, "And tomorrow the RPI will be RIP."
Nantz had also earlier called the RPI the "computer rating." Evidently Jimbo isn't too familiar with the source of his smug outrage. The RPI is as much a computer rating as the digital odometer in my car is a computer rating. Just because a computer is involved doesn't mean that all algorithmic numbers are inherently evil or the product of some godless plot from the basketball netherworld.
The RPI formula is quite simple. It's a combination of a team's winning percentage (25%), their opponents' winning percentage (50%), and their opponents' opponents' winning percentage (25%). The formula was tweaked recently to weigh a road victory and home loss more heavily, but otherwise we're dealing with sixth-grade math here. There is little to no subjectivity involved.
So, in essence, when Jim Nantz decries the RPI he's basically saying he hates fractions, and most likely other unclean statistics like batting average, assist-to-turnover ratio, and greens in regulation.
Now, it's not too much of a stretch to think that Nantz is projecting a hate of the BCS ratings onto the RPI. But the formula is quite simple and not proprietary like the Sagarin algorithm, a major component of the BCS. The RPI also does not consider the subjective weekly polls. If a team wins, it goes down as a win. If they lose, it goes down as a loss. If you don't like your rating then schedule different teams or just win your damn games.
If one wants a problem, we can rightly bitch about the role the RPI plays in the tournament selection process. But I find it fascinating that the current top 8 in the RPI - Pittsburgh, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan St., Oklahoma, UCONN, Louisville, and Memphis - are also the top 8 seeds in Jerry Palm's latest tournament projection. Palm could just be mimicing the RPI, but I doubt it.
Jim Nantz is out of his mind and mad at an inanimate formula. It reminds me of Howard Cosell's adamant distaste for the Pythagorean Theorem.
You can't please everyone.