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RPI rankings seem to be imperfect system

Maybe these RPI rankings, used to help select and seed NCAA basketball tournament teams, are a crock after all.

Once again, the Utah basketball team has taken a plunge in the RPI rankings, slipping to No. 35 after defeating Air Force last week. That puts them one spot behind Wyoming, which looks to be a good bet to make the NCAA tournament if it can hold its position for two more weeks. Last year, the top 39 teams in the RPI rankings all made the NCAA tournament.What hurts Utah's RPI number is its weak schedule, which is now ranked 217th, according to the RPI numbers compiled by the Col-le-giate Basketball News Co. It's true the Utes' schedule isn't that great, but it's interesting to compare their schedule to Wyoming's, which ranks No. 54 in the nation on the RPI chart.

Both the Utes and Cowboys played Utah State, ranked 59th, and Southern Utah, ranked No. 280. The Utes played Wake Forest, which is one spot behind them at No. 36, and Providence, ranked No. 85. Wyoming's two best non-league opponents were Creighton (No. 63) and Colorado (No. 88).

Utah played some real bad teams such as Cal-Irvine (236), Wisconsin-Milwaukee (237) and Loyola-Marymount (259), but Wy-o-ming played some even worse teams - Long Beach State (248), Norfolk State (271) and Northeastern Illinois (299). Wyoming's other four opponents are ranked between 136 and 162. Utah's other four opponents rank between 148 and 205.

If you add up the rankings of each team's opponents, Utah's opponents have an average ranking of 175, while Wyoming's is 172, very comparable. So how does Utah's schedule rank No. 217 while Wyoming's is No. 54? Something's not right.

Perhaps a better indication than these RPI rankings are the Jeff Sagarin rankings in USA Today. In those rankings, Utah is No. 14 overall, while Wyoming is clear back at No. 64. Schedulewise, Utah's ranks No. 114, while the Cowboys is 138th.

WAC TOURNEY: The WAC men's basketball tournament is a little over a week away, starting March 3 in Las Vegas.

San Jose State and Rice are out of it in the Pacific Division, while BYU and Air Force are hanging on by a thread in the Mountain Division. Let's look at how the first-round matchups are likely to go, bar-ring any upsets this week.

Pacific No. 3 (Tulsa) vs. Mountain No. 6 (UTEP).

Mountain No. 4 (Colorado State) vs. Pacific No. 5 (SMU).

Mountain No. 3 (Wyoming) vs. Pacific No. 6 (San Diego State).

Pacific No. 4 (Hawaii) vs. Mountain No. 5 (UNLV).

The Mountain Division's No. 1 team will face the winner of the latter game, Pacific 4 vs. Mountain 5, while the Mountain No. 2 team will play the Mountain 4-Pacific 5 win-ner.

If Utah and New Mexico tie for first in the Mountain Division, a coin flip will determine the No. 1 and 2 seeds.

NCAA WATCH: Many of the top teams continue to lose, which makes it difficult to figure the top four seeds in our mock NCAA seed-ings.

Despite North Carolina's loss Saturday, the Tar Heels are still a solid No. 1 pick along with Duke, Arizona and Kansas. Purdue's two losses have dropped it back to a No. 3 seed, while New Mexico's big loss to TCU puts the Lobos back at a No. 4 seed.

The Utes are back to a No. 2 seed in the West, while the WAC's hottest team, TCU, has vaulted to a No. 3 spot in the Midwest. UCLA and Massachusetts have dropped out of our top four seeds and replaced by TCU and Cincinnati.

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Additional Information

RPI rankings

The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) has been used by the NCAA since 1981 to supplement the selection of at-large teams and the seeding of all teams for the NCAA basketball tournament. This list is an independent duplication of the RPI without input from the NCAA, which does not release the RPI to the public. It is derived from three component factors: Div. I winning percentage (FI, 25%), schedule strength (FII, 50%); and opponent's schedule strength (FIII, 25%). Games against non-Division I opponents are not used in calculating the RPI.

Records through Feb. 21

Sched Sched

W L Rating Rank RPI

1. North Carolina 26 2 .6010 15 .6738

2. Duke 22 2 .5742 42 .6592

3. Arizona 24 3 .5974 19 .6579

4. Connecticut 24 4 .6061 11 .6561

5. Kentucky 23 4 .5910 27 .6503

6. Kansas 28 3 .5669 49 .6498

7. Maryland 16 9 .6802 1 .6393

8. Stanford 22 3 .5663 52 .6387

9. New Mexico 21 4 .5897 28 .6357

10. Michigan St. 20 5 .5921 25 .6319

11. South Carolina 19 5 .5892 29 .6307

12. UCLA 19 5 .5911 26 .6292

13. Purdue 22 6 .5866 30 .6261

14. Arkansas 22 4 .5480 71 .6208

15. Indiana 18 7 .6085 10 .6197

16. Massachusetts 20 7 .5970 20 .6195

17. Mississippi 17 5 .5772 39 .6191

18. Texas Christian 23 4 .5373 83 .6147

19. Tennessee 18 6 .5807 34 .6136

20. Syracuse 20 6 .5662 53 .6126

21. Michigan 17 8 .6164 8 .6124

22. Ill.-Chicago 22 4 .5412 76 .6107

23. Oklahoma St. 20 4 .5262 99 .6064

24. Cincinnati 21 5 .5317 91 .6026

25. Temple 18 6 .5445 72 .6010

26. Princeton 22 1 .4748 185 .6009

27. West Virginia 19 5 .5275 95 .6003

28. Detroit 21 4 .5160 114 .5987

29. Rhode Island 19 7 .5597 58 .5984

30. UNC Charlotte 16 8 .5933 24 .5972

31. Illinois 19 8 .5602 57 .5957

32. St. John's 19 7 .5511 66 .5956

33. Florida St. 16 12 .6165 7 .5940

34. Wyoming 17 6 .5644 54 .5934

35. Utah 21 2 .4592 217 .5931

36. Wake Forest 14 11 .6322 3 .5923

37. Clemson 15 12 .6228 4 .5899

38. Illinois State 19 5 .5270 97 .5898

39. Nebraska 17 10 .5937 23 .5867

40. G. Washington 20 6 .5166 112 .5856

Others

43. Hawaii 17 7 .5503 67 .5839

48. Colorado St. 17 6 .5134 119 .5739

59. Utah St. 17 7 .5279 94 .5653

148. Weber St. 11 11 .5235 101 .5037

178. BYU 7 20 .5691 47 .4810

280. S. Utah 5 18 .4481 236 .3942