Michigan coach talks about Iowa and what he's seen from the Hawkeyes heading into Friday's game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Men’s college basketball coaches across the nation have voiced their displeasure with the NCAA’s NET rankings.
One coach who hasn’t complained about the new ranking system? Michigan’s John Beilein.
And it’s not because Beilein’s team has been as high as No. 1 in the ratings. It’s because he still hasn’t bothered to check them since they were first released on Nov. 26 — a date he thought was way too soon for any ranking or poll.
“Haven't looked at it,” Beilein said Thursday. “Not even thinking about it. It's not even entering my mind.”
Of course, No. 5 Michigan doesn’t have much to worry about when it comes to its NCAA Tournament resume.
Entering play Friday, the Wolverines were one of five teams in the nation with 20 wins, were tied for first place in the Big Ten with a 9-1 mark and were a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in every major bracket projection.
They were also ranked No. 4 in NET behind Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke.
“I think that if our season was different right now and we were perceived as one of those bubble teams, I would probably pay a little bit more attention to it,” Beilein said. “I think that nobody is in yet, but why pay attention to it right now? Just focus on the next day.”
That’s easier said than done for other coaches like LSU’s Will Wade, who said earlier this month NET's “formula is wrong” and needs to be adjusted in the offseason, and Minnesota's Richard Pitino, who said Wednesday his team's NET ranking "makes no sense."
The formula for NET, which replaced the Rating Percentage Index as a sorting tool for the NCAA Tournament selection committee, takes five factors into account: a team’s net efficiency, winning percentage, adjusted win percentage and scoring margin (capped at 10 points per game). The fifth factor, known as “Team Value Index,” is an opaque algorithm that involves game results, opponent and location.
While it’s not clear how all five factors are weighted, Wade takes exception with how the scoring margin is capped but a team’s offensive and defensive efficiencies aren’t.
Pitino said while he's "never trying to show up another coach," he kept his starters in late in Wednesday's 11-point win over Illinois to make sure the final margin was at least 10 points.
Yet, Beilein said he hasn’t spent any time trying to figure out the difference between NET and RPI, although he did look up his team’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) ranking — a measure of team strength that predicts performance for the rest of the season — a couple weeks ago.
“I do understand the idea of (NET),” Beilein said. “You go on the road and play road games against a good team and you lose a good game that should be a positive, right? Obviously, who you play and what your league is doing should help you as well.”
But with March creeping up on the calendar and Michigan playing as well as it has, don’t expect Beilein to get caught up in NET anytime soon.
“It'd be more of a curiosity if we weren't 20-1 as to what type of quality wins we have and what we've got to do going forward,” Beilein said. “We've got to win going forward. That's the only thing we've got to worry about.”
Friday night lights
The Big Ten began scheduling conference games on Fridays last season.
While none of Michigan’s league contests fell on that day last year, the Wolverines haven’t been spared this season with Friday night games at Indiana and Iowa in back-to-back weeks.
Beilein said, like anything, there are pros and cons with the move.
“The only thing I didn't like is when I filled out how many days we're going to miss classes we put down this day is the day we're going to miss class, but we never would,” Beilein said. “Fortunately in most colleges right now — unlike the good old days when you had classes five days a week — a lot of our guys are fortunate enough to only have a class or none on Friday. So, we're not missing a lot of classes on Friday.
“I hate what it does to high school games, but it's a good concept. I know I'd rather play a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon rather than a late Saturday night 9 p.m. game. This game being at 6 o'clock their time is perfect. We'll have Saturday off for our kids, which I think is key and good, too.”
Like Beilein, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has mixed feelings about the scheduling.
“I think Friday night should be for high school games, but it's the world we live in,” McCaffery said. “We made a decision as a conference to play every night. It does provide maximum exposure for our conference, so I understand it. I support it in that sense.”