Week 5 with the Pac-12: How Early Season Losses Have Affected NET Rankings
Can Pac-12 teams still rely on their conference opponents to bolster their postseason profiles?
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What’s the NET result of the non-conference season?
The NCAA Evaluation Tool took the place of RPI last year as the official comparison tool for the NCAA Selection Committee. With approximately 25 percent of the season already played, the NCAA released the first NET rankings of the season on Dec. 6. The losses that have piled up for the Pac-12 have had their effects, but teams that scheduled strong opponents have been able to weather the storm better than others.
But what exactly is the NET? Whereas the RPI consisted of a weighted formula based on a team’s wins and losses, its opponents’ wins and losses, and the wins and losses of its opponents’ opponents, the NET purports to be a more sophisticated way of comparing teams for at-large selection and seeding.
The NET has two components, Adjusted Net Efficiency and Team Value Index. The Adjusted Net Efficiency isn’t just the difference between offensive rating and defensive rating that’s often found on sites like Her Hoop Stats. That stat is usually simply the difference between offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) and defensive efficiency (opponents’ points scored per 100 possessions). The NET’s Adjusted Net Efficiency uses the difference between points scored and opponents’ points scored, but it also considers the quality of opponents via their adjusted net efficiency and the location of the games.
The Team Value Index takes into account the quality of a team’s opponents. It considers who the opponent has beaten, where the game is played, and who won. This goes along with its “quadrant” system, which is based on the NET ranking of the opponent and the location of the game. Quadrant 1 wins are the best.
So, how did that play out for the Pac-12?
Stanford is the top-ranked team in the conference according to all ranking systems. The Associated Press and USA TODAY Sports/WBCA polls both have the Cardinal ranked No. 3. HHS ratings are in step with the human voters with the team at No. 3.
The NET, however, is not quite as impressed by the Cardinal, but the difference is marginal. Stanford comes in at No. 7 in the NCAA’s tool. That is up two spots from the first week when the team debuted at No. 9.
While the Cardinal have two losses, all but three of their contests have been first-quadrant games. In those games, they went 4-2. They also have a win from the second quadrant and two from the fourth. Limiting those games that fall into the fourth quadrant while going 5-2 against first- and second-quadrant opposition easily outweighs those two losses.
Arizona debuted at No. 6 in the NET but has fallen to No. 8 in the second week. It was a similar drop in the Her Hoop Stats rankings where the Wildcats went from No. 6 to tenth over the past week.
The Wildcats have improved their nonconference schedule a great deal this season, but it still isn’t on the level of Stanford. It doesn’t necessarily need to be to keep their NET high, though–especially if the Wildcats win their games as they have been.
With only two games left on their non-conference slate, Arizona is 9-0 overall. They have spread those games across all four quadrants, going 2-0 against the first quadrant, 1-0 against the second, 3-0 against the third, and 3-0 against the fourth.
Staying in the top 30 of the NET helps the entire conference. Depending on where the games are played, even teams in the top 75 could give a boost to league opponents.
The Pac-12 has four teams in the top 30 of the NET. In addition to Arizona and Stanford, Oregon (14) and Utah (16) are in the best position to help their fellow Pac-12 teams at this point. Those would all count as first quadrant opponents as of now.
The early-season woes of some of the top teams haven’t done as much damage to the league’s stature as it appeared they might. Even beyond the top four teams, the middle and even the bottom of the league is positioned well enough that it shouldn’t cause too many problems for the top teams unless those top teams drop home games to those at the bottom. Colorado (37), Arizona State (52), Washington State (60), UCLA (62), and Washington (74) are still in positions to be quality opponents for others in the league. Games played on the home courts of those five teams would still be considered first-quadrant games.
Voting for the Best
Who came out on top when the media voted for the best of week 6? Three teams didn’t submit nominations for Player of the Week and seven didn’t nominate a Freshman of the Week, so the races were a bit more difficult to judge.
Pac-12 Player of the Week
My vote: Charisma Osborne, UCLA
The winner: Charlisse Leger-Walker, Washington State
I have one rule that overrules all others: who played the toughest competition? As great as Charlisse Leger-Walker is, there’s no debate that Charisma Osborne put up the best performance against the best competition. That was enough to overcome the fact that she only played in one game.
Leger-Walker, who was last year’s Freshman of the Year, had a really strong showing this week. She averaged 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.5 steals, and one block per game in contests against Gonzaga and Boise State. Both are very nice teams, but neither is on the level of Connecticut even without Paige Bueckers and the Cougars didn’t have to leave their corner of the state of Washington to play them.
Gonzaga is ranked No. 11 in the Her Hoops Stats rankings and No. 27 in the NET. They are receiving a few votes in the coaches’ poll, but none from the AP voters. As for Boise State, they are receiving no votes in either major poll. They are No. 216 in the HHS ratings and No. 259 in the NET rankings.
Osborne came up huge against then-No. 3 Connecticut in a 10-point loss on what was a neutral site game in name only. Her 26 points were the result of a career-high seven 3-pointers. She went 7 of 16 from beyond the arc while adding six rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
With her team having to travel across the country to face a top-five team, Osborne’s performance was impressive. Everyone else in the league had merely nice performances.
Pac-12 Freshman of the Week
My vote: Jenna Johnson, Utah
The winner: Jenna Johnson, Utah
Utah got the win for the second week in a row, although it was a different Ute freshman this week. Jenna Johnson has started all nine games for Utah, and she’s doing a fine job of it. For the year, she averages 13.8 ppg on 61.5 percent shooting. She can hit from outside, too, with a 41.2 percent success rate from outside the arc. She also grabs 5.4 rpg.
Last week, she had a double-double against Cal State Fullerton with 23 points and 10 rebounds. She went 3 for 4 from outside and hit 6 of 10 overall. None of the nominated freshmen had two strong games over the course of the week, so her one monster performance was sufficient.