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The Ratings Are Back

Publication Date: March 6, 2001

Almost Enough to Work With

This week marks the first release for this year of my rating system, the ISR's, and of my simulation of the NCAA's ranking system, the pseudo-RPI's. At this point in the season, to say the least, the ratings are not all that meaningful, since it really takes about twenty or so games for each team for them to take shape, but it is possible to spot some trends from them, so I go ahead and start publishing at this point. Don't take any of this too seriously for another two or three weeks, but they are fun to think about.

Before I go any further, let me add a few words on the necessary evils of data collection. Both my algorithm and the pseudo-RPI's require a full set of scores in order to really function correctly. In the past and future, I have relied upon the services of a wonderful gentleman named Rick Rollins, who does great service to the Internet college baseball community by publishing full score lists each year, and whose work I appreciate greatly. Rick has not yet begun publishing yet this year, though, and I had promised to have the rankings up this week, so I pressed forward on my own. I ended up being a day late and missing about twenty games, mostly involving SWAC and MEAC games, which just makes me appreciate Rick's efforts more. Those missing games should have a minimal effect on the top half of the rankings, and that effect will be gone as I get corrected and full data.

One change that I've made to the listings for this year is that I'm only listing teams in the ISR's who have played at least ten games. This should cut down on the number of people who write to call me an idiot because I think Bowling Green is the best team in the country because they have the highest ISR based on a whole two-game season. In a few weeks, that won't matter, so I figure I'll just skip that experience for this year.

I would guess that most of my readers got here by looking for the ratings and then finding the column, so I won't go into too much detail about what they are -- there's a FAQ if you're interested. Simply put, they're my attempt to create a purely objective, accurate measure of team quality.

Who's Hot, Who's Not

I don't plan to turn this column into a weekly review of the ISR's, although I will refer to them from time to time, but I do want to take this week and look at who's doing well so far this year and who's likely to be in for a long year. Obviously teams do improve sometimes over the course of the season, and, more often, a sixty-game read gives you a better feeling for how good they are than a fifteen-game look does, but early success has been a pretty good predictor in the past, so here are a few teams that stand out.

Auburn, #1. Surprisingly, Auburn's rating at this point doesn't even include their win over Georgia Tech this week. I'm not sure how accurate this will be in the long run, since their schedule so far benefits from being never bad but frequently not all that great, either, but the wins over North Carolina and South Alabama look good.

Pepperdine, #2. Another one that may not last, but Pepperdine has put together a really impressive season so far, including wins over Cal State Fullerton and Southern California, as well as two of three from Tulane.

UCLA, #5. Usually UCLA has tended to perform better in conference than out the last few years, so this year's team could be on to something. They dropped two of three to USC, but beat Pepperdine and Tulane and split with North Carolina.

South Alabama, #14. It looks like the Jaguars are back after an uncharacteristically bad year in 2000.

South Carolina, #16. Proof of what a really bad schedule can do for you, I suppose. I suspect SEC play will help a bit with this.

New Mexico State, #23. We'll see how this one holds up, since they've definitely been dining on cupcakes, but they've certainly picked up a boost from Ward's presence.

Cal State Fullerton, #24. The flip side of South Carolina, they're holding on to a top 25 rating despite being 8-8 to this point due to a killer schedule. Long Beach State at #32 despite being 6-6 is a mirror of this.

Florida State, #69. This one absolutely shocked me when I first saw it, and I'm sure they'll improve as the season goes on, but the Seminoles have been decidedly mediocre so far, getting swept by Stanford and managing only a split with an otherwise average Florida team.

Louisiana-Lafayette, #80. They were a great story in 2000, but the wheels seem to have come off already. With a couple of other Sun Belt teams currently in the top 25, they may be in for a rough ride this year.

Conference ISR's

The conference ISR's also show a few surprises this year so far. Most notable is that the PAC-10 currently leads the SEC by a couple of points for the top spot. With inter-regional play slowing down and conference play starting, it's going to be hard for the SEC to overcome that before Omaha.

The Big West is having a great year so far overall, while the WAC is being slowed a bit by Nevada's unusual problems.

The ACC is all the way down in fifth, which is mostly a reflection of the early problems so far for Clemson and Florida State. Meanwhile, the Big 12 is all the way down to 7th, mostly due to the lack of a big dog at the top -- its highest ranked team is Nebraska at #12.

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