BURN THE HORSE
As a whole the Sun Belt Conference is up this year in basketball using the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). As the first semester of classes comes to a close, the Sun Belt is ranked 16th out of 32 teams. The Sun Belt has been stuck in the 20s for most recent years.
UALR is one of four Sun Belt Conference teams with an RPI rating better than 150.
As the first semester closes, the Sun Belt’s only teams in the upper tier of the RPI are Middle Tennessee (40 RPI), Western Kentucky (72 RPI), UALR (114 RPI) and Arkansas State (139 RPI). The other seven Sun Belt schools are stuck in the 200s.
As we reported yesterday, Middle Tennessee is the second most experienced team in Division I basketball. UALR is the least experienced team in D1.
The biggest reason the Sun Belt is up is that most of those remaining seven teams are closer to 200 than they are to 300. Only North Texas (270) and Louisiana-Lafayette (285) remain above 250 at this point.
The RPI is a calculation utilized by the NCAA Tournament, NIT and other postseason tournaments to compare teams of similar records. Teams are awarded more value for winning road games while games against non-Division I opponents are not calculated. Lower RPI rankings indicate better teams.
Of UALR’s four losses, only South Carolina would be considered a bad loss. South Carolina, which beat UALR in the championship game of the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, has a 170 RPI. UALR’s other losses came on the road to Louisiana Tech (71 RPI), Ole Miss (47 RPI) and Cincinnati (38 RPI).
UALR’s best victory so far also came in Puerto Vallarta. UALR beat SMU in the semifinals of the Hoops For Hope Classic. It was the only loss of the season for SMU (51 RPI). UALR’s other victories haven’t been RPI helpers. They came against Troy (230 RPI), Louisiana-Monroe (244 RPI), Tennessee-Martin (279 RPI), Jacksonville (284 RPI) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (314 RPI).
Wisconsin-Milwaukee has been the most disappointing of those teams. The Panthers had high hopes after losing to South Carolina in overtime and beating Davidson (RPI 88). But after UALR exposed them in a 59-43 game on Nov. 19, Wisconsin-Milwaukee went on to lose 5 of its next 6.
UALR’s next two opponents could provide an RPI boost. UALR takes on Tulsa (175 RPI) at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center and gets another shot at Louisiana Tech (71 RPI) on Monday.