January 4, 2021
First-ever women’s basketball NET rankings released
Announced in May, NCAA Evaluation Tool replaces RPI as go-to team sorting tool
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The NCAA released the first women’s NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings on Monday, officially marking the shift away from RPI-based sorting by implementing the tool the men’s game had used since the 2018-19 season.
Stanford maintained its No. 1 ranking that it has held in the AP Poll since Dec. 7, but below them in the NET’s top 10 are a slightly different cast of characters than the media-voted poll. UConn comes in at No. 2, followed by Baylor, Oregon, South Carolina, Ohio State, NC State, Kentucky, Louisville and Maryland. All 337 Division I teams competing this season are ranked.
“We felt after much analysis that the women’s basketball NET, which will be determined by who you played, where you played, how efficiently you played and the result of the game, is a more accurate tool and should be used by the committee going forward,” said Nina King, NCAA women’s basketball committee chair and Duke senior athletic director, after the switch was announced in May.
Unlike its predecessor, NET places its weight on specifics including adjusted net efficiency and team value index, figures that work in tandem in order to determine a team’s overall performance in relation to other teams. It also considers factors such as game location, wherein a team will be more highly rated if it beats the same team on the road or at a neutral site versus at home.
The women’s NET algorithm is slightly different than that of the men’s because each side of NCAA basketball comes with different historical precedents, not to mention basic data differs between the two. That is, it would be disingenuous to simply copy the men’s formatting for use on the women’s side.
Already worried about some of the stark differences between the NET rankings, the AP Poll and the often very subjective intricacies that come with handing out at-large NCAA Tournament bids? Don’t be — the NET is still just one of the many tools used to determine postseason seeding.
“What we found during our comparison analysis was that the NET does a more precise job measuring opponent quality given performance than RPI has been able to provide,” King said. “Doing well on the court and beating good teams continues to be imperative.”
The NCAA announced last month its preliminary plan to host the 2021 national tournament at a single site, removing the prospect of early home-court advantage for the top teams.