WIAA approves major changes to basketball RPI

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Two major changes have been approved to the state’s RPI rankings for boys and girls high school basketball.

One change: Out-of-state opponents will no longer all be considered teams with a .500 record – so facing an elementary school team from Alaska will no longer be considered the same as facing the Golden State Warriors.

The other change: District playoff games will be included in a team’s RPI – so Kentwood can beat Union and Federal Way to win the district title and not be ranked behind those schools when teams are seeded into the state tournament.

Those adjustments were approved by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s executive board and will be put into effect for the 2017-18 season.

“We have one year of data and that has helped us a lot,” said Greg Whitmore, who chairs the WIAA’s RPI committee and is the athletic director of Lind-Ritzville High School. “And we’ll look at it again with two years of data. We’ll make this better each year.”

The next step might be implementing RPI rankings in other sports, Whitmore said.

The RPI committee released a survey to schools across the state asking for input on using the Ratings Percentage Index formula for football, soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball, and if schools would be interested in installing an RPI format as early as the upcoming school year.

In basketball, schools must qualify for the state tournament through their district tournament. They are then seeded into state based on their RPI.

Whitmore said he expects to present the results of the survey at the WIAA’s next executive board meeting on April 22.

But in basketball, changes to out-of-state opponents and district playoff games were made based on situations that arose in the WIAA’s inaugural season of RPI rankings – a shift from its previous draw criteria which included seeding of some schools out of a hat.

Foss won the Class 2A state boys basketball championship – but had to do so as the No. 20 school in the RPI rankings. Its RPI was impacted by losses to schools from Sacramento, Las Vegas and Phoenix during the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in California.

Those were each considered losses to .500 teams, even though they combined to finish with a record of 65-26 – and Desert Pines won Nevada’s 3A division state championship.

Foss was the first school Whitmore mentioned.

“Those certainly weren’t regular .500 teams,” Whitmore said. “So they were penalized for it. I was really happy to see our system did not keep Foss from winning a state championship.”

He mentioned Rainier Beach as another example. The Vikings lost games to teams from Philadelphia and Long Beach, California.

Whitmore said they wanted to be careful in their first year of RPI to get accurate data.

“We had enough difficulties just getting our in-state schedules straight,” Whitmore said. “But we learned a lot, schools learned a lot and now I’m confident that if we put a system in that puts the burden on ADs to track down out-of-state records, we can do that.”

It was the same rationale for not including district tournament games.

Some tournaments have more games than others – and the WIAA didn’t want the fact that some schools play more district tournament games than others so skew the RPI. Davis of Yakima played two district games, while Eastside Catholic played seven games.

But not including district playoff games hurt the integrity of tournaments.

Some games were rendered meaningless once schools had clinched state berths. Kentwood clinched a 4A state berth with a win in the 4A West Central District quarterfinals against Emerald Ridge, but because RPIs were locked entering the district tournament, the Conquerors could not improve their seeding – even though it then beat No. 1-seeded Union and No. 4-seeded Federal Way to win the district title.

And after Union lost to Kentwood, it then played Curtis – in a game that meant nothing.

“We saw some consolation games that were normally for seeding and schools were saying, ‘Why play these?” Whitmore said. “We want schools to play those games and we want them to be meaningful.

“What effect this will have on a school’s overall RPI is unclear, but we know that we are going to make those games meaningful. We’re interested in seeing how it goes.”

Whitmore said they will continue to monitor the RPI formula for basketball and whether tweaks will be necessary – and monitor the impact on matchups between large schools and smaller ones.

He also said that if other sports adopt the RPI rankings, he expects they would use a variation of the formula basketball uses – with a 25 percent factor on win-loss, 50 percent opponent win-loss and 25 percent opponents of opponents win-loss.

“It’s been a good thing,” Whitmore said. “It’s created a ton of interest, and we’ll make it better each year.