The NCAA's decision to release a weekly Rating Percentage Index for men's basketball - after years of keeping that information secret - might take some of the mystery out of the annual tournament selection show. Right now, however, it simply confirms what most experts have been saying for months: The Atlantic Coast Conference is down this season.
The RPI, which was released Wednesday, is one of the criteria used to select the field for March Madness.
The ACC, traditionally one of the deepest and strongest conferences in the country, might struggle to put more than four teams in the NCAA tournament if the ratings hold up.
Duke, despite its recent loss to Georgetown, is the top-rated team in the RPI and appears to be in good position to get a No. 1 seed. Boston College is the league's second-highest-rated team at No. 23, while Maryland (No. 28), North Carolina State (No. 30) and North Carolina (No. 38) are the league's three other teams with legitimate tournament hopes.
Teams rated outside the top 30 are traditionally considered to be on the bubble come selection day.
"I'm not so confident that Maryland is a sure thing right now," said Jerry P. Palm, who runs the Web site College- RPI.com. "But that's mostly because they lost [Chris] McCray and they need to regroup. Anytime you take the leading scorer off a team, it's going to have to reprove itself. ... It's really early, though. And the bubble is huge at this time of year."
The Big Ten has seven teams - No. 6 Michigan State, No. 7 Illinois, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 10 Iowa, No. 15 Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan and No. 20 Indiana - rated in the top 25.
The Big East also made a strong showing, showing considerable depth with nine teams inside the top 40 - No. 3 Villanova, No. 5 Pittsburgh, No. 9 Connecticut, No. 26 Cincinnati, No. 29 Georgetown, No. 31 Marquette, No. 32 West Virginia, No. 33 Syracuse, and No. 37 Seton Hall.
Part of the reason the NCAA decided to release a weekly RPI this season is to improve transparency in how the selection process occurs.
"The reason they weren't doing it is they wanted to de-emphasize it," Palm said. "[The tournament selection] isn't like the BCS [Bowl Championship Series], where the rankings do the committee's thinking for them. But with people like me tracking it every day, the information was already out there. That horse had already left the barn. It's not like it's some secret formula."
Loyola, led by Andre Collins' 27.2 points a game, has made significant gains from a year ago, when the Greyhounds were near the bottom of the RPI. This season, Loyola has a respectable rating of 141, fifth best in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Coppin State, because of its willingness to play a difficult road schedule, has a respectable rating as well, coming in at No. 152 despite its sub.-500 record.
NCAA Rating Percentage Index rankings of Maryland's Division I men's basketball teams (records through Monday's games):
RPI School Record
28 Maryland 14-5
141 Loyola 11-8
152 Coppin State 7-13
213 Towson 9-11
251 Mt. St. Marys 7-13
284 Navy 8-11
295 UMBC 7-12
301 UMES 5-14
329 Morgan State 1-18