Over the past week I have been mulling over the latest ITA Rankings and wondering how the current system could be improved. I think the current ranking system is ok, but it has some holes, in my opinion. In reality all ranking systems have holes. I just feel the ITA method leaves out valuable data.
(Ed. Note: This is the most boring post in history. If you just want to see the rankings, skip to the bottom before you fall asleep. If you want to read a rambling about my thoughts and credentials, read on, but I warned you.)
Honestly, most people do not know how the ITA calculates their rankings, so here’s a primer. For the first few weeks of the year, a committee decides the top-125 teams in the country (only 75 are published). After that, the top-75 are calculated by a point system based on the previous week’s ranking. In the beginning only four wins count, then five, then six, all the way up to 10 after the NCAA’s. It’s all very strange and arbitrary…
As in the rankings are run twice the week before the NCAA selection. Also, the committee can just arbitrarily alter any teams’ ranking between #60 and #125 within the first five releases.
Now the system seems to work fine, but I think there is a lot to learn from other methods.
Before I go any further, I need to clarify my background. I have been involved in mathematical analysis of team sports for over 16 years and have published a ranking system in another sport since 1993. I started my master’s degree in mathematical statistics, but never completed the course work.
I also understand that people have varying opinions of what should matter when it comes to a ranking system, so I will dive into that now.
The first fundamental issue we must answer is what IS the ranking? Is it a snapshot right now of how a team is performing or a body of work or somewhere in between? I think it is a body of work, with a slight emphasis on what has happened most recently.
Other questions include:
Does it matter who you play? Yes, and you should be rewarded for playing stronger competition, win or lose.
What should count? Everything to a point. All Wins and loses. But score should not matter. Does it matter you won 4-2 or 4-3 or 5-2? Not really. In the team concept, in addition to the way coaches change formats after clinching a point, that is not really a good determining factor. Especially when you consider the fact the matches are actually pulled off the court when one team reaches four points come the NCAAs.
So with that in mind, I created a system loosely-based on the ELO Chess rating system. This is a very popular method that has been the basis for many ranking systems. I include all matches with two DI teams involved and run the system multiple times to try and reach something stable.
I will explain more over the next few days as seen fit… for now, here are the top-20 for both men and women. A complete list of every Division I team can be found at the top.
Rank Team Rating
1 University of Virginia 970.91
2 Ohio State University 923.61
3 Stanford University 908.35
4 University of Georgia 908.32
5 Univ. of Mississippi 892.37
6 University of Tennessee-Knoxville 892.34
7 Univ. of Southern California 866.48
8 Univ. of Texas at Austin 865.54
9 UCLA 852.53
10 University of Florida 836.20
11 Baylor University 833.33
12 University of Illinois 831.40
13 Florida State University 823.67
14 University of Alabama 809.03
15 Texas A&M University 806.36
16 Pepperdine 794.69
17 University of Kentucky 793.33
18 Univ. of Arizona 789.69
19 Virginia Tech 777.60
20 Univ. of Louisville 767.28
Rank Team Rating
1 Northwestern University 958.92
2 Univ. of Notre Dame 940.76
3 Univ. of Georgia 934.70
4 Univ. of Miami (Florida) 916.34
5 Duke University 903.15
6 Georgia Tech 902.35
7 California 902.30
8 Baylor University 902.29
9 UCLA 893.58
10 Univ. of Southern California 891.87
11 Stanford 885.00
12 Clemson University 866.45
13 University of Tennessee 840.14
14 Fresno State 839.98
15 University of Florida 836.82
16 Univ. of Kentucky 813.71
17 North Carolina 811.09
18 University of Michigan 808.47
19 Arizona State University 807.74
20 Univ. of Arkansas-Fayetteville 803.47