NCAA hoops to take greater stock of road games for tourney credentials

Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle is a fan of the NCAA putting greater stock in road wins.

Tad Boyle often expounds on just how difficult it is for any team to win consistently on the road in the Pac-12 Conference.

That’s why the leader of the Colorado men’s basketball team is pleased with the new metrics that soon will be in place to evaluate and select the 68-team field for the NCAA Tournament.

On Friday, the NCAA announced new priorities for tournament selection that will be in place for the 2017-18 season. Essentially, quality wins away from home, including on neutral floors, will be weighed more heavily than quality home wins.

The pecking order for evaluations will be home games against top 30 teams in the RPI, followed by neutral-floor games against RPI top 50 teams and top-75 RPI contests on the road. In theory, that means a home win against a team ranked anywhere in the No. 31-to-60 range in the RPI will not be weighed as heavily as a road win against a team ranked in the No. 61-to-75 range.

Previously the top factor in team sheet evaluations was a team’s record against top 50 RPI opponents without weighing location. Also on Friday the NCAA said it is exploring the possibility of moving away from the RPI metric for the 2018-19 season. While the RPI is a mathematically thorough analysis of a team’s strength of schedule, it also does not take stock of a game’s location.

“I think it’s great,” said Boyle, whose club has faced such quality programs as Iowa State, SMU, Notre Dame, and Texas on neutral floors over the past two seasons. “We’ve been one of the teams at the BCS level who has gone on the road and been willing to go on the road. We’ve not been afraid to go on the road and I’m glad to see they’re going to reward people for that. I think it’s long overdue.”

This upcoming season, Boyle’s Buffs will play at Xavier, an NCAA Tournament quarterfinalist this past spring, in addition to a neutral-court game against Iowa and three others at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, including a likely second-round date against Wake Forest.

While visiting Boulder always has been a dicey proposition for solid nonconference foes — playing what generally has been a competitive program under Boyle on the road at altitude isn’t an attractive proposition for teams harboring tournament prospects — the new emphasis on road games won’t necessarily lead to more top 25 programs visiting the Coors Events Center during nonconference play.

The Atlantic Coast Conference will move to a 20-game league schedule in 2019-20, and the Big Ten is considering doing the same. Given most major programs compete in at least one nonconference tournament, plus showcases like the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and the Big 12/SEC Challenge that remain nonconference commitments teams in those leagues, the landscape is shifting in a manner that could make trips to Boulder more difficult to schedule.

Hence the recent home-and-home sets the Buffs have played against programs like BYU and Xavier, in addition to the one that begins in 2017-18 against New Mexico.

“If they have 20 league games, plus they’ve got an extra one against another big-league opponent, it’s going to be hard to get one of those teams to start a home-and-home against the University of Colorado,” Boyle said. “That’s where it’s going to continue to be a challenge. We’re going to have to look at the Big East, and obviously we started a home-and-home with Xavier. We’re always going to try and get the best opponents to Boulder as we can, but we also understand we have to return that game. We have to be prudent on who we bring in and when we bring them in.”

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