Basketball: Canada West changes playoff format (good), keeps RPI (bad)

Canada West has changed its playoff format to give tournament teams more rest before travelling to a Final 8. That's good. 

The RPI-offs are continuing, but with a tweak to the formula. That's bad. 

But instead of a one-game play-in for the Final 8, the semifinals will be best-of-three. That's good.

But the RPI is still in use. That's bad.
Canada West certainly had some imperative to change after UBC went splat in the quarter-finals against Manitoba and the conference subsequently went 0-6 at the women's and men's nationals.


To briefly summarize, the playoff format got a little better and less demanding on the student-athletes. As far as how those playoffs will get seeded is concerned,  unfortunately the RPI dog was not driven out to the country to live with a caring family. The positive change first, though!

Under the old format, the first two rounds of the playoffs were best-of-three, with a one-game semifinal/play-in to nationals before the conference final/seeding game.

Essentially, the best-of-three portion has been pushed from the first two tiers of playoffs to the middle two, the quarters and semis. That eliminates an event such as Manitoba's upset of Calgary in the Canada West semifinal, which in the long run, hurt the conference's chances of a Final 8 medal since its best team (well, second-best) got the death sentence of playing Carleton in the 2 vs. 7 quarter-final.

(Wait. How did Carleton get seeded No. 2? Oh right.)

The regular season ends Feb. 3, leaving four full weekends to complete the playoffs prior to nationals. Fatigue definitely takes a toll on teams late in the season and the old format meant a team could play five peak-intensity games in two weeks. Instead, the automatic bids will be decided two weeks out, before a championship game.

On the other hand, RPI, a metric that was created to compare teams from different conferences — you could look it up — rather than ones from the same league, remains in use. Only now it has some tweaks!

New RPI formula
The formula used in 2016-17 was as follows:
RPI = 25% team winning percentage (WP) x 1.2 away win + 0.8 home win, 50% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponent’s average winning percentage (OOWP).

The formula that will be used in 2017-18, with changes in bold, is as follows:
RPI = 35% team winning percentage (WP) x 1.1 away win + 0.9 home win, 40% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponent’s average winning percentage (OOWP).

Three easy words: Simple. Ranking. System. It even has Simple in the title, so you know it's gotta be good.

Being empathetic here, one can see how the logic might have worked there. Giving greater weight to winning percentage makes it more unlikely that UBC will go 20-0 in the conference and end up as the fourth seed. The initial home/road split might have given too much credit for winning on an opponent's floor since, after all, it is hard to beat the same team twice in a row and everyone is playing two-game series each week.

Overall, Canada West's minor changes tops OUA's backwards step to a two-division format. That isn't saying a lot, though.

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