Most would agree that the No. 7 Michigan basketball team is off to a fine start, recording six wins by at least 19 points, beating No. 23 Villanova and recording high-major blowout wins over George Washington and Providence to take the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip Off in Connecticut.
But as it turns out, the NCAA — the only party that matters — is an especially big fan of the Wolverines (6-0 overall), ranking them fourth in their inaugural rankings.
Monday morning, the NCAA debuted the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings, which will replace the RPI. Relying on “game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses,” the rankings will be the primary factor in NCAA Tournament selection and seeding.
What are the NET Rankings?
Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know. Be on the lookout for the first release ?? pic.twitter.com/kdZwDEjFPS
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 26, 2018
Of course, there is almost an entire season to be played between now and then, but the rankings are relevant in that they offer validation for Michigan’s host start to the season. With a stifling defense and a solid offense, the Wolverines have emerged onto the scene, ranking seventh in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rankings. Beating the reigning national champions on the road and dropping George Washington and Providence on neutral site also gives Michigan an early head start over other teams. And obviously, the Wolverines being one of only 27 remaining unbeaten teams helps as well.
It’s important to note, of course, that early rankings can be very volatile, which could put too much weight in exceptional games (like Michigan’s 27-point win at Villanova) or other teams’ bad, upset losses. But the Wolverines could be in good shape for the long haul, too, as the Big Ten featured a whopping eight teams inside the NET’s top 20. If a similar pattern were to hold heading into January, Michigan’s schedule would be full of opportunities for major wins and forgivable losses.
The Wolverines will have chances for the former this week, when they face North Carolina, ranked 21st in the NET, Wednesday night for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and Purdue, ranked 20th, Saturday afternoon. Heading into the week, Michigan coach John Beilein isn’t fully convinced of his team’s readiness just yet.
“I don’t think we’re this juggernaut,” Beilein said of his team after Michigan beat Chattanooga Friday night. “I think we’re OK. … We don’t have that type of experience yet to just say, ‘OK, watch out. Here comes Michigan.’ ”
NET Top 10
1. Ohio State
3. Texas Tech
7. Michigan State
9. Virginia Tech
10. Loyola Marymount
Other Big Ten teams ranked
75. Penn State