South Dakota State beat Kansas City on Saturday night to finish 9-3 in conference play and win their fourth straight Summit League regular-season championship. The Jackrabbits lost three of their final eight games, were swept by South Dakota, and lost to Oral Roberts by 17 points, but still finished 15-6 overall with a win over Utah State, near upset of West Virginia, and were in good position for an NCAA Tournament berth.
That’s enough to earn the 116th spot in the KenPom Ratings (as of March 1). It’s not enough to sit above Yale, who hasn’t played a basketball game in 359 days.
The Ivy League announced on Nov. 12, 2020, the cancellation of all winter and spring sports for the 2020-21 academic year. In doing so, they wiped out Yale’s basketball season. Four months later, the Bulldogs have a tourney-worthy KenPom Rating of 114th. It’s nowhere near their final 2019-20 rating of 58th but still ahead of South Dakota State, UAB, Eastern Washington, and other potential NCAA Tournament teams.
KenPom Ratings are predictive. In Ken Pomeroy’s own words, “If you’re looking for a system that rates teams on how ‘good’ their season has been, you’ve come to the wrong place.” His system, using a proprietary algorithm, doesn’t know Yale is sidelined this season. And even if the system knew that, it wouldn’t care. It knows if Yale was playing this season, they’d have the 114th-best predictive rating of all 357 Division-I men’s basketball teams.
“The purpose of this system is to show how strong a team would be if it played tonight, independent of injuries or emotional factors,” Pomeroy says on his website. “Since nobody can see every team play all (or even most) of their games, this system is designed to give you a snapshot of a team’s current level of play.”
Yale’s current level of play is higher than South Dakota State and 347 other teams that have played at least one game this season. Yale is the highest-ranked 0-0 team, followed by Princeton (148), Harvard (167), Penn (203), and Cornell (206). Maryland-Eastern Shore opted out of the season and is the lowest-ranked 0-0 team, though at 355th, they’re still one spot ahead of Chicago State, who opened the season 0-9 before opting out, and Mississippi Valley State, who entered Monday’s game against Grambling with 1 win in 21 games.
Does it matter?
For Yale and the other 0-0 teams, of course not. For South Dakota State and every other team in tournament contention, it matters. It’s a reminder of a predictive-based ratings system used by the selection committee to build the 68-team field.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM