Weekend Watch: RPI isn't everything

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You'll start to see it everywhere over the next month or so.

The RPI.

It's become the end-all-be-all these days to analyze whether a team has a realistic shot of making the NCAA tournament next month.

I'm not saying every member of the NCAA selection committee that will be locked in the Westin Hotel next month in Indianapolis will live and die by each and every Ratings Percentage Index attached to a team.

However, it's become a critical piece of information to evaluate a team's worthiness.

And so I give you the team ranked No. 12 in the entire nation -- according to the RPI.

The Rhode Island Rams.


Jim Baron's Rhody Rams are ranked one spot ahead of Michigan State and four in front of Texas.

Give deputy athletic director Gregg Burke and assistant coach Pat Clarke a ton of credit. They put together a schedule that has somehow placed the Rams as the 12th-best team in the nation.

In full disclosure, I have not seen the Rams play yet this season. However, I know their personnel well -- having watched guys like Keith Cothran, Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer play the last three or four years in college and prep school.

This is a solid NCAA tournament club and Baron, after losing his son, Jimmy, after last season, has done a tremendous job this year.

But No. 12?

Um, no.

Baron's team has a 18-3 record to date, but it's most impressive victory came at Dayton -- a team that sits tied with St. Louis for sixth place in the Atlantic-10 and a club that would almost certainly be headed to the NIT if the season ended today.

One key for the Rams surprisingly high RPI has been road wins -- eight of them in total. It hasn't been murderer's row by any means since the group includes Dayton, Boston College, La Salle, Drexel, Akron, Davidson, Brown and Fordham.

Rhode Island has also avoided playing too many teams ranked in the bottom third of the RPI. In fact, the Rams have played just a trio with an RPI of more than 200: Brown, Holy Cross and conference foe Fordham.

Baron's Rams have had a terrific season thus far, but No. 12?

No computer is going to convince me of that.

Here's a preview of this weekend's action:

CAN'T MISS: Villanova at Georgetown gets the weekend going. Jay Wright's Wildcats are one Kansas slip-up away from vaulting to the No. 1 spot, but they take to the road and face a tough-to-read Georgetown team that decisively got past Duke before losing at home to South Florida.

UNDERCARD: Michigan State at Illinois, Saturday at 9 p.m. ET -- We'll see whether Kalin Lucas plays in Champaign despite a sprained ankle suffered earlier in the week. The Illini could use this one to help cement a bid to the NCAA tournament.

MUST SEE: Right now there are a half-dozen Atlantic-10 teams in the NCAA tournament equation and four of them will play one another this weekend. It starts with Xavier at Dayton Saturday at noon ET and then a couple hours later Temple faces Richmond.

REAL DEAL?: BYU -- I love Jimmer Fredette and Dave Rose is deserving of the National Coach of the Year award, but the Cougars need a win at UNLV Saturday at 4 p.m. to cement themselves as a legitimate Top 25 team.

UPSET SPECIAL: OK, I'm back on track after picking Arizona to beat Cal last weekend. So I'm going to go with John Beilein and the struggling Michigan Wolverines to take care of Wisconsin in Ann Arbor. Michigan is 11-11 overall and the Badgers are ranked in the top 20 and coming off a win over Michigan State.

NON-BCS MATCHUP: Gonzaga at Memphis -- Two of the best non-BCS programs in the country over the past few years collide down in Memphis. Mark Few's team was rolling in league play until the shocking loss at San Francisco while Memphis needs this win to help its chance of getting back to the NCAA tournament.

MUST-WIN ON BOTH SIDES: Seton Hall at Pittsburgh -- Bobby Gonzalez and the Pirates are 3-6 in Big East play, but have a weak league slate to end the season while the Panthers have struggled lately, losing four of their last five.

IMPORTANT: Wake Forest at Virginia -- Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers are tied with Duke for first place in the ACC while Wake sits just a half-game back at 5-3 in league play.

UNDER-THE-RADAR: Mississippi State at Florida -- The Bulldogs will travel to Gainesville in a game of two teams that will likely be on the proverbial bubble next month when the field is unveiled.

STILL SEARCHING: Bryant University fell to 0-23 after a loss Thursday night while Alcorn State, the only other D-1 team without a victory, is 0-22 this season.