clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How the NET rankings work, and why Ohio State men’s basketball is lagging behind in it

The Buckeyes sit outside the top-30 in the NCAA’s NET rankings despite an 11-2 record.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at West Virginia Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In 2018, the NCAA replaced the RPI rankings with the NET rankings, which, in essence, value both the quality of opponent and location the game is played over anything else. That year, Ohio State debuted as the No. 1 team in the first-ever NET rankings. This year, despite an 11-2 record, the Buckeyes sit at No. 33 in the NET.

What is the NET, anyway?

The NET is not the only thing the NCAA Selecton Committee uses to create the NCAA Tournament field each year. Strength of schedule, record, and “other qualitative and quantitative factors” are considered as well. Additionally, we may never know to what extent the NET is considered — is it half of the argument? The main factor? Simply one of several things considered on an even plane? Who knows.

What we do know, however, is that the NET places a heavy emphasis on home/road splits, as well as the ranking of your opponent. The NET does not take any consideration to the venue games are played at, which means playing a game at Mackey Arena or Assembly Hall is looked at the same as a road game played at Penn State, all other things held constant.

To (mostly) no fault of their own, the Ohio State men’s basketball team is not flying high in the 2023-2024 NET rankings. The Buckeyes currently sit at No. 33 with an 11-2 record, with noteworthy non-conference wins over West Virginia, UCLA, Alabama, and Santa Clara. Ohio State has a reasonable loss to Texas A&M on the resume, and an inexcusable road loss to Penn State on the docket as well.

The NET divides all games in four quadrants, or “quads.” Each quad has a specific range based on your opponent’s NET ranking and where the game was played. Once you know what those ranges are, the quad system is pretty easy to follow. To save you a google, here are the four quads:

  • Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353

As you can see, beating a team on the road means more than beating a team at home. If you beat the team ranked No. 98 in the NET at home, that’s a Quad-3 win. If you beat No. 98 on the road, that’s a Quad-2 win. If you want to make your NCAA Tournament resume more impressive, go rack up some Quad-1 and Quad-2 wins.

The only problem with that: the Big Ten doesn’t have a ton of those to offer right now.

The Big Ten is a NET wasteland so far this year

The Big Ten hasn’t had a strong start to the season in the eyes of the NET. There are only four teams in the top-30 of the NET rankings, which coincidentally means that if you want to pick up a Quad-1 home win, it would have to be over Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, or Michigan State. Any other home win in the Big Ten would be Quad-2 or lower.

The Big Ten has suffered a few embarassing non-conference losses — Long Beach over Michigan, Chicago State over Northwestern, San Francisco over Minnesota, UAB over Maryland, Bucknell over Penn State, etc. On top of that, there are a few teams whose non-conference slates were loaded with Quad-3 and Quad-4 games. While they may have won those games and have a solid record (looking at you, Ohio State and Indiana), the NET does not give those teams credit for not challenging themselves in the non-conference.

Is that the team’s fault? Not always. Do you think Chris Holtmann thought that West Virginia and UCLA would have a combined record of 10-10 when the Buckeyes faced them in December? Heck no — Ohio State scheduled what it thought would be two quality opponents. That’s just not how it’s worked out.

Can Ohio State pick up some good wins moving forward, even though the Big Ten has been kind of stinky?

They sure can!

So far, Ohio State is a combined 1-2 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games, with its lone Quad-1 win being over Alabama and the Quad-2 losses being its losses to Texas A&M and Penn State. The Buckeyes are 10-0 in Quad 3 and Quad 4 games so far, which is good if you’re looking at it from the, “thank goodness we didn’t step on any of these landmines” perspective, but not great that they’ve had so many “insignificant” games so far.

Here is how Ohio State’s Big Ten schedule looks right now, with each game’s classification in parentheses. Quad-1 games are bolded.

These rankings will change as the season rolls on — for example, Ohio State’s loss to Penn State was a Quad-3 loss when it happened, but the Nittany Lions NET ranking went up, and it is now a Quad-2 loss.

Home against Rutgers (January 3) - Quad 3
At Indiana (January 6) - Quad 2
Home against Wisconsin (January 10) - Quad 1
At Michigan (January 15) - Quad 2
Home against Penn State (January 20) - Quad 3
At Nebraska (January 23) - Quad 1
At Northwestern (January 27) - Quad 1
Home against Illinois (January 30) - Quad 1
At Iowa (February 2) - Quad 1
Home against Indiana (Feburary 6) - Quad 3
Home aginst Maryland (February 10) - Quad 3
At Wisconsin (February 13) - Quad 1
Home against Purdue (February 18) - Quad 1
At Minnesota (February 22) - Quad 2
At Michigan State (February 25) - Quad 1
Home against Nebraska (February 29) - Quad 2
Home against Michigan (March 3) - Quad 3
At Rutgers (March 10) - Quad 2

That stretch from late January to early February is going to be big for Ohio State — three road games out of four from Jan. 23 to Feb. 2, and all four of them are Quad-1 opportunities.

How UCLA and West Virginia fare as the season progresses should also be noteworthy to Ohio State. Both of those games are Quad-3 wins right now, with UCLA sitting at No. 144 and West Virginia No. 172 in the NET. But if either of those teams can sneak up into the top-100, it would become a Quad-2 win.

Clear as mud? Clear as mud.