Initial NET rankings are predictably awful for the league
The NCAA released its first set of NET Rankings for the season and the Horizon League’s returns were…not great:
Our friends at Norse report ran the numbers, and the Horizon League’s average ranking came in near the bottom of all Division I conferences.
The NET Rankings are out and the @HorizonLeague is right where we finished last year: 21st out of 31.— Norse Report (@NorseReport) December 16, 2019
That shouldn’t be a surprise since the league has a 34-62 record against Division I opponents, but it’s a painful thought for longtime fans of a league that entered the decade expecting to frequently put forth teams capable of winning games in the NCAA Tournament.
At the top of the Horizon League, the NET Rankings actually stand alone in having Wright State first. With only one spot separating the Raiders from Northern Kentucky, it is still consistent with most of the other major analytic metrics that view the two teams very comparably.
Ranking Oakland comfortably in third place is also consistent with ratings like KenPom, Massey Index and Sagarin. The Golden Grizzlies settle in well out of second place, but also comfortably ahead of fourth place. BPI is an outlier here, with Green Bay and Oakland flipped from the other services.
One of the biggest outliers between the NET and most of the other major ratings is UIC. The Flames are generally rated around 250 by the other services, somewhere in the middle of the league. The team comes in dead last in the Horizon League at 310 according to the NET. High preseason expectations compared to pretty awful play so far likely make the difference here, as the NET doesn’t consider last season’s results while ratings like KenPom do. Despite the poor rating so far, UIC may still be able to bounce back. The Flames have been without Preseason All-League guard Marcus Ottey and starting big man Jordan Blount, but Ottey debuted against DePaul and Blount is expected back later this week.
Outside of the NET’s harsh reaction to UIC’s play this year, it’s in line with what everyone else seems to see in the middle of the conference: a jumbled mess. Milwaukee, Green Bay and Youngstown State are all clumped within 24 spots of one another, leaving an opening for any of them to get hot and look like the fourth best team in the conference.
NET is a little more optimistic on IUPUI relative to the middle of the league, with the Jaguars just twenty spots behind Youngstown State. This is a bit surprising considering it doesn’t have a high opinion of USF (ranked 176) or Purdue Fort Wayne (261). IUPUI is still seen as the leader of the bottom of the barrel, just 16 spots away from Detroit in ninth place among the teams that other metrics usually lump in at the bottom of the league.
There has already been debate about the importance of the NET Rankings at this stage, but in the Horizon League it’s a much more straightforward discussion. If you’re not Wright State or Northern Kentucky, the NET Rankings don’t matter because you’re going to need a miracle to avoid a 16-seed. For the Raiders and Norse, continuing to win and hoping for a strong non-conference finish by Horizon League colleagues will be key to trying to put together a resume that gives either team a sliver of a chance at pulling an upset if they get the automatic bid in March.