The NCAA has released its first NET rankings of the 2022-23 season and Arizona women’s basketball checks in at No. 18. The NET, which stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool, replaced the RPI for women’s basketball beginning with the 2020-21 season. It helps determine which teams are selected for the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season.
Teams' rankings are determined by what the NCAA calls Adjusted Net Efficiency and Team Value Index. The Adjusted Net Efficiency takes into account offensive efficiency (points per possession), defensive efficiency (opponents’ points per possession), the strength of opponents (as measured by their adjusted net efficiency), and game location (home, away, or neutral court).
The Team Value Index ranks teams based on the quality of their schedules, placing teams higher if they play and beat other good teams. Its components include opponents, game locations, and winners.
Arizona is not ranked as highly by the NET as it is by the poll voters. In the poll released on Monday, the Wildcats were placed No. 12 by the Associated Press voters. Last week, the coaches had UA at No. 13 in the WBCA/USA Today coaches poll.
The Wildcats’ relatively high NET is based on their adjusted net efficiency and the fact that they have yet to lose. The quality of the opponents has not been good, though.
Based on NET, Arizona’s best opponent so far was Long Beach State at No. 129. Its only other opponent in the top 150 is NAU at No. 140. With only two games on the road and one on a neutral court, the Wildcats aren’t even getting a boost from playing away from McKale.
Arizona is currently scoring 0.98 points per possession while its opponents are scoring 0.69 PPP. That gives the Wildcats an adjusted net efficiency of 0.31. That’s a relatively easy part of the NET to determine. However, because the NCAA uses data from the last 10 seasons to determine how to rank wins on home, neutral, and away courts, other pieces of the NET are more complicated. How much a win over a top 20 team on the road or a top five team at home might help the Wildcats is not a simple thing to state, but it will start helping the team soon.
The quality opponents finally start showing up on Arizona’s schedule this week when Kansas comes to town. The Jayhawks are receiving votes in this week’s AP poll with their point total effectively placing them at No. 26. More importantly for the Wildcats’ postseason and hosting hopes are where Kansas is sitting in the NET.
KU is at No. 29 in the initial NET. That will be a huge step up from UA's last opponent. New Mexico debuted at No. 194 in the NCAA’s first ranking of the season. It doesn’t mark the end of the triple-digit NET rankings on Arizona’s schedule, but it does mark a significant decrease in the frequency of their appearances.
Ten days after playing the Jayhawks, the Wildcats will face No. 32 Baylor. While the Bears were expected to be the biggest game on Arizona’s schedule before Pac-12 play started, a few losses later and BU is looking up at fellow Big 12 member Kansas. The Wildcats need to beat both to improve their resume if they want to host the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament in March.
The Wildcats have two more opponents with NET rankings above 125 on the nonconference schedule in Texas Southern (336) and UT Arlington (130). No one after that is worse than ASU’s No. 124.
Once Pac-12 play, UA’s opponents average a NET ranking of 47.3. They range from Stanford at No. 2 to ASU at No. 124. Only two teams land outside the top 84. Including Arizona, four Pac-12 teams are in the top 20 and eight are in the top 50.
How the Pac-12 stacks up in the important national rankings
There are four national rankings that either tell the story of how teams are doing or the story of how observers think teams are doing. In the former category lies the NET and the rankings based purely on offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency that are done by Her Hoop Stats. In the latter are the two major polls done by the Associated Press and the WBCA/USA Today. How does the Pac-12 do in all four?