Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Taking a gander at the RPI with playoffs approaching
We’re at that point in the season, with only a few weeks to go, where we can begin to accurately predict where each team will land in the playoffs.
But, before we do that, I want to talk about the rankings for a second. I get a lot of questions, from coaches and parents alike, about where those numbers come from. So many don’t seem to know the difference between CHSAA’s weekly rankings and its RPI, so let’s clear that up.
First, the weekly rankings. During the season, this is the number I use most commonly. They are released each Monday, typically, and voted upon by coaches and select media members from across the state. The Aspen High School girls soccer team, for instance, is ranked No. 4 in Class 3A this week.
This ranking is a good way to compare and contrast scores and such, but otherwise it’s meaningless. It has no bearing on the postseason and other than maybe a pat on the back, it doesn’t get you anything. Still, it helps put things in perspective during the season.
Now, about the RPI. Shorthand for Rating Percentage Index, this is a mathematically derived number that means everything. Whether a team makes the postseason, and what seed they might get, will largely be decided by RPI. Considering all the data it needs to be accurate, such as winning percentage and strength of schedule, there isn’t much reason to pay attention to RPI until late in the season.
So, with that hopefully cleared up a bit, let’s take a look at the RPI — which updates daily — and see where some of our local teams stand with the postseason in sight.
As mentioned, the AHS girls are No. 4 in the weekly voter-based rankings, but were No. 5 in RPI as of 4 p.m. Monday. At 9-2 overall and undefeated in league play, the Skiers look like a team that could take an 11-game win streak into the 3A playoffs, where it should be a very high seed. A home playoff game in the first round is all but assured at this point. Keep in mind, Aspen was only a 13 seed in the 24-team tournament last year, but won three games to make the state semifinals before losing, 1-0, to eventual state champ Jefferson Academy.
Basalt’s playoff hopes are much more dim. At 1-7-1 overall, the Longhorns’ RPI was 34 as of Monday afternoon. Barring quite the late-season push, I have a hard time seeing them in the postseason, unfortunately. Roaring Fork (6-4) has a decent chance to make the postseason with an RPI of 21.
After traveling to Delta on Tuesday, Basalt will host Roaring Fork on Wednesday. Aspen heads to Grand Valley on Tuesday, before hosting Roaring Fork on Thursday.
At 6-4 overall, Aspen’s postseason chances still look pretty decent in boys lacrosse. AHS was the No. 6 seed last season in the 16-team bracket and made the state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Cheyenne Mountain, the 7 seed.
Aspen’s RPI is 11 (out of 36 total teams) in 4A as of Monday, so if that holds they should make the bracket. Still, there isn’t a lot of room for error, making Thursday’s trip to Grand Junction a very important game.
Despite a 10-0 record, the Aspen girls lacrosse team still isn’t getting much love in the voter-based poll, coming in at No. 8 this week. But the RPI, which is all that matters, sure likes them. The Skiers were No. 3 in RPI as of Monday night, behind only No. 1 Colorado Academy (11-0) and No. 2 Cherry Creek (9-1).
The final two games against Roaring Fork and Fruita Monument could be challenging, but the way Aspen has simply destroyed most teams this season, I don’t see them losing in the regular season. This could set them up for an unprecedented high seed in the state tournament. Last spring, the first under coach Amanda Trendell, AHS was a 13 seed in the 20-team bracket. They lost in the second round to No. 4 Regis Jesuit.
Roaring Fork (6-2), playing varsity lacrosse for the first time this spring, was 18 in RPI on Monday, prior to beating Eagle Valley. Would be cool to see them make the playoffs in their first season.
Between the youth, inexperience and wild weather, making the postseason was going to be a long shot for both Aspen and Basalt this season. And with a few weeks to go, there’s essentially no chance. As of Monday afternoon (please don’t shoot the messenger, for that’s all I am), AHS baseball (0-12) was dead last with an RPI of 60 in Class 3A. Basalt (2-8) came in at 52.
Aspen heads to Gunnison Tuesday, while Basalt will be at Delta.
THE OTHER SPORTS
I don’t want to ignore the other teams this week — those being girls golf, girls tennis and track — but this column was mostly about RPI, a number that means nothing for those three teams. Making state in golf and tennis is all about how well you do at regionals, which are fast approaching, while state track is about having a time or mark in the top 18 of your event come the end of the regular season.
The long drives to Denver to play competitive club softball and fine-tune her skills during the offseason are paying off for Glenwood Springs High School senior Kiera Larson.