In the throes of Chicago’s bleak winter months early this year, two of my OpenBI colleagues and I set out to have some geeky sports fun. College basketball was going strong and the consensus from most TV “experts” at the time was that the Big Ten was the best among the many conferences “top-to-bottom”. The three of us, each with affiliations to Big Ten schools, decided we’d test that conjecture by contrasting conference performance with rankings readily available on the Web, at the same time honing our expertise in several of the visualization packages OpenBI works with.

There’s no shortage of formulae to rank the 347 Division I college basketball teams organized into 32 conferences. For years, the Rating Percentage Index or RPI was the standard. Now, there are so many competitors, you can’t sort them out without a scorecard. Not surprisingly, the different ranking schemes correlate pretty highly. For last February’s exercises, the OpenBI team settled on RPI and Pomeroy. Our task was then to summarize and compare the performance of the conferences by the rankings of their constituent schools.

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