RPI goes on the road: Just about a month from now, three letters become a staple of college basketball's lexicon: RPI. You can't have a good February argument about March Madness without invoking the Ratings Percentage Index at least a few times. There's a revision to this year's formula that gives more weight to playing and winning on the road. The Division I Men's Basketball Committee made the change after a four-year study. Chairman Bob Bowlsby, the athletic director at Iowa, said the formula more accurately reflects historical data. For example, during the past 20 years, home teams have won approximately two-thirds of the games. The RPI, which was created in 1981, is one of the tools the committee used to select the at-large teams and seed the field for the NCAA tournament. The mathematical components of the RPI will continue to be 25 percent winning percentage, 50 percent opponents' winning percentage and 25 percent opponents' opponents' winning percentage. The new formula will weigh each road victory at 1.4, each road loss at .6, each home victory at .6 and each home loss at 1.4. Neutral-site games will be valued at 1.0. Previously, all games carried the same weight.
U.S. honors: For the first time since USA Basketball established its Male Athlete of the Year award, it went to non-Olympians in an Olympic year. Sean May of North Carolina and Chris Paul of Wake Forest were selected to share the honor for leading the unbeaten U.S. team to a gold medal in the qualifying tournament for the World Championship For Young Men. The Under-21 World Championships will be held in 2005. May averaged 16 points and 9.5 rebounds for the team, coached by Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson, while Paul averaged 10.5 points and 7.8 assists. The award was first presented in 1980 to Isiah Thomas. The other Olympic-year winners were Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins in 1984, Dan Majerle in 1988, the U.S. Olympic team in 1992, Scottie Pippen in 1996 and Alonzo Mourning in 2000. The U.S. men's team won the bronze medal in Athens.
Staying home: Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas made some changes in the schedule, including staying in the Mullins Center for a while. The Minutemen are halfway through a six-game homestand, the longest since a seven-game stretch at Drill Hall in the 1930-31 season. UMass wasn't able to follow up the homecourt upset of then-No. 7 Connecticut, losing 80-53 at Miami three days later. But the Minutemen (6-3) have responded to the home cooking, winning the first three of the homestand -- Davidson, Rider and Boston University. The tough half starts Sunday with Boston College, followed by Atlantic 10 opponents Temple and Xavier.
Impressive start: The leading shot blocker in the country is a freshman and he's only 6-foot-6. Kyle Hines of North Carolina-Greensboro blocked an average of 4.9 shots over the Spartans' first nine games, the top average in Division I, even if it is early in the season. The 230-pound native of Sicklerville, N.J., was averaging 12.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. He had 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, four rebounds and three blocks on Wednesday in a 94-59 loss at Minnesota.
Bruin rookies: When UCLA started four freshmen -- Josh Shipp, Lorenzo Mata, Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar -- against Michigan State last week, it was the first time since the first two games of the 1998-99 season. The last time two freshman guards started -- before Afflalo and Farmar -- was 1997-98 when Baron Davis and Earl Watson did it. Before that, it was the Final Four team of 1979-80 with Michael Holton and Rod Foster.