Top 25 polls are an imperfect science that are handled by human voters. I realize that these polls aren't the end all and that different people have different opinions, but I have some serious problems with the latest Associated Press top 25 poll. I will outline ten instances where mistakes were made and what should have been done to correct them. Of course give me your feedback and opinions letting me know if you agree with me or if you have differing thoughts.
- I used the Associated Press (AP) in making my criticisms for this article and didn't take the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 poll into consideration.
With all due respect to Temple Head Coach Fran Dunphy, the voters got it wrong including the Owls in the latest poll at 24. Yes, Temple does have a pair of impressive nonconference wins against Georgetown and Georgia to bolster their case for top 25 inclusion. My problem is that the Owls’s already have a pair of conference losses to Atlantic 10 co-leaders Duquesne and Xavier. It should also be noted that only one of Temple’s eight conference victories have come against a team ranked in the top half of the 14 team Atlantic 10 conference. Temple’s top 25 ranking is questionable to say the least with teams such as St.Mary’s and Alabama lurking just outside the top 25.
Kansas is definitely deserving of a top five ranking, but I can’t understand why the Jayhawks are sitting ahead of Texas at the number two spot in the most recent polls. Texas has yet to lose a Big 12 game this season and has already beaten Kansas at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. There is no question that Kansas has looked impressive in thoroughly handling Missouri, Kansas State and Nebraska. You can’t punish Texas for not losing though and the Longhorns unblemished Big 12 record and road victory over Kansas should vault them to the number two spot in the AP poll.
I don’t favor power conference schools and I think that BYU and SDSU are deserving of being ranked in the top 10, but I can’t understand how Notre Dame is sitting below them in the polls. San Diego State’s best nonconference victory was a three point road win against Gonzaga which now doesn’t look nearly as impressive while BYU’s victory over Arizona serves as the Cougars nonconference meat. BYU’s victory over SDSU in conference play is also a feather in the Cougars cap, but besides that neither team has any signature conference wins to speak of. Notre Dame meanwhile has nonconference victories over California, Georgia and Wisconsin and has already beaten four top 25 teams in conference play including 4th ranked Pittsburgh. The Irish don’t have an egregious amount of losses overall and their overall number of quality wins should push them past BYU and SDSU.
Billy Donovan’s Gators stumbled coming out of the starting gate and dropped games to Central Florida and Jacksonville. Florida also didn’t give Ohio State their toughest test of the year and were blown out by the Buckeyes 93-75 at home. Over the last month and half Florida has been one of the hotter teams in the country though and has won 11 out of their past 13 games. Those aforementioned 11 victories include wins over 18th ranked Kentucky, 24th ranked Vanderbilt, Georgia and Xavier. Billy Donovan’s team doesn’t have one elite player, but right now they are clearly playing the best basketball of anyone in the SEC.
I’m certainly not suggesting that the Runnin Rebels should be considered for a top 25 ranking, but the fact that they only received five top 25 votes in the most recent AP poll is too low. Four of UNLV’s six losses this season have come against 16th ranked Louisville, 6th ranked San Diego State and 7th ranked BYU (twice). The Rebels also have nonconference victories over Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and Kansas State. I know that I’m stretching a little bit by mentioning Kansas State and Virginia Tech, but both the Wildcats and the Hokies have talent on their rosters regardless of what their records say. The one inexplicable loss is a home defeat to a 12-9 UC-Santa Barbara squad. UNLV’s resume is definitely flawed, but there are other teams receiving more votes that I would grade lower than the Rebels.
I’m cheating a little bit by singling out the Aggies since their lost to Idaho last night makes them look even shakier. Regardless I would argue that Utah State didn’t have any business being included in the top 25 to begin with. I can’t fault Stew Morrill’s Aggies for playing the schedule they were give and winning all of their conference games in the less than stellar WAC. My problem is that Utah State doesn’t have any nonconference victories to justify their ranking either. The Aggies played two marquee nonconference opponents in BYU and Georgetown and got beat by both schools. Their nonconference wins came against schools such as Weber State, Utah Valley, Denver, Northeastern and Cal State Bakersfield. The 22-2 record (now 22-3) that Utah State used to climb into the top 25 is impressive, but upon further examination it loses some of its sparkle.
John Calipari and Kentucky admittedly had a rough week in dropping both of their road games against Ole Miss and Florida. I have already praised Florida and I don’t think losing against the Gators at the dreaded O’Connell Center is that unforgivable. Ole Miss isn’t nearly the team that Florida is, but the Rebels aren’t that bad in their own right. At 16-8 and 4-5 in the SEC it’s not unthinkable that Andy Kennedy and company could make a run at an NCAA tourney bid. Ole Miss also has a trio of standout players in Chris Warren, Zach Graham and Reginald Buckner. Finally if you consider that Kentucky only lost by two points in both of the games then you can understand how voters might have been a bit heavy handed in dealing with Kentucky.
I’m not ready to contend that Alabama is surefire top 25 pick because their nonconference results aren’t overly impressive. The Tide struggled against Purdue losing 66-47 and also played poorly against Providence dropping that game 82-70. I also realize that going only 8-6 in nonconference play won’t turn any heads. Alabama’s 7-1 conference record can’t be diminished though and the Tide’s one road loss at Arkansas was only a five point defeat. A road victory against Tennessee and a pair of wins against Mississippi State are the conference play highlights. At 15-7 and 7-1 in the SEC the Tide should’ve gotten more than 21 top 25 votes.
Mark Turgeon’s Texas A&M team began the season by going 16-1 and ascending to the top 10 in the polls. Since then though chinks have been exposed in what looked like a fairly impenetrable Aggie armor. Texas A&M has dropped four of their last six games and has been whipped by in-state rival Texas by 20+ points twice. The Aggies also recently loss to Baylor 76-74. I understand that at one time Texas A&M was ranked 10th and that highly ranked teams do get some leeway before being excluded from the polls, but it seemed as though it might have been time to bounce Texas A&M. Unless the Aggies right the shape this will become a mute point though and we will have to wait and see whether Texas A&M can return to their winning ways.
Arizona is sitting at 15th in the latest poll while Purdue stands in front of them at 14th . The Wildcats are playing better basketball than the Boilermakers and should get the nod over the kids from West Lafeyette. Arizona has won seven of their last eight with their lone loss coming at Washington. Derrick Williams is one of the best players in the nation and his emergence along with players such as Lamont “Momo” Jones and Solomon Hill makes Sean Miller’s squad dangerous. Purdue meanwhile has only won four of their last eight games and has looked suspect in losses to West Virginia and Minnesota. I realize that the Big Ten is a tougher conference than the PAC 10 and that Purdue has had to walker a tougher road, but right now Arizona is looking more impressive.