Why the Wisconsin Badgers Should be College Basketball's New Number One

Adam AmickSenior Writer IFebruary 17, 2007
After winning the national championship in 2006, the Florida Gators started the college basketball season ranked number one in both the AP and Coaches Polls.  They lost to #12 Kansas in week three, and were succeeded by UCLA.  The Bruins would hold the top spot until week nine, until they were upset by #17 Oregon. North Carolina topped the charts in week ten, only to be upset by Virginia Tech in Blacksburg—which reopened the door for the Gators, who were looking solid coming down the stretch.

Until they went to Nashville, that is, and the Vanderbilt Commodores threw a wrench into the master plan.

So who's going to climb into the ejection seat now?


The top five has been more or less static all season, with Florida, North Carolina, and UCLA rotating through the number-one spot, and Ohio State briefly topping the USA Today/ESPN poll before Carolina pulled the rug out from under them.  Pitt was there early, but has slipped back to number seven.


My take: As the number two team in the country, the Ohio State University would seem poised to jump into the driver's seat—but I think Wisconsin should leapfrog the Buckeyes at the top of the polls. 

It's not that I don't like OSU, but consider these facts: The Badgers have only two losses on the season—the most recent coming January 31st at #25 Indiana.  State lost on the road at UNC and Florida, and beat #20 Tennessee at home by two points for their only win against a ranked team. Wisconsin beat #2 Pitt in December, and downed the Buckeyes in early January.  They also beat #20 Marquette in Madison.
So State is 1-3 against top-25 teams, while the Badgers are 3-1. 


Wisconsin is also number one in the Big 10, half a game ahead of State.  Then there's this: Penn State took the Buckeyes to the wire this past week, in a game that was ultimately decided by two points.  Wisconsin, on the other hand, has beaten the Nittany Lions twice in the last two weeks—by a total of 39 points.


The bottom line: Wisconsin deserves to be number one because they're a better team, and their record proves it.

In addition to the number-one question, there's a shuffling to take place in the top five.  Florida will drop at least as far as number four, and UCLA should jump ahead of the Tar Heels to number three.
Carolina lost at home to #21 Virginia Tech this week—by one, in overtime—but redeemed themselves against #25 Boston College on Saturday to remain tied atop the ACC with unranked Virginia.  The Heels have played eight games against ranked teams this year, going 6-2.


UCLA deserves to be number three because they've played the most games against ranked teams of any school in the top five.  The Bruins are 8-1 in their nine top-25 matchups to date, beating #6 Texas A&M and splitting home wins with Oregon.  UCLA still has to play Stanford at home—they lost to the Cardinal in Palo Alto—and is scheduled to travel to #11 Washington State after winning their first meeting with the Cougars on December 28th.  A late loss could leave the Bruins reeling going into the Pac-10 tournament.


So here's how I see the top five shaking out on Sunday: 1 - Wisconsin;  2 - Ohio State;  3 - UCLA;  4 - Florida;  5 - North Carolina.


Then again, that's just based on my critical analysis of the numbers...and it could all change depending on what happens in the last two weeks before the conference tournaments and March Madness.  But one thing is for sure: Either Wisconsin or Ohio State will have at least one more loss before the Big Dance.  So if they advance through the tourneys unscathed, look for four of the current top-five's to be regional number-one seeds in the championship bracket.

Personally, I'm calling the Tar Heels to go all the way, but am also cheering for Air Force and 'Bama. Oh, and have I mentioned that the 2007 NASCAR season kicks off on Sunday?
It's never too early to start looking ahead.