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Poll Thoughts: Somehow, Baylor still in

12/27/2010

College hoops polls might be inconsequential noise, but that doesn't mean they're not fun to argue about. In that spirit, I present the creatively named "Poll Thoughts," which you can expect every Monday until the season is over, or until the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll voters stop being so dumb. (In other words, expect it until the season is over.)

Oh, ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll. What are we going to do with you? You're like a wayward child: You show some promise one week, only to follow it up with utter confusion seven (and now fourteen) days later. It's always one step forward, two steps back. Your mother and I think you need to get a job. And we're cutting your allowance.

Anyway, mixed metaphors aside, let's just say there are issues in this week's coaches' poll. They start with No. 23 Baylor.

  • Why is Baylor still ranked? There really is no reason for the Baylor Bears to still be ranked. They have three losses to unranked teams on neutral floors. Two of those losses (to Washington State and Florida State) came in Hawaii last week. The first came in Dallas -- a neutral floor game in name only -- to Gonzaga Dec. 18. Because of its patsy-filled nonconference schedule, Baylor's only chance to prove itself in the nonconference came in these three games. They failed each test. There are no other wins to fall back on. Baylor hasn't beaten anyone. And yet, either because coaches don't pay attention or because Baylor's previous top ten ranking is just that powerful, the Bears are still in the top 25 while a handful of deserving teams are not.

  • One such deserving team? Washington. OK, so the Huskies have three losses, too. But those losses -- to Kentucky and Michigan State in Maui, to Texas A&M by one point in College Station -- are all quality losses. (Baylor's are, um, not.) When you throw in the fact that Washington's tempo-free profile ranks them among the five best teams in the country, you get a team that is still vastly underrated by the polls. I don't expect coaches or their poll-voting minions to spend all that much time refreshing KenPom.com, but still. 38 points? Come on.

  • Speaking of underrated teams, Wisconsin is ranked one spot behind Baylor. This is baffling, too.

  • In fact, you could make this more-deserving case about almost every notable team left out of the polls this week: UNLV, Temple, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, and even Washington State. All of these teams have better résumés than Baylor! What is going on?

  • After two straight losses, Illinois managed to hold on at No. 25. I'm not sure the Illini are more deserving than the teams directly above, but if the Illini didn't drop out after losing to UIC last week, they weren't going to go anywhere after a neutral-site loss to Mizzou this week.

  • Arizona desperately needs a marquee win. The Wildcats are ranked No. 14 by Pomeroy but received a mere two points in this week's poll. It's hard to blame voters for this; after all, Arizona had two opportunities to notch big-time wins -- versus Kansas and BYU on neutral floors -- and lost both. Other than that, Zona doesn't have a quality win. But don't sleep on the Wildcats when conference play begins.

  • Despite a 12-0 record, Cincinnati didn't get any poll love in November or December. The result? An unranked, but undefeated team that has everything to win in Big East play.

  • Nothing moved in the top 10 spots of the poll. That's no surprise, but it's only a matter of time -- until Monday night's UConn-Pitt game, actually -- before things get shaken up at the top of the poll, too.

Poll thoughts of your own? Share in my Butler bafflement; leave your take in the comments below.