Yes, North Carolina is still ranked


First rule of discussing the Associated Press poll: Don't discuss the Associated Press poll.

Note that this is also the first rule of discussing any college basketball poll. Frankly, the polls aren't all that important. They're not likely to determine your favorite team's NCAA chances -- the RPI and strength of schedule and résumé wins all take precedence over what X team is ranked at the end of the season in either the coaches' poll or the media poll. They're just not that big of a deal.

But they are fun to talk about, so we ignore the first rule, which thus negates its entire premise and makes it useless, sort of like telling people not to storm courts unless the court-storming is deserved. A rule is only a rule if people follow it.

I digress. The point of this post is not to complain yet again about the polls, but instead to complain within the polls. To be more specific: Why on Earth is North Carolina still ranked?

Yes, the Tar Heels are No. 24 in yesterday's AP gathering. They lost again on Saturday, this time to Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill. They're the only six-loss team still in the top 25. It's hard not to look at that result and think it has quite a bit to do with the big "North Carolina" on the front of the Tar Heels' jerseys. Were this almost any other program in college basketball -- even a power like UConn, which dropped out of the polls this week and should have gone a week or two earlier -- and UNC wouldn't have any numbers next to its imposing nomenclature. In other words, they'd be out. (Update: My editor just reminded me that UConn is indeed still ranked in the coaches' poll, which, wow. The Huskies are No. 21 despite an 11-6 record and wins over ... well, no one, actually. UConn has yet to notch a single "good" win, and they've gone 0-4 against the AP top 25. Coaches of America: WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR FREE TIME? Watch more basketball, please.)

To be fair to North Carolina, all of their losses but one are defensible. Losing to College of Charleston in overtime away from the Dean Dome isn't the prettiest result for a putative top 10 team, but losses to Syracuse, at Kentucky, Texas, Clemson and Georgia Tech aren't the ugliest, either. They're about what you'd expect from a good but not great ACC team, which is what the young Tar Heels are.

What the Tar Heels aren't is the Tar Heels of old. But anytime the words "Tar Heels" are involved, it seems to take voters a little bit longer to figure that out.