Monday, December 20, 2010
Poll Thoughts: Where are you, UCF?
By Eamonn Brennan
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.)
Did the coaches keep the momentum going in Week 7? Not exactly. Some typically scattered thoughts below:
The most notable omission from the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll is Central Florida. The Knights are 10-0, coming off a win against Miami on a neutral court, and have a marquee victory against Florida, a team that just beat the sixth-ranked Kansas State Wildcats. The transitive property doesn't apply, but it's hard to make the case that UCF doesn't belong in the Nos. 20-25 range at this point. The good news for the Knights, in so far as being considered to join the top 25 qualifies as "good news": UCF was the leading vote-getter outside the poll this week. All the Knights have to do is keep winning.
The same can be said of Wisconsin, the second-leading squad in the "others receiving votes" category this week. The Badgers have lost to two quality teams in Notre Dame and UNLV, but they've been thoroughly handling their opponents since. Wisconsin might have the greatest discrepancy between its tempo-free profile -- which sees them as the No. 9-ranked team in the nation to this point -- and the common perception, which is that the Badgers are another good-but-not-great Bo Ryan grinder. In fact, the Badgers are probably much better than any poll is currently giving them credit for.
And despite those two very worthy candidates being left out of the top 25, guess who survived? The Louisville Cardinals. The Cards are No. 25 this week despite their upset loss to Drexel at home. They're joined by Tennessee and Illinois, both of whom made the final cut (Tennessee at No. 18, Illinois at No. 21) despite each team's ugly upset loss(es) last week. The Illini's UIC embarrassment could be a one-off, but UT is an especially interesting case. By beating Villanova in Madison Square Garden and Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, the Volunteers have two of the more impressive wins of anyone in the country on their resume. By losing to Oakland and Charlotte, they also have two of the uglier losses. Voters apparently added that up and still thought the Vols deserved a spot in the weekly rankings. Or they didn't just notice last week's losses. One or the other.
Are the coaches messing with Texas? At the very least, few seem impressed with Saturday's quasi-road win against North Carolina. The Longhorns come in at No. 22 this week. That means Texas trails Illinois, a team the Longhorns beat on a neutral floor (and one that just lost to Illinois-Chicago, for cripes sake); Memphis, a team with nary a quality win on its résumé to date; Minnesota, whose last non-cupcake was a loss to Virginia at home; and Tennessee, which, you know, just lost to Oakland and Charlotte. The Longhorns' biggest crime is apparently their ugly road loss to USC, but for one, road losses aren't all that bad, and two, USC just gave Kansas a serious test in Lawrence. Should the Horns be ranked in the top 10? Of course not. Should they be ranked a good deal higher than No. 22? I think so. (And as a counterpoint, the tempo-free numbers think Texas should be ranked right where they are, thanks very much.)
The Diamond Head Classic might tell us a lot about Baylor. The Bears had hardly played an opponent with a pulse before Saturday's loss to Gonzaga in Dallas. Despite that loss -- a rather convincing one, considering the location and Gonzaga's poor performance in the nonconference schedule to date -- the Bears dropped only six spots in the poll, from No. 9 to No. 15. This week, Baylor will have the chance to square off with the likes of Mississippi State, Butler and/or Florida State. That's not exactly a murderer's row, but compared to the rest of Baylor's nonconference schedule (home games vs. Texas Southern and Morgan State), it's the best opportunity we'll get -- at least before Big 12 play hits its stride -- to see whether Baylor even deserves to be ranked this high.
Otherwise, looking up and down the poll, I suppose things aren't so bad. The coaches get a C this week. Disagree? Leave your grades and comments in the, well, you know.