Monday, February 27, 2012
Poll Thoughts: Temple remains intact
By Eamonn Brennan
College hoops polls might be inconsequential noise, but that doesn't make the arguments any less fun. In that spirit, I present the creatively named Poll Thoughts, which you can expect every Monday until the season is over.
Another week, another ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, another relatively boring and mostly meaningless batch of rankings to digest and dissect with only occasional seriousness. Let's get right to it:
Temple stays in, and I kind of like that. It took Temple quite a while to gain the national voting respect Fran Dunphy's team deserved: The Owls had to go 11-0 from Jan. 18 to Feb. 22 to sneak into last week's poll, where they entered at No. 22. Given that, it's kind of refreshing to see Temple survive this week's loss to Saint Joe's with a poll position intact. It would have been easy for most voters, who were apparently hesitant to add Ramone Moore and Co. to their dockets in recent weeks, to drop the Owls just as quickly, but apparently voters realized that a) losing at Saint Joe's is understandable; the Hawks are a solid team hunting a fringe spot in the NCAA tournament bubble, and b) Temple's performance in Atlantic 10 play has been impressive no matter how you slice it. My first assumption about this week's poll, before I even took a glance, was that this wouldn't happen. It's hardly a big deal, but I'm glad to see it nonetheless.
Florida's magic poll elixir. Have the coaches' poll voters actually watched Florida lately? Did they happen to see Saturday's 14-point loss at Georgia, yet another symptom of the Gators' main disease: lackluster defense? It's not that Florida is a bad team. I'm not saying that. It's just that the Gators seem to have some sort of Steve Jobsian reality-distortion field around their weekly poll placement. Two weeks ago, when they were blown out by Kentucky at Rupp Arena, and lost to Tennessee at home, Florida dropped from No. 7 all the way to ... No. 12. This week, after a road loss to Georgia, Florida dropped from No. 11 to No. 13. Which brings us to another oddity ...
Wisconsin's win at Ohio State was apparently no big deal. Wisconsin was ranked No. 15 in last week's poll. This week, they lost at Iowa -- an ultra-hot team at home, one that got 63 points in two games (and two career high scoring nights) from senior guard Matt Gatens in wins against Indiana and Wisconsin -- and went to Ohio State, one of the toughest places to play in the country against one of the nation's best defenses, and came away with a win. And ... they're right back at No. 15 this week. I suppose I get the loss at Iowa dinging them somewhat, but compare that week to Florida's and tell me why the Gators should be ranked ahead of the Badgers. Maybe this is correct! I'm open-minded. But it is a little confusing.
Margin call. The poll's margins saw a decent bit of movement: New Mexico, last week's ascendant team, fell out of the poll after two straight losses at Colorado State and TCU. Vanderbilt didn't make much headway despite a tough, if ultimately losing, effort at Kentucky. Iowa State's win at Kansas State didn't get the Cyclones in; in fact, Iowa State received just eight votes in total, just two more than Long Beach State and three more than the vanquished Wildcats, which just last week beat Missouri and Baylor on the road. How soon we forget.
In the meantime, word to Drexel: The Dragons are simultaneously fighting their way into the NCAA tournament conversation and the coaches' poll. Their win at Old Dominion on Saturday was their best of the CAA season to date (an imbalanced schedule yielded just one game apiece against George Mason and VCU, both of which came at home), but it's impossible to quibble with this team's work since December. Bruiser Flint's team ended the regular season having won 23 of its past 24. The Dragons might need a big CAA tourney performance to get in the tournament, but the 30 votes they tallied in this week's poll (second only outside the top 25 to Gonzaga's 48) counts as a sign that the nation's coaches have, at the very least, taken notice. So, you know, that's something.
Is it possible for a top-10 team to fly under the radar? Because, if you ask me, Marquette -- this week's No. 7 squad -- most certainly is. Or, at the very least, it was. But if the Golden Eagles finish their excellent Big East run with two more wins (they go to Cincinnati and finish at home vs. Georgetown this week), and Jae Crowder or Darius Johnson-Odom (or both) pick up some suddenly expected individual hardware, Buzz Williams' once-quiet outfit will be getting plenty of close looks in advance of the NCAA tournament. What a season in Milwaukee.