Monday, January 7, 2013
Poll Thoughts: Minimal movement
By Eamonn Brennan
Like so many college students across the country, Poll Thoughts took a few weeks off for winter vacation. (Monday "eve" holidays will do that to Poll Thoughts.) I miss a lot of things about college, but a month-long winter break is right at the top of that list. If there is one thing general society should adopt from our nation's institutions of higher learning -- and this list is long, too -- taking a four-week break in the heart of winter to eat, sleep, and watch the entire "Sopranos" series run should be among them. Winter break, man. It's the best.
Anyway, like that kid who walks into the first day of the spring semester with a black eye (aka Wild New Year's Guy), the Poll Thoughts are officially back, and here are the rankings. And like college, while some of the faces and seating arrangements have changed, things mostly look the same. Let's take a quick look, shall we?
This past week, I had at least one Twitter person ask me whether the AP poll would punish Arizona for the way it beat Colorado this week, whether Sabatino Chen's last-second three that should have been but wasn't would essentially register as a home loss in the eyes of voters. It's an interesting notion, and if there's anyone who can get behind the idea of reading between the lines of losses (home, road, neutral, whether the referees completely rob you of your game-winning three, that sort of thing) it's yours truly. But the polls don't work that way. If you win, it's a win — there are rarely conditions attached. So Arizona dropped just one spot this week to No. 4, and that should surprise no one.
I have no real issues with the top 15, or even the top 18. Missouri might be a bit overrated at No. 10, but it's in the ballpark. Same with Ohio State at No. 15. But I'm wondering if Georgetown isn't becoming a bit overrated at No. 19. The Hoyas took a tough last-possession loss at Marquette Saturday, with no small amount of officiating issues, so it's hard to punish them in this week's poll. But when you look at Georgetown's adjusted efficiency numbers, you see a really good defense and a thoroughly mediocre, borderline ugly offense, one that could really struggle to score on Big East defenses. Something to keep an eye on, at least.
I believe VCU, Wyoming and Oklahoma State should all have a place in the poll, but I can understand why Oklahoma State doesn't -- two straight losses, albeit good ones (home to Gonzaga, at Kansas State) are going to knock marginal top-25 teams out of the poll from time to time. Wyoming, however, is one of four remaining unbeatens, and I don't think that's just about their admittedly so-so schedule. The Cowboys can really play. But VCU is the real miss here. The Rams are playing at a top-10 level, efficiency-wise, and while they struggled to get past Lehigh Saturday, more often than not they've been flat stomping people.
If you put three teams in, you have to take three out, and I would argue that NC State and Georgetown are the most likely candidates. Wolfpack fans get mad at me about that, but their team lost to the two good squads they've played this season (both in rather convincing fashion) and since then they've beaten UConn (neutral floor) and Stanford (at home). Um, OK? This is the part where, in lieu of actual hoops evidence, preseason expectations start creeping back in. And this team does score the ball well. But they've also allowed 1.01 points per possession in their 14 games to date, good for No. 173 in the country. Until they defend even passably, I'm not convinced NC State is a top-25 team. I would be happy to be proven otherwise. Someone needs to challenge Duke in the ACC, after all.