Are the polls accurately reflecting teams' performance?
Butler at No. 18? Ohio State, without Greg Oden, at No. 1? Our experts debate the most recent coaches poll:
Just think about this: Ohio State will be promoted as the No. 1 team in the country heading into a game at North Carolina on Wednesday night, despite the fact that the Buckeyes are without their best player and likely will be a decent underdog, if you care about such things.
It's hard to see how the coaches -- and this is supposedly the coaches -- can put Ohio State, without Greg Oden, at No. 1 after playing all of its games at home. Ohio State hasn't played its toughest slate yet, nor has it met a single team from one of the major conferences.
The Buckeyes are 6-0 by beating VMI, Loyola-Chicago, Kent State, Eastern Kentucky, San Francisco and Youngstown State. How can that compare to UCLA winning the Maui Invitational with wins over Kentucky and Georgia Tech, let alone a win at home over BYU? Or, how about Pitt, which did have a neutral-site win over Western Michigan, but most recently obliterated Florida State at home? Seriously, do the coaches who vote in this poll really believe that Ohio State is better than UCLA and Pitt at this juncture?
The polls in college basketball are supposed to be a snapshot of this week. The in-season polls aren't a projection of the No. 1 seeds. The preseason poll can serve as that, but not an in-season poll. That's why Butler should be in the top 10, since no other team has beaten as many high-majors in a row as the Bulldogs. Gonzaga should be rewarded for a win over North Carolina on a neutral court, as well.
It's not worth getting too worked up about the polls, since they don't matter in college hoops like they do in football. But since they exist, they should at least make sense. Putting Ohio State No. 1 this week doesn't.
Poor Barry Hinson. The dude can't catch a break.
Sure, UCLA should be No. 1; the Bruins have all the qualifications. Those include a big-time name, coach, talent, wins and reputation -- and to this point, no losses. Ohio State being the new No. 1 is widely based upon projections of their performance with a player who is not currently suiting up for them. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have zero quality wins.
Missouri State, however, is coming off of a season in which the Bears had the best RPI for a team that didn't receive a ticket to the Dance. They have beaten the preseason Big Ten favorite, with all their players no less, on a neutral floor, and lost in overtime to an Oklahoma State team that should be ranked in its own right. Yet, poor Barry Hinson did not receive a stinking vote in the latest coaches poll.
This is the true meaning of mid-major, my friends, where the opportunities to fail far exceed the opportunities to impress. That is why Butler, which marched through Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga and then, by my estimation, got the best win of the bunch in coming home and beating Jim Christian's Kent State Golden Flashes a night later, is only ranked 18th. And, if they were to lose at home to, say, Old Dominion (as Georgetown did), they would probably drop completely out of the poll.
Is all this fair? No. Will it change? Let's give the selection committee time to process what we are seeing in this sport, and instead of counting the number of bids a conference gets, let's find out if the mid-majors get more higher seeds than before. The higher the seed in March, the higher the likelihood of advancing, and the more you advance, the more your name resonates; the more that happens, the more coaches automatically write you into their weekly ballot based upon who they believe are the traditional powers.
In the meantime, read the poll and snicker that LSU is ranked ahead of Wichita State, despite the Shockers' win in Baton Rouge and being 4-0. Hey, at least the polls are not two-thirds of the championship-game selection formula, like college football. Instead, we have a great March to look forward to. For decisions on what is and is not an upset, stay tuned.
The Bulldogs have had a great fortnight of basketball and are ranked again. Now, before the ink is dry on the ballots, we're asking if they're overrated.
Apparently, we are now tired of asking whether any team is "this year's George Mason." Butler cannot lay claim to being this year's George Mason -- they have done more at this point in the season than George Mason did all year last season leading up to Selection Sunday. With wins over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee, Gonzaga and Kent State, Butler has put itself into a great position to be a postseason team.
Here are the pros and cons on their No. 18 ranking:
Pros: Butler deserves the ranking, having beaten more ranked teams than any other team out there. Based upon the mantra of who you play and who you beat, Butler may be ranked too low. Sure, the Bulldogs are a bit small, but they have good guards who can control tempo, handle pressure and shoot it from deep. This is a very good team that is top-20 worthy. Butler can play, and a ranking of No. 18 reflects the huge wins over the Irish, the Hoosiers, the Vols and the Zags. It's only fair.
Cons: Oh, now they are "huge" games to beat those teams, huh? What has Butler done that Maryland hasn't done? Why are the Terps playing second fiddle to the Bulldogs when Maryland has bludgeoned St. John's, beat Michigan State (which beat Texas the night before) and took out such quality mid-majors as Winthrop and Vermont? Why is Butler's performance better than that, or better than Michigan State's? The Spartans aren't even ranked, and they beat Texas and barely got clipped by Maryland.
Remember, Butler beat Notre Dame (an NIT team last year), Indiana (an NIT team last year), Tennessee (a team without a big guy that presses so much, you can get any shot you want if you don't turn it over), Gonzaga (another mid-major that just slew a giant and is not great defensively) and Kent State (another mid-major that got blasted by Ohio State).
Look, Butler is really good and deserving of respect, but we wouldn't be giving this kind of respect to Providence or Purdue if they had won the same games in the same way. Hey, if you think Butler is better than Maryland, have at it. But we are really just guessing and rewarding a good week based upon a Hoosier tug at the heartstrings. I can't wait for January, when Marquette gets to claim a huge win over Notre Dame and Kentucky can claim a huge win over Tennessee.
These polls are nearly worthless until February, anyway. They are really just for fun and to determine whose highlights get on "SportsCenter" first. There are not enough games or results to make them reliable. Do you really believe that Ohio State is No. 1?
I want the BCS for basketball! Butler and Ohio State for all the marbles!