Providence's reality overcomes perception

Reality is finally catching up to perception, as the pollsters have trouble justifying preseason projections.

Updated: January 26, 2004, 5:27 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi | Special to ESPN.com

Lesson No. 579 in why college basketball polls are ridiculous: The Providence Friars.

By the time you read this, the Friars will finally be ranked in both the media and coaches polls. And the only word that matters in the preceding sentence is finally.

Actually, the only word that really matters at all in this discussion is ridiculous. However, since ESPN is in the poll business and Bracketology is in the ESPN business, we'll stick with finally for the moment.

Oh, those coaches and writers. True guardians of the game. Without which we would be devoid of all wisdom and sage advice. For the past several weeks -- pretty much all season, in fact -- these great and powerful wizards of all things ranked have given us the following:

Perception vs. Reality
Data Team A Team B
W-L 11-4 13-3
InsideRPI No. 51 No. 6
Schedule Strength No. 95 No. 13
NonConf RPI No. 50 No. 10
NonConf SOS No. 206 No. 44
Home Record 9-1 8-1
Road/Neutral 2-3 5-2
InsideRPI No. 51 No. 6
vs. RPI Top 25 0-2 3-1
vs. RPI Top 50 1-3 5-2
vs. RPI Top 100 2-4 7-3

Up until two weeks ago, "Team A" was in the top 10. Only this week has it finally fallen out of the rankings (well, at least in the AP poll). And all it took were three 20-point losses in five games --plus a season-ending injury to a key starter -- for anyone to hit the down button on their poll elevator.

Meanwhile, you've probably already put 10 fingers on the identity of "Team B." Yep, it's the aforementioned Providence Friars. How anyone could compare the profile of Providence to the profile of "Team A" and come up with "unranked" and "Top 10" is beyond me.

But here's how it happens: "Team A" goes to the Final Four in 2002 and falls just one game short of a return trip in 2003. It loses pretty much every key player from the nucleus of those two great teams, but the "experts" ignore that and rank them so high to start this year that it takes more the half a season for perception to catch up with reality.

The world of Bracketology has no time for perception. Projected tournament selections and seedings are about performance, period. If you don't like where you team is this week, win a game or two (ideally away from home) and watch the brackets adjust. Ours is an extremely fluid process all the way to, and sometimes through, the conference tournaments. There is none of the multi-week lag we see so mind-numbingly often in the polls.

That's why my answer everytime someone asks: "Why isn't (or is) so-and-so ranked such-and-such?" is a simple one:

"Who cares?"

By the way, I don't have anything personal against "Team A," who if you haven't guessed by now is Oklahoma. But facts are facts, and the unnecessarily anointed Sooners -- barely a No. 11 seed this week -- could be making their last Bracketology appearance of the year.

Joe Lunardi is the resident Bracketologist for ESPN.com, ESPN Insider and ESPN Radio. He may be reached at jlunardi@comcast.net.

Joe Lunardi | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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