This week Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Wichita State, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Arizona State all got banged up by opponents both weak and strong. More than ever the sport needs a way to differentiate one win from another and, just as importantly, one loss from another. It isn’t enough to demote this week’s losers and backfill with last week’s losers who happened to win this week. That’s what the polls do and as a result, they end in a tangled mess like cold angel hair pasta.
Typically, I ignore the voting polls because they are so far from reality that they are irrelevant, but the broadcasters continue to display rankings from one unscientific poll or another next to the names of the teams being broadcast so I feel compelled to point out a few of their discrepancies.
Duke is seriously underrated. The Blue Devils are the most talented team in the country, but they also lack depth and focus (four freshman starters). Sometimes they play up to their ability and sometimes they don’t. Saturday they didn’t. Duke lost on the road to a mediocre St. John’s team and the polls punished them severely (AP #9). We have them at #2 though they’ve lost ground to #1 Villanova. When the full body of Duke’s work is taken into account, not just a bad game two days ago, they are still second best. Second best deserves a #1 seed in the tournament but Duke will be a longshot to win it all precisely because of their lack of depth.
There are now six teams that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field—Villanova, Duke, Purdue, Virginia, Cincinnati and Michigan State, in that order, please—and one of them will likely win the tournament. Four of the teams are one dimensional: Duke and Purdue are great on offense, Virginia and Cincinnati are great on defense. Two teams play radically up and down: Duke and Michigan State. Two teams have dangerously short benches: Duke and Virginia. You begin to get the picture: Villanova is the only multi-dimensional team with a reasonable bench.
Auburn is the best of the rest at #7 and they are finally getting some love from the polls. The rest of the polls are a toddler’s mess. Gonzaga (RPG #8, polls #12), Wichita State (RPG #10, polls #22), Tennessee (RPG #11, polls #15), West Virginia (RPG #14, polls #19), Miami (RPG #17, polls #25), and Texas A&M (RPG #21, unranked by the polls) are all underrated by the polls. On the other hand, Xavier (RPG #12, polls #5), Kansas (RPG #13, polls #10), Texas Tech (RPG #15, polls #7) and Arizona (RPG #16, polls #13) are overrated by the polls. Two other anomalies: Arizona State is unranked in the polls but we have them ahead of Oklahoma which is #17 in the polls. Texas A&M is unranked in the polls but we have them ahead of Kentucky which is #24 in the polls.
Obviously poll voters are looking at factors that are very different from the scientific metrics we measure. See this weeks rankings and last week’s game grades at www.nemosnumbers.com/basketball-rankings/.