Reactions to the College Basketball AP Top 25 Poll for Week 7

    The latest college basketball AP Top 25 poll was released Monday and the most notable changes in the poll were defending national champion Villanova

    December 17, 2018

    The latest college basketball AP Top 25 poll was released Monday and the most notable changes in the poll were defending national champion Villanova falling out of the rankings after two losses last week and recent No. 1 team Gonzaga falling to No. 8 after a two-game skid of its own.

    Here are our reactions to the latest AP Top 25 poll.

     

    The Big Ten’s strong start continues

    Seven teams ranked in the latest AP Top 25 are from the Big Ten with Maryland second among other teams receiving votes and Purdue seventh. That means half of the conference is currently ranked and 10 of the Big Ten’s 14 teams received votes this week’s poll.

    The Big Ten may not be the best conference in the country — kenpom.com gives that distinction to the Big 12, and the fifth-highest ranked ACC team (No. 13 Virginia Tech) is ranked ahead of the third-highest ranked Big Ten team (No. 15 Ohio State) — but it might be the deepest. It has 12 teams ranked in the top 50 on kenpom.com and even Big Ten cellar dweller Rutgers (No. 109 on kenpom.com) is knocking on the door of being ranked in the top 100.

    Michigan has beaten North Carolina. Michigan State has beaten Florida, UCLA and Texas. Wisconsin has beaten NC State and Oklahoma. Indiana has beaten Marquette, Butler and Louisville. Ohio State has beaten Cincinnati and Creighton.

    The conference’s non-conference wins — individually and collectively — look strong as the calendar year comes to a close. Barring some sort of conference-wide collapse in the next two weeks, the Big Ten should be positioned to resume conference play with the majority of its teams in contention for an NCAA tournament bid.

     

    What is Nevada’s ceiling in the AP poll?

    The Wolf Pack only has six games left in the regular season against opponents ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com. Nevada plays Utah State (No. 52), Fresno State (No. 65) and San Diego State (No. 100) twice each in Mountain West play.

    Nevada is one of nine undefeated teams left in the country and it’s ranked No. 6 in the AP Top 25. That’s not to say that it’s some sort of injustice that the Wolf Pack isn’t ranked higher, but it’s fair to wonder how it’ll be treated in the poll over the course of the season.

    Depending on how the three aforementioned Mountain West teams finish the season, Nevada may not have any more opportunities for “good wins” — at least compared to those available in the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten, for example. What the Wolf Pack does have is a schedule littered with “land mines” — games that would be classified as a “bad loss” if Nevada slips up.

    With three of the five teams ranked ahead of Nevada also having undefeated records and the Wolf Pack’s schedule offering fewer potential good wins and more potential bad losses than its top-ranked peers, it’s fair to wonder how high Nevada can climb in the AP poll, unless it goes something like 29-2 (or better) in the regular season.

     

    Let’s think about the criteria for the AP Top 25

    You could argue the AP Top 25 poll and its consumers would benefit from some sort of voting guidelines that would clarify if the poll ranks the 25 best teams, the teams with the 25 best resumes, the teams with the 25 highest ceilings, or some other qualification.

    After Gonzaga lost at North Carolina, the Bulldogs dropped from No. 4 to No. 8 and the Tar Heels climbed from No. 12 to No. 9. So the order of the AP poll goes No. 7 Auburn, No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 9 North Carolina in the back half of the top 10.

    That’s not particularly surprising given the way AP poll voters typically fill out their ballots. If a team wins, it usually climbs — or at the very least, stays in the same spot in the poll. If a team loses, it drops.

    But there are arguably some logical flaws in the order of those three teams — Auburn, Gonzaga and North Carolina. Especially early in the season, rankings can be based largely on teams’ records rather than the quality of wins and losses.

    Auburn has a 9-1 record compared to the 9-2 record of Gonzaga and North Carolina’s 8-2 record. But the Tigers lost to the same Duke team on the same neutral court that Gonzaga beat the Blue Devils on one day later. Auburn’s best win is against Arizona (No. 54 on kenpom.com) and it has four wins over teams ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com.

    The Zags’ can match Auburn’s two best wins — over Arizona on a neutral floor and against Washington at home — but they’ve also beaten Duke and won at Creighton (No. 38 on kenpom.com), so they have two better wins than Auburn’s best win and two more wins over opponents that are ranked in the top 100 on kenpom.com.

    So sure, Auburn has a better record, but Gonzaga has better wins and it seems silly to punish the Bulldogs for scheduling games against and losing to Tennessee on a neutral floor and North Carolina on the road.

    If Gonzaga’s better resume isn’t enough to put it ahead of Auburn, then the voters must be collectively voting on which teams are the best in the country and they think Auburn is better than Gonzaga, right?

    But then why isn’t North Carolina ranked ahead of the Gonzaga team it just beat?

    Like we stressed last week, the AP Top 25 poll has minimal tangible impact on the sport, but it’s great for water cooler discussions and conversations on message boards. There’s still two-thirds of college basketball’s regular season remaining, so with more games, we’ll learn more about how the teams in the top 10 compare to one another.

    But maybe it could save a lot of people a lot of headache if there was an official voting guideline so that fans knew exactly why their team is ranked (or not ranked) where it is in the latest AP poll.

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