Reactions to the Week 6 College Basketball AP Top 25 Poll

    There's a good chance the Gonzaga or Virginia fan in your life is upset this afternoon and we're willing to commiserate. The latest college basketball AP

    December 10, 2018

    There’s a good chance the Gonzaga or Virginia fan in your life is upset this afternoon and we’re willing to commiserate. The latest college basketball AP Top 25 poll was released Monday and Gonzaga is ranked two spots behind Duke, which has the same record as the Zags team that beat the Blue Devils on a neutral floor, and Virginia dropped two spots despite being undefeated.

    Here are our reactions to the latest AP poll.

    Let’s take a step back and think about the actual impact of the AP poll

    It’s not fair to say the AP Top 25 poll is meaningless. It often decides which teams appear on the scrolling ticker at the bottom of television screens and which games show up first on apps that fans use to check scores.

    It’s a big deal for Buffalo to be ranked No. 14 and that Furman is No. 23. The Bulls had never been ranked before this season and neither had the Paladins. It’s a benchmark for unprecedented success at both programs and provides valuable exposure in recruiting and positive buzz for the fan base.

    But overall, the AP poll’s impact is limited. It plays no role in the selection or seeding of teams for the NCAA tournament. We’d caution against overreaction to Monday’s AP poll or any week’s poll for that matter.

    What is the tangible difference, for example, between being ranked No. 3 and No. 5 in the AP poll?

    Sure, it can be confusing for Gonzaga fans to wonder how their Bulldogs dropped three spots — two spots behind the Duke team Gonzaga beat less than three weeks ago — after a one-possession loss to Tennessee on a neutral floor, and for Virginia fans to see their Cavaliers drop two spots to No. 6 after winning two games to improve to 9-0 since the last AP poll was released.

    You could argue that No. 3 Tennessee (7-1), No. 4 Gonzaga (9-1), No. 5 Michigan (10-0), No. 6 Virginia (9-0) and No. 7 Nevada (10-0) could each individually make a case that it deserves to be ranked higher than its current position.

    Some AP poll voters rank teams based on who they think is best. Others vote based on teams’ resumes. Some use a composite of the two. It’s beneficial to have writers vote in the AP poll from different parts of the country who have watched different teams play in person and who have different thought processes when it comes to their ranking of teams. That shouldn’t take anything away from Tennessee’s win over Gonzaga, Virginia’s undefeated start or any other gripe that college basketball fans might have with the order of the top 25 teams in the latest AP poll.

    Would Kentucky be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll if its name was different?

    We’ll listen to our own advice and not overreact to Kentucky being ranked No. 19 in the latest AP poll after its overtime loss to Seton Hall on Saturday. But if you looked at the Wildcats’ resume and separated their name and brand from their results, you could reasonably argue they haven’t played like a top-25 team.

    On the surface, a 7-2 record might seem worthy of inclusion in the poll. After all, there are eight teams ranked in the latest AP Top 25 poll that are 7-2 or 8-2.

    But Kentucky’s best wins are against UNC Greensboro and Southern Illinois, and both games were closer than the final score would suggest. All seven of its wins have come at home, including four against teams ranked outside of the top 275 on kenpom.com. The Wildcats have lost to the two best teams they’ve played — 118-84 to Duke and 84-83 to Seton Hall — in their only two games away from home.

    What makes Kentucky’s resume better than Syracuse (7-2), Iowa State (8-2), Nebraska (8-2), Kansas State (6-2) or Indiana (8-2), which have similar records and adjusted efficiency margins?

    You can argue Kentucky is benefiting from its name and preseason No. 2 ranking as it stayed firmly in the Top 25 after its latest loss. That’s not to say Kentucky can’t prove its merit — it plays North Carolina and Louisville away from home later this month — or improve with its young roster over time, but through nine games, the Wildcats’ resume leaves a lot to be desired.

    There’s a three-way tie for 25th

    It’s not uncommon to see two teams receive the same number of votes in the AP poll. For example, you might see two teams ranked No. 9, meaning there wouldn’t be a team ranked No. 10 for that week. But this week there was a three-way tie (!) for the final spot in the poll with Syracuse, Indiana and Kansas State all receiving 118 votes.

    Nebraska was only three votes shy of making it a four-way tie.

    The Orange returned to the Top 25 after falling out following consecutive losses to UConn and Oregon. Kansas State barely stayed in the AP poll after a road loss to Tulsa — its second straight road loss — and Indiana made its debut in the poll in the Archie Miller era after a road win at Penn State, followed by a victory at home over Louisville.

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