That’s Debatable: What We’ve Learned…

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009


Each week RTC will posit a That’s Debatable question or topic that is relevant to the world of college basketball.  Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, we’ll post the thoughts from our core editing crew (in 200 words or less), but we’ll also be expanding to include our contributors and correspondents as appropriate throughout the season.  We also invite you, the readers, to join us as we mull over some of the questions facing the game today.  Feel free to send us your takes and/or leave them in the comments below.

This Week’s Topic: Now that we’re through the majority of the early-season tournaments and the calendar has turned to December, what have you learned from the first several weeks of the season?

zach hayes – editor/contributor, RTC

I’ve learned that the Big Ten may be actually be overrated for once. Purdue picked up a quality win against Tennessee and Michigan State survived Gonzaga at home, but it was a very rough week overall for the conference. Michigan barely beat a Creighton team that ended up losing to Iona and finish in 8th place at the Old Spice Classic, then were crushed by Marquette and fell to Alabama. Illinois saw their freshmen guard duo take some serious lumps in stunning defeats to a down Utah team and Bradley. Minnesota fell to both Texas A&M and Portland in Anaheim. Northwestern’s stock dropped with Kevin Coble’s season-ending injury and their two wins this weekend over two likely-NIT teams in Notre Dame and Iowa State in Chicago aren’t that impressive. Penn State fell to UNC-Wilmington and Tulane in Charleston two weeks ago when Ohio State got demolished by a flawed North Carolina squad. The prevailing thought around college basketball is that the Big Ten can’t play up to the level of other conferences like the ACC, Big East and Big 12. While this year was supposed to change that notion, it has, frankly, only done the opposite for the conference as a whole. Winning the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the first time would certainly change some people’s minds, including myself.

john stevens – editor/contributor, RTC

I’ve learned that, as of right now, the last ten teams listed in any Top 25 you can find are an absolute crap shoot.  If you examine the few polls we’ve had this season, you’ll see that pretty much everyone agrees on the first 15 teams, and after that… we don’t know.  It’s chaos.  I can’t remember a season where we’ve seen such craziness in the bottom half of the polls.  This week’s AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls are great examples.  In the AP, six of the bottom 11 teams are different from the previous week, five in the ESPN/USA Today.  California sits at #25 in the ESPN poll, #37 in the AP.  Four of the new teams in the AP poll LOST last week but still got in (two in the Coaches’), while unbeaten Oklahoma State sits at #26 in both.  This is all something to celebrate rather than lament, as it just means that there are more really good teams out there than a Top 25 poll can accommodate.  I’ll gladly buy any stock in Siena, Dayton, and Mississippi State if anybody’s selling, and you can come see me again in March.

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Preseason Polls Released

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2008

Prediction:  by the end of the first week of December, UNC will no longer be #1 in the major media polls.

No way, there’s too much pressure and they have too many good teams to handle before we even get our advent calendars.  Oh, and did you hear, a small piece of their offense will be out for a while with a stress reaction?  Even if this substantial piece never misses a game, which is extremely unlikely, he’s going to miss practice and be out of ‘game shape’ for a while.  And no, we’re not talking about Marcus Ginyard, but his loss hurts too.

Here’s Carolina’s early schedule – you tell us how they’re going to come out of this unscathed…

  • v. Penn  (11.15.08) – easy enough at home, right?
  • v. Kentucky (11.18.08) – this home game suddenly becomes extremely interesting if TH is out or still ailing – Patrick Patterson will wipe up the inside.
  • @ UCSB  (11.21.08) – UNC fans will remember the west coast stopover game before Maui in 2004-05 well.  Trap game.
  • @ Chaminade  (11.24.08) – Maui Invitational first round – easy W.
  • v.  Alabama (probably) (11.25.08) – UNC should be careful to not sleep on an athletic Bama team, but will probably win regardless.
  • v. Notre Dame/Texas (probably) (11.26.08) – either of these teams could defeat a less-than-full-strength UNC in Maui.
  • v. UNC-Asheville  (11.30.08) – easy home win.
  • @ Michigan St. (Detroit) (12.03.08) – 40,000 people could watch this game at Ford Field, and UNC will absolutely need to be at full strength to win this game vs. MSU.

There are at least three opportunities for the major upset here, and if Hansbrough and/or Ginyard are out for any of those games, go ahead and mark it down.  UNC will not enter the second week of December #1 and unbeaten.

Now, on to the polls, where UNC was a unanimous #1 in the AP Poll for the first time EVER (nope, not even 1991 UNLV, 1992 Duke or 2007 Florida), and also unanimous in the Coach’s Poll.  No pressure or anything…  FYI – UNC has been preseason #1 six times in its history (incl. this year) – the results of those seasons are: 1982 (Natl. Champs), 1984 (S16), 1987 (E8), 1994 (R32), 2008 (F4) – all that’s missing is a first-round loss or a title game loss.

Here are the polls.

We plan on doing some broader-based analytics of preseason polls in a general sense next week, but for now, here are a few things that we noticed right away.

  • Biggest jumps from AP to Coaches – Georgetown (+4) and Duke (+3)
  • Biggest drops from AP to Coaches – USC (-3) and Wake Forest (-3)
  • Coaches tend to vote by available talent + belief in other coaches’ abilities – what does this say about Tim Floyd and Dino Gaudio in relation to JT3 and Coach K?
  • Overrated – UConn, Duke, Oklahoma, USC
  • Underrated – Wisconsin, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga
  • All 25 teams in both polls are duplicates, but it’s interesting that Xavier was #26 in the AP vs. #30 in the Coaches.
  • We’re a little surprised to not see St. Mary’s and Baylor ranked over teams like Villanova and Kansas, but whatever, that’s their poll, not ours.
  • Alabama gets 16 AP votes but a donut in the Coaches – Mark Gottfried, much?  And LSU is getting too much love for simply getting a new coach.
  • Conference Breakdown – Big East (7 + 2 others receiving votes); ACC (4), Big 10 (3), Big 12 (3), Pac-10 (3), SEC (2), CUSA (1), SoCon (1), WCC (1).
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Preaseason AP Poll!

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2007

Same drill as last week…

AP Poll - Preseason 07-08

Quick thoughts:

  • UNC still #1, with a clearer mandate in this poll, with 5 more #1 votes than UCLA
  • The top 10 teams are in exactly the same order as the Coaches Preseason Poll
  • Georgetown’s #1 vote replaces Kansas’s single #1 vote (from the coaches poll)
  • Variance is minimal – the biggest difference is NC State (#21 AP; #24 Coaches)
  • The only different teams in the Top 25? K-State is #25 in the AP, Villanova #25 in the Coaches (each is #26 in the other poll)
  • Mining the OTR shows a few differences of opinion:
    • Huggins’ WVU squad got 20 media votes but nary a single coaches vote
    • Mizzou (8) and Vandy (6) are a couple of the other notables that received some media love but none from the coaches; on the other side of things, Bradley (7) and Utah (4) were the top vote-getters from the coaches that got nada from the media
  • Nothing else too exciting that we didn’t already mention in the Coaches Poll review, although we still think USC and NC State are incredibly overrated
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Coaches Poll!

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2007

Per ESPN today…

ESPN Coaches Poll - Preseason 08

Initial reactions:

  • UNC is #1, yet UCLA garnered more first-place votes (12-10).
  • 9 of the top 10 match the online Blogpoll – the one difference is that coaches like Indiana more than Marquette. Fwiw, so do we. (come on blogpollers! We should represent the non-MSM contrarian voice!)
  • Did the coaches go with the “name” programs over Calipari’s squad at #1? Interesting that the bloggers voted Memphis a solid #1 while UNC/UCLA were left behind.
  • Only one coach agreed with us that Kansas is preseason #1 (Bill Self?), although we aren’t predicting KU to win it all.
  • Buy: Oregon (mighty mite Tajuan Porter!), Gonzaga (magic mushroomania), Texas (hey mr. DJ put that record on…), S. Illinois (you sexy mother Falker!), Davidson (spicy Curry), VCU (Eric Maynor alone is worth more than five votes).
  • Sell: Duke (anxiously awaiting the Brian Zoubek experiment), USC (Young+Pruitt > Mayo+Jefferson), NC State (folks, they were 5-11 in the ACC last year!!), Alabama (no Steele = no chance).
  • Conference breakdown (top 25, all 54 teams receiving votes): Pac-10 (6, 8), Big East (5, 8), ACC (3, 6), Big 12 (3, 5), SEC (3, 6), Big 10 (2, 5), MVC (1, 2), CUSA (1, 1), WCC (1, 1), Colonial (0, 3), WAC (0, 3), A10 (0, 2), Mountain West (0, 2), Horizon (0, 1), Southern (0, 1).
  • Word to the Colonial and WAC with three teams each receiving votes even though none are in the Top 25.
  • Is there any value in this meaningless poll whatsoever? Some. Last year the top 6 (and 8 of the top 10) in the preseason coaches poll finished in the top 11 of the final poll (before the NCAA Tournament), and every team in the final top 11 had been ranked somewhere in the top 25 before the season started. Additionally, all four F4 teams were ranked in last year’s preseason top 8 (#1 Florida, #4 Ohio St., #5 UCLA, #8 Georgetown).
  • Only six of the preseason top 25 last year didn’t make the NCAA Tournament (#7 LSU, #12 Alabama, #16 Washington, #18 Connecticut, #20 Syracuse, #23 Creighton), so that’s fair evidence that the coaches (at least last year) have a bit of a clue. Note we said only a bit.
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08.03.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 3rd, 2007

Heading into the weekend…

  • Joakim Noah’s sister can dunk!  Actually, we’re not convinced that this video shows a girl, but if it is, the third dunk (two-hand chin-up) is pretty sick.  We’ve never seen a girl dunk like that before. 
  • UNLV coach Lon Kruger is resting comfortably after a six-bypass open heart surgery procedure yesterday.  Best wishes on a speedy recovery to another one of the good guys in the coaching world. 
  • Bruce Pearl’s Tennessee squad is heading to eastern Europe for 11 days starting next Wednesday.  Often these trips help experienced teams get a leg up on their competition.
  • And the winner for Best College Sports Town is Gainesville, Florida…  In other news, having sex is considered fun
  • Lorenzo Romar signed a nine-year extension that could keep him at UW through 2016. 
  • Our gridiron brethren have released their preseason Coaches Poll – USC is #1, but who is the jokester that gave Duke a top 25 vote – Steve Spurrier?    
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