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Pitt 12th in Final Coaches' Poll (Bonus Rant!)

April 6, 2011

ESPN/USA Today released the final Coaches’ Poll of the season yesterday afternoon.  The Top 10 were as follows:

1. UConn
2. Butler
3. Kentucky
4. Kansas
5. Ohio State
6. VCU
7. Duke
8. North Carolina
9. Arizona
10. Florida

Yes, the previously fourth ranked Pitt Panthers are missing from the Top 10.  They are now 12th.  San Diego State, who lost in the Sweet 16 and were previously ranked 5th, where are they?  11th.

Deep breath.


As the season goes on, you get pretty familiar with how the polls work.  A team wins a game and they hold steady in the polls unless teams infront of them lose, in which case they move up only a couple spots.  If a team loses, they drop a proportional number of spots to if it was a good or bad loss…usually in the range of 5 spots per week, give or take.

Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily go that way, and fans are upset.  For instance, when Duke was voted #1 despite Pitt having more first place votes a few weeks back.  When that happens, at least the fans can sit back and say “These rankings don’t necessarily mean anything, we have a tournament to decide the champion at the end of the season. What we really want is a 1 Seed.  This isn’t college football.”

Exactly.  This isn’t College Football.  Why do we need an end of season poll, or even polls at all?  The AP doesn’t put out an end of season poll.  Their final poll is released just before the NCAA tournament begins.  Why?  Because they realize they are irrelevant and the tournament decides everything from that point on.  Teams may play 1 game or teams may play 7 games over the next 3 weeks.  A champion is crowned.  If a team loses, that team says they made it to the Sweet 16, Elite 8, or Final 4.  They don’t say they finished 7th in the Coaches’ Poll.

Yet ESPN and USA Today try to make College Basketball into College Football…and fail miserably.  Some will argue that a poll is a ranking of teams at a current moment in time.  You can’t honestly throw out the regular season and tell me that VCU is the sixth best team in the country.  They went on a five game win streak.  Using the last AP Poll before the NCAA tournament (there was no Coaches’ Poll after the conference tournaments/before NCAA tournament), only 2 of the teams they beat were ranked.  Yes, those two of them were in the Top 15, I know.  But that should not propel any team from not receiving any votes up to the 6th best team in the country.  When it’s all said and done, VCU is an 11 loss team.  All of the other double-digit loss teams are ranked 19th or higher in this poll.  I’m just sayin…

That brings me to Butler.  The Coaches voted Butler the #2 team in the country.  No way.  What they did to get to the championship game in consecutive years was very impressive, yes.  But if this was a regular season game between #1 UConn and #2 Butler, and Butler scored only 41 points after shooting 18.8%, they would not remain #2, not a chance in hell.  They would be in the back end of the middle third of the Top 10.

For those of you who may want to argue that Butler should be #2 to end the season, consider this. Before the BIG EAST Tournament, Pitt was #3 and lost to #21 UConn.  UConn jumped to #9, Pitt dropped 1 spot to #4.  Following the NCAA Tournament, in which Pitt won a game and then lost by 1 point to now #2 Butler, Pitt dropped to #12.  That does not make sense.

This is not meant to take away anything from Butler or VCU.  This is intended to point out just how flawed of a system the polls are.  The ideas and concepts that can be counted on to hold (mostly) true throughout the season were just blown out of the water in the final Coaches’ Poll.  Why?  Because most coaches voted the four teams in the Final Four as the four best teams in the country.  That is flawed reasoning.  They are just the four teams remaining in a single elimination tournament.  However, this is just one of many examples of flawed reasoning that is applied every week by coaches and writers when they do vote.  It’s a good thing these polls don’t matter.

We applaud College Basketball for having a championship, say how great it is to have this tournament, and beg and plead for College Football to adopt this playoff system and do away with the BCS, why do we continue to feel the need to cram College Football rankings into College Basketball when its obviously a broken system and makes no sense?



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