College Basketball Insider

Poll Attacks: Don't ever assume anything, Associated Press voters

You don't have to stay up late on Sundays to watch every single college basketball game. But you do need to at least check the box scores on Monday mornings. Otherwise, you might get featured in the Poll Attacks. That's the lesson this week, I think.

Let's get it.

Associated Press poll: Saint Mary's lost to South Carolina late Sunday in the Diamond Head Classic. Soon as that game went final, I knew I'd spend part of the Poll Attacks on the Gaels.

Why?

Because I knew there'd be some AP voter who went to sleep assuming Saint Mary's would beat a South Carolina team that entered with a 2-5 record, and that some AP voter would consequently put Saint Mary's on his ballot. And guess what? I was right again!

Fletcher Mackel works for WDSU-TV in New Orleans.

He did not check all of the relevant box scores this week.

That's the only explanation for him ranking Saint Mary's 22nd on his ballot after the Gaels lost to a South Carolina team that was coming off a home loss to USC Upstate and ranked 135th at KenPom.com -- especially considering Mackel didn't have Saint Mary's ranked last week. In other words, Mackel didn't rank Saint Mary's when the Gaels were undefeated and coming off a win at Boise State, but he did rank Saint Mary's immediately after a loss to a South Carolina team that entered on a three-game losing streak.

So how'd this happen?

I'd bet you every Christmas present under every tree in my home that Mackel simply decided, at some point Sunday afternoon, that he'd this week rank a Saint Mary's team he assumed would be 10-0 on Monday. Problem is, Saint Mary's isn't 10-0 and coming off a win over South Carolina. Saint Mary's is instead 9-1 with no great wins and a loss to South Carolina, and that's something Mackel quite clearly didn't take the time to so much as check before submitting his ballot, which is too bad. Because it literally only takes a voter a few seconds to make sure he isn't doing something so obviously wrong. I know that because I just did it. I went to Google's homepage and searched "Saint Mary's South Carolina." The final score was on my screen in fewer than three seconds.

(Update: So after this originally posted, Fletcher Mackel and I conversed, and he swore he was aware of Saint Mary's loss to South Carolina when he ranked the Gaels 22nd, meaning he did this on purpose. I pointed out to him that it's weird and rare for a voter to have a school unranked one week but ranked the next when all that team did in between was lose a game to a team ranked outside of the top 130. He said he understood that but added that he's still standing by having Saint Mary's ranked 22nd. So that's that, I guess. I don't get it, honestly; I think the "I fell asleep and didn't check the score" excuse is better than the "I did this on purpose" explanation. But whatever. Mackel was cool, and I think that's cool. And that alone will give him a pass in the Poll Attacks for at least the next month.)

Coaches poll: Saint Mary's received more votes in the coaches poll than it did in the Associated Press poll, which suggests most coaches are more careless than most writers (and just as careless as Fletcher Mackel). But I'm not interested in beating a dead Gael. I'd rather use this space to focus on another member of the West Coast Conference, specifically Gonzaga, because the Zags sitting at 21st in the latest coaches poll is undeniable proof that names and national brands do matter to some degree when it comes to this stuff.

How else to justify ranking Gonzaga 21st?

The Zags are 10-2 with no top-45 wins (according to KenPom.com) and two losses to schools (Dayton and Kansas State) that are unranked in both major polls and outside of the top 50 at KenPom.com, which means the Zags have two questionable losses and no notable wins to offset those questionable losses. Simply put, Gonzaga is still ranked only because it's Gonzaga. Give that exact resume to a lesser name, and nobody would even think of including that team on a Top 25 ballot. But Gonzaga is a brand, and it's pretty easy to spell. So why not rank the Zags regardless of the resume, right?


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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