College Basketball Insider

Poll Attacks: You really dropped Pitt for losing at Syracuse?

How bad should a team be punished for playing Cuse close on the road? (USATSI)
How bad should a team be punished for playing Cuse close on the road? (USATSI)

I'll never understand voters who drop teams on their ballots for doing nothing more than losing competitive games to higher-ranked teams on the road. But I'm glad those voters exist. They make the Poll Attacks easy work. Let's get it!

Associated Press poll: I kept Pittsburgh out of the Top 25 (and one) for a good while this season because the Panthers started unranked and didn't schedule aggressively enough early to get the kind of wins that make me reevaluate what I think I know about a team.

Some Pitt fans didn't like my approach.

But most of the reasonable ones seemed to understand.

Either way, I moved off of that at some point because while one school after another was taking one bad loss after another, the Panthers just kept winning, pounding opponents, really, and the result was a 16-1 record heading into Saturday's game at Syracuse.

Pitt lost that game Saturday.

You probably heard.

But it's sometimes possible to enhance your reputation in a loss, and the Panthers did that at the Carrier Dome. They led in the final five minutes and nearly dealt the No. 2 Orange their first loss. Consequently, the Panthers are higher today in the Top 25 (and one) than they were before the loss at Syracuse, and they're higher in the AP and Coaches polls, too.

Which brings me to David Southorn.

He had Pitt ranked 23rd on last week's ballot.

But he has Pitt unranked on this week's ballot ... because, apparently, the Panthers losing a close game on the road to a team ranked No. 2 convinced Southorn that they no longer deserved to be ranked 23rd, 24th or even 25th, and this approach to ranking has forever made me crazy. It's one thing if you've never ranked Pitt because you're uninterested in ranking a team that has zero top-50 RPI wins; I could actually, on some level, understand that. But what I can't understand -- because it makes no sense -- is dropping a team from 23rd to unranked when all that team did in the week between ballots is win at Georgia Tech and lose a competitive game to an undefeated Syracuse team ranked second nationally. If you thought Pittsburgh deserved to be ranked 23rd last week, why in the world would a close loss at Syracuse convince you otherwise? You telling me Pitt needed to upset the No. 2 team in the country on the road to keep its 23rd ranking? Isn't that ridiculous and illogical?

Of course it's ridiculous and illogical.

And you know what makes Southorn's ballot wilder?

He had UCLA ranked 24th last week. The Bruins then went and lost to an unranked Utah team that's 133rd in the RPI. So Southorn must've also dropped UCLA off of his ballot, right? Wrong! He merely dropped UCLA from 24th to 25th, meaning Pitt's loss at Syracuse hurt Pitt more on Southorn's ballot than UCLA's loss at Utah hurt UCLA on Southorn's ballot.

Coaches poll: I'm not going to get worked up about Stephen F. Austin receiving a point in the coaches poll because ... who cares, right? It's just one lousy point, meaning some coach somewhere placed the Lumberjacks 25th on a ballot, and I'm sure the coach in question would defend his decision by saying that he was just "throwing a small school a bone."

Or something like that.

I'm confident the coach would say it doesn't matter.

And perhaps it doesn't.

But it absolutely could matter -- especially in a week like this week when Oklahoma and Michigan are tied for 25th with 88 points each. What if the coach in question has Stephen F. Austin on his ballot instead of Oklahoma or Michigan? That one so-called throw-away point given to a Southland school with zero top-100 RPI wins (and losses to Texas and an East Tennessee State team that's rated 242nd) would then represent something that actually changed the order of the poll, and that would mean that it did matter.

So that's something voters should probably keep in mind.

If you don't care, then you don't care.

That's fine, I guess.

But the idea that a throw-away vote to an undeserving team doesn't matter isn't necessarily true. There are weeks when it could matter, and this week might be one of those weeks.


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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