Blog Entry

The Poll Attacks

Posted on: November 23, 2009 9:19 pm

I still have North Carolina ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one).

I'll explain why in the Poll Attacks .

AP poll: Do we suddenly believe Duke is better than North Carolina?

If so, I'm fine with it.

It's a reasonable opinion.

But most people didn't believe that in the preseason, and the majority of AP voters didn't believe it last week. Still, Duke jumped North Carolina in Monday's AP poll even though the only thing that happened between last week and this week is that North Carolina played Ohio State and Syracuse, i.e., two teams far superior to any team Duke has played. That's it. Thus, I kept UNC ahead of Duke in the Top 25 (and one) because I'm not going to vault the Blue Devils ahead of the Tar Heels -- who beat OSU but lost to Syracuse -- and rearrange the ACC's predicted order of finish simply because Duke's schedule didn't require it to play tough games before Thanksgiving.

Honestly, where would the Tar Heels be with Duke's schedule?

They'd be 4-0, right?

And where would Duke be with UNC's schedule?

Maybe 5-0. But probably 4-1. And perhaps as bad as 3-2.

Either way, if you had UNC ahead of Duke last week, and you moved Duke ahead of UNC this week despite agreeing with me that Duke would probably be no better than 4-1 against UNC's schedule, then your change atop the ACC is based on how the schedule makers at Duke and UNC did their jobs, and little more.

Again, if you think the Blue Devils are better than UNC, that's fine.

They might well be.

But if you only moved Duke ahead of UNC because Duke won last week and UNC lost last week, then your rankings have more to do with the schedules than the teams, and that's crazy.

Coaches poll: So what do you think California has to do to drop out of the rankings?

Losing a key player (Theo Robertson) to injury didn't do it.

Looking awful in two games in NYC didn't do it.

Being 2-2 with no good wins didn't do it.

So what will it take?

No question, Cal could end up being one of the best 25 teams in the country, at which point ranking the Bears 24th might make sense. But the coaches ranking them 24th now makes no sense unless what happens on the court doesn't actually matter. And it's not just that Cal lost; the nation's 24th-best team could reasonably lose to Syracuse and Ohio State. But Cal had no shot in either game, losing to the Orange by 22 points and falling behind by 24 points in the second half of an eventual loss to Ohio State. And though the absence of Robertson is a solid explanation, it's not like Robertson is back this week.

He's out indefinitely.

California should be, too.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: November 25, 2009 7:08 am

The Poll Attacks

Alright, Gary, I'll buy your rebuttal that you were eyeing up teams from the same league.  UNC staying above Duke makes sense to me at this point in time.

But using some of your logic, shouldn't Syracuse then jump Villanova?  Syracuse has had a much tougher schedule and has dispatched its opponents rather handily.  I don't actually think the 'Cuse is better than 'Nova, but if we're looking at who you've played so far and how well you've done, you have to give Boeheim's team the nod so far.

In addition, wouldn't Notre Dame rise above Georgetown?  ND hasn't played any monster teams, but neither has G'Town-- and G'Town has played less games so far.

Since: Nov 24, 2009
Posted on: November 24, 2009 7:07 pm

The Poll Attacks

The logic really isn't so much flawed... Purdue just played and won a big game last night: they beat #9 Tennessee; North Carolina played and lost to a then unranked Syracuse team.  Purdue making the one rank move from #7 to #6, ahead of North Caroline, is certainly justified.

Since: Dec 15, 2006
Posted on: November 24, 2009 5:52 pm

The Poll Attacks

Once again, dook has played UNC-G, Coastal Carolina, Charlotte, and Radford.  I'd like to see them play teams like Ohio State and Syracuse who have superior athletes.  Dook has no one who can guard guys like Evan Turner or Wes Johnson.  The lack of athleticism on that dook team is going to catch up to them very soon.  I also love the fact that dook is so high on its post players.  Like another poster stated earlier, this is the same dook team we've seen for many years.  K will be forced to change that lineup when dook plays real competition, which probably won't happen until the ACC season starts given that dook's schedule is so weak.  K is already playing Scheyer and Singler for 30 plus minutes per might.  Those guys are going to be gassed by February. 

With this UNC team, I'm ok with them taking a few losses in November and December.  The competition against other top 15 teams will only help this team get better.  Dog Larry Drew II, Marcus Ginyard, Will Graves, John Henson, and Dex Strickland all you want.  UNC doesn't need those guys to be superstars when Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, and Tyler Zeller can do the heavy lifting.  UNC did just lose four starters from its Nat'l Championship team.  Anyone who expected UNC to pick up where they left off was delusional.  I'm excited to see what dook fans have to say about the Zoubek, Plumlee and Thomas experiment when dook plays a real team.  If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Singler heading back to the blocks and Zoubek and Thomas hitting the bench come January.

Since: Nov 10, 2009
Posted on: November 24, 2009 3:03 pm

The Poll Attacks

If you would watch Duke this year, Singler is not playing a post position, rather a small forward 3 spot. Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Zoubek and Thomas have been in a constant rotation in teh 4 and 5. That is why they are so much better than last year already, in addition to the great development of Nolan Smith (2 out of 3 career 20 point games have come this year so far). Add to these changes the fact that they are running a motion offence instead of the drive and kick of years past, resulting in more points inside the arc than in past years.

IMO, this team is not as good as last years 30 win team, though i think if they do improve they will do better in the tourney, as far as an elite eight. But at this point in the year, it is way to early to tell.

Since: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: November 24, 2009 1:46 pm

The Poll Attacks

This was probably your weakest edition of The Poll Attacks.  I, in fact, moved Duke ahead of UNC figuring Duke is disciplined enough to not turn it over 20+ times a game, and although they lack depth at the guard position, they at least have experience and solid play back there.  Honestly, I do believe Duke can beat UNC, and could possibly be 5-0 against UNC's schedule, but we already know UNC isn't good enough to endure it.

Since: Jan 14, 2008
Posted on: November 24, 2009 1:19 pm

The Poll Attacks

Just to inform everyone that may not be aware...Purdue beat #9 Tennessee.  I think they have justified there ranking. 

Since: Jan 26, 2007
Posted on: November 24, 2009 11:59 am

The Poll Attacks

Different year, same Duke.  They will be very strong in the early months and win a majority of games in November, December, January, and February.  Then when it comes down to the home stretch, they are done, especially NCAA time.  The problem is that they don't get any better over the course of the year.  The better programs get better throughout the year, but Duke looks the same in March as they do in November.  So enjoy your early season success and your high rankings, because everyone knows that once Duke starts missing a couple of 3's in the tournament the season is over.  Singler isn't a legit big man and the rest of their post players aren't very good.  Same Duke, different year.

Since: Nov 27, 2006
Posted on: November 24, 2009 11:36 am

The Poll Attacks

I like Syracuse and think that they were underrated but I still don't think that they should be ranked ahead of Louisville.

I think that a lot of teams could beat UNC. They lost everybody and their brother (something like 65 points per game) from the awesome National Championship team.

Louisville beat Bellarmine and Syracuse lost to Lemoyne. No comparison by that criteria.

Since: Jan 5, 2009
Posted on: November 24, 2009 11:09 am

The Poll Attacks

The real item deserving scrutiny is what precisely merits anyone to rank above Villanova or Syracuse? If the polls are more than just an educated guess..that is, guesses consistatnly revamped due to evidence.. then Syracuse and Villanova and maybe MSU would merit being ranked 1-2-3.

As in: Wow, Syracuse proved itself, as of right this moment, as in, poll-time.. to be not only a team which looks like it is good.. but with results to prove it. Who has proven itself to this degree; with those results?

Because, if KU is #1 (and Kentucky is # whatever, and anyone above Syracuse is where they are) because it was thought to be that good, and the proof of if it is perhaps as good as, or better than Team X (Syracuse) or Y (Villanova) is not really there... and THAT thinking not proven or disproven trumps results and proof (even proving previous guesses wrong, aka Syracuse being maybe #24, 25, 30 whatever) then we have a problem. And we need to admit a few things:

1) Preseason thoughts have a ripple effect throughout the year lending undue and ridiculous narrative that is at odds (or, bolsters) results throughout the actual year the actual playing of the games.

2) This can in fact, doom a team which finds itself near the bubble near the end of the year.

What is a poll then? When are the poll attacks NOT subjective?

Since: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: November 24, 2009 11:07 am

The Poll Attacks

I get where you're trying to go with this, but reality gets in the way of any sort of cogent argument. First, you limit this to teams within a conference: this is completely capricious and arbitrary. The exact same argument you made related to Duke does certainly apply, for instance, to Purdue, whom you defend elevating above UNC on playing no one. You say you're only talking about within a conference. That would be fine if there were a reason for such a limit, but there is none. Teams are all playing exclusively non-conference games at this point, so limiting this thesis to a conference makes no more or less sense than limiting it to teams with blue on their uniforms.
Second, your premise requires that voters can only evaluate based on win-loss record and strength of opponent. Voters could reasonably have watched UNC play, and watched Duke play, and concluded that Duke is better. You state "Either way, if you had UNC ahead of Duke last week, and you moved Duke ahead of UNC this week despite agreeing with me that Duke would probably be no better than 4-1 against UNC's schedule, then your change atop the ACC is based on how the schedule makers at Duke and UNC did their jobs, and little more." This is not a fair statement at all. Perhaps voters think Duke would likely have lost to Syracuse in a close game, and looked better in losing. In that case, switching them was correct.
I'm not here to defend the poll voters, and it is so early in the season it barely matters anyway. But when you come up with a column idea, please take the time to think it through -- if what initially seemed like an interesting point gets lost amid reality, give it up and come up with something else.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or