Posted on: February 22, 2010 4:37 pm

The Poll Attacks

The same guy giving Mississippi State points has Duke ranked 12th.

He's a perfect target for the Poll Attacks .

AP poll: The only school receiving points in the AP poll that isn't also in Jerry Palm's latest Projecting the Field is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs got five points, and I had to know who gave those five points to them. So I did some investigating and discovered it was Ron Morris of The State newspaper in South Carolina. But when I saw his ballot I forgot about Mississippi State pretty quickly, because the Bulldogs' presence wasn't even the dumbest thing there.

The dumbest thing on Ron's ballot was Duke all the way down at No. 12.


Duke at No. 12?

Look, I admit, there are lots of ways to rank teams. You can rank with an emphasis on recent performances, rank using entire bodies of work, rank with your eyes, etc. But there's no way to rank teams that could lead to any reasonable human having Duke 12th.
The Blue Devils are 23-4 and in possession of the nation's second-best RPI. They're leading the ACC, they have NINE wins over projected NCAA tournament teams -- Gonzaga, Charlotte, Clemson (twice), Wake Forest, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Virginia Tech -- and only one loss to a team not projected to make the NCAA tournament (North Carolina State). All four losses came on the road. And yet Ron has Duke two spots behind Michigan State, a team with seven losses and just THREE wins over projected NCAA tournament teams.

I'd love to hear the explanation for that.

Coaches poll: Nobody loves Butler more than I love Butler.

I love the tradition, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Brad Stevens, the type of student-athletes on the roster, Gordon Hayward, the Bulldog mascot, and even Indianapolis ... or at least I favor Indianapolis over Detroit as a Final Four destination. Again, I heart Butler. But the Bulldogs' body of work is ho-hum at best, which is why their No. 10 ranking in the coaches poll is ridiculous.

Butler has topped exactly two teams (Ohio State and Xavier) good enough to earn at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, and the win over OSU came while Evan Turner had a broken back. In fact, Butler is just 2-2 against schools included in Jerry Palm's latest Projecting the Field thanks to wins over Siena and Ohio State (minus Turner, I can't remind you enough) and losses to Clemson and Georgetown. The Bulldogs have additional losses to Minnesota and UAB. So how that translates to a Top 10 ranking is one of the week's great mysteries.

It reminds me of Memphis last season.

The Tigers struggled in the non-league part of their schedule -- lost to Xavier, Georgetown and Syracuse -- and were unranked when league play began. Then they ran through a bad C-USA, stacked wins and moved up the rankings in an undeserving manner before Missouri ran them off the court in the Sweet 16. This is exactly the same. Butler was unranked heading into its first Horizon League game, but the Bulldogs have defeated one bad team after another and similarly moved up the rankings in an undeserving manner.

Simply put, Butler's ranking doesn't match Butler's accomplishments.

I like the team.

And, for what it's worth, I think this Butler team is better than last year's Memphis team.

But 10th in the country with that body of work is way too high.

I have the Bulldogs 22nd.

That's closer to accurate.
Posted on: February 9, 2010 1:17 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2010 1:18 pm

Where's a nice place in Austin to watch Izzo?

AUSTIN, Texas -- Bad weather has made my trip to Michigan State impossible.

So the second game of my three-games-in-three-days trip is off.

I'm stuck in Austin.

Thus, I'll miss tonight's Purdue-Michigan State game, but I'll still be at Duke-North Carolina on Wednesday. The plan is to stay the night here, then fly to UNC early tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll be accepting recommendations on good spots in Austin to watch Purdue-Michigan State, and dreading a 5 a.m. wake-up call that will most certainly be miserable.
Posted on: February 1, 2010 8:00 pm

The Poll Attacks

President Obama attended the Georgetown-Duke game.

He must've taken Pat Ridgell's seat.

And his TV.

And his internet service.

I'll explain momentarily.

It's time to Poll Attack!

AP poll: Georgetown is 16-4 with wins over four ranked teams while Duke is 17-4 with just one win over a ranked team. When you combine that nugget of information with the fact that two of the Hoyas' four losses are to the teams ranked second (Villanova) and third (Syracuse) nationally, it's simple to see that Georgetown owns the superior body of work.

And then there's this: Georgetown just beat the absolute dog crap out of Duke.

The final score was 89-77.

But it wasn't really as close as that might indicate.

And yet Pat Ridgell from the Daily Times-Call in Colorado somehow came to the conclusion that Duke should be ranked ninth on his ballot -- four spots ahead of No. 13 Georgetown. How could that possibly be defended? He's also got Gonzaga ranked ahead of Georgetown, and that seems even crazier considering the Zags are 17-4 with a loss to San Francisco and a 35-point loss to Duke, i.e., the same team that just lost by 12 to Georgetown .

Truth is, I like all three teams -- Georgetown, Duke and Gonzaga.

I have them all ranked.

But I have them ranked in that order -- No. 8 Georgetown, No. 10 Duke and No. 20 Gonzaga.

If you have those teams in any order besides that order, you've made a mistake.

An obvious and ridiculous mistake.

Coaches poll: So I finally got Louisiana Tech out of the "Others Receiving Votes" part of the AP poll, but the Bulldogs are still getting votes in the Coaches poll, even after Saturday's 91-77 home loss to New Mexico State. It's incredible that somebody continues to rank this team, and what's even more incredible is that Louisiana Tech got three points last week and four points this week, meaning the Bulldogs actually gained a point after a double-digit home loss to a New Mexico State team that entered with a 12-8 record.

My God.

But I'm over Louisiana Tech.

What I want to know is how Connecticut got six points.

What stupid coach is voting for UConn?

The Huskies are 13-8 with one win over a ranked team (Texas) and four losses to unranked teams (Cincinnati, Michigan, Providence and Marquette), and they were on a two-game losing streak entering Monday night's game with Louisville. If you had a Top 35 ballot you'd have a hard time getting Connecticut on it.  So I can't figure out how a coach -- i.e., a man with a college degree and some presumed basketball knowledge -- could put UConn on a Top 25 ballot ... unless, of course, it's the same coach who's still voting for Louisiana Tech.

In that case, it makes perfect sense.
Posted on: January 19, 2010 12:54 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2010 1:58 pm

Dear Gary (on why I have Duke ahead of Syracuse)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: How can you have Duke ahead of Syracuse?

-- Every Syracuse fan on the planet

Emails and Tweets including those words started arriving Sunday shortly after I updated the Top 25 (and one), and they haven't really stopped. I ignored them for a while, then started looking at it from every angle. And what I've found, I hate to admit, is that you guys are right, that there's no real way for me to justify Duke ahead of Syracuse.

Now let me explain what happened.

When Syracuse lost at home to Pitt on Jan. 2, I dropped the Orange to No. 9 while Duke came in at No. 5. Duke was 12-1 with its lone loss coming at Wisconsin, and Syracuse was 13-1 with its lone loss coming at home to Pitt. At the time, the home loss to Pitt looked bad, because nobody (except AP voter Roger Clarkson, of course) thought Pitt was good. Then the Blue Devils lost at Georgia Tech the following weekend, but they still had three wins over teams I had ranked Jan. 10 (Connecticut , Gonzaga and Clemson) while Syracuse only had one win over a team I had ranked Jan. 10 (North Carolina). So I considered that, decided the home loss to Pitt was still kind of questionable, and gave the edge to Duke.

I had Duke No. 6 and Syracuse No. 7 on Jan. 10.

Which brings us to this past week.

As you know, Syracuse won at Rutgers, then won at West Virginia while Duke beat Boston College and Wake Forest. Meantime, Duke's win over UConn started looking worse (because UConn has now lost three straight), and Syracuse's loss to Pitt started looking better (because Pitt has now won eight straight). Bottom line, Syracuse went to bed Sunday with a 17-1 record featuring two wins over teams I currently have ranked (No. 11 West Virginia and No. 24 North Carolina) while Duke went to bed Sunday with a 15-2 record featuring two wins over teams I currently have ranked (No. 14 Gonzaga and No. 15 Clemson).

Clearly, Syracuse has the best win (at West Virginia).

Clearly, Syracuse has fewer losses.

And though I suppose I could argue that losing a home game to No. 8 Pittsburgh is worse than losing road games at No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 23 Georgia Tech, I'm not sure I believe that to be true. Thus, I acknowledge, that what I should've done after Syracuse's win at West Virginia was jump the Orange over the Blue Devils, put Syracuse fifth and Duke sixth, then debated whether to put Syracuse ahead of Villanova, too.

In other words, you're right.

Is it close?


But, I agree, Syracuse should be ranked ahead of Duke right now.

I got it wrong.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Duke, Syracuse
Posted on: December 14, 2009 10:15 am

We are about to experience a boring five days

You can tell finals are happening on many campuses because the games this week are terrible.

Nobody wants to travel.

Nobody wants to compete.

A quick glance of the schedule shows there are no matchups between Top 25 teams between now and Saturday. Nothing Monday night. Or Tuesday night. Or Wednesday night. Or Thursday night. Or Friday night. The next time two ranked teams play each other will be Saturday afternoon, when North Carolina and Texas meet at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. We also have Duke-Gonzaga on Saturday. But until then, prepare to be bored.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 8, 2009 4:35 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2009 4:42 pm

Dear Gary (on ranking Duke ahead of Wisconsin)

NEW YORK -- Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Duke ahead of Wisconsin? I thought you said the games matter?

-- Jeff

Yes, the games do matter.

And, yes, that's what I wrote.

But let's not omit the details. Here's exactly what I wrote in the Nov. 30 Poll Attacks : "Head-to-head competition (particularly on a neutral court) should serve as a tiebreaker when two schools' bodies of work are similar. "

Now let's look at Duke and Wisconsin.

(All rankings used below are current AP rankings)

That Duke-Wisconsin game -- won 73-69 by Wisconsin -- was not played on a neutral court. It was played at Wisconsin, meaning Duke's 7-1 record consists of a 68-59 win over No. 14 Connecticut, two other wins over teams receiving votes in the AP poll (Charlotte and St. John's), and a four-point loss at Wisconsin. Meantime, Wisconsin's 6-1 record features a 73-69 win over No. 8 Duke, no additional wins over teams receiving votes in the AP poll, and a 13-point loss to No. 21 Gonzaga on a neutral court.

Now look again at what I wrote: "Head-to-head competition (particularly on a neutral court) should serve as a tiebreaker when two schools' bodies of work are similar. " Simply put, I do not believe Duke's and Wisconsin's bodies of work are similar. I think Duke's is better. And the head-to-head competion didn't take place on a neutral court like the Florida-Michigan State game or the Syracuse-North Carolina game. It took place at the Kohl Center, i.e., a place where the Badgers are 124-10 during the Bo Ryan era.

So that's why I have Duke ranked ahead of Wisconsin.

Because I believe Duke has the better body of work despite the loss to Wisconsin.

(NOTE: I know the next email is going to be somebody asking why I have Wisconsin ahead of Gonzaga even though Gonzaga beat Wisconsin on a neutral court, and to that, I say, fair question. There's no doubt it's closer, which is why I have the Badgers and Zags much closer than I have the Badgers and Blue Devils. But, similarly, I just believe Wisconsin has a better body of work than Gonzaga. The Badgers have a 6-1 record as opposed to Gonzaga's 6-2 record, and the Badgers only loss came to a ranked team on a neutral court while one of Gonzaga's two losses came to an unranked team (Wake Forest) at home. To me, that's the difference. But again, it's close. And if somebody had Gonzaga ahead of Wisconsin, I wouldn't Poll Attack them for it.)
Posted on: December 1, 2009 2:29 pm

Dear Gary (on Duke and UNC)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary : You made a big deal about Duke jumping North Carolina in the polls last week, and yet you jumped Duke ahead of North Carolina in the Top 25 (and one) this week. What happened to make you change your mind?

-- Dean

What happened?

Duke went to New York, beat Arizona State and Connecticut, that's what happened.

My initial point was that we shouldn't punish the Tar Heels and drop them to second in the ACC just because they tested themselves in New York with games against Ohio State and Syracuse (beat OSU, lost to the Orange) while Duke had yet to test itself at all. But that changed when Duke played Arizona State and UConn and won both somewhat easily. Now Duke has at least one quality win (to match UNC's quality win over Ohio State), but it doesn't have a loss like UNC's loss to Syracuse.

Advantage: Duke.
Posted on: November 24, 2009 11:31 am
Edited on: November 24, 2009 11:31 am

Dear Gary (on the best games for this week)

Here's Tuesday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: What game are you most looking forward to this week? I, for one, am digging my Minnesota Golden Gophers testing out a big-time program in Butler on Thursday night. Your thoughts?

-- Magee

I'll be in Anaheim for the 76 Classic, so I'll see Minnesota-Butler. It should be great, as will the entire event. Six of the eight participants made the NCAA tournament last season, four of the eight are currently ranked in the AP Top 25 (specifically No. 8 West Virginia, No. 12 Butler, No. 19 Clemson and No. 22 Minnesota). So regardless of how this unfolds, it's going to be tremendous. The championship game is slotted for Sunday night. Butler against either Clemson or West Virginia would probably be the most intriguing matchup.

Elsewhere, we could get UConn vs. Duke on Friday night in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-off.

That would be excellent.

Looking forward to Florida-Florida State tonight, too.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com