Poll Attacks: It's ridiculous that an AP Top 25 voter left Kansas, Duke and Tennessee off his ballot
Why a voter in the AP Top 25 was the only one who left the Jayhawks, Blue Devils and Vols out of his rankings
Graham Couch is the reason.
For those unfamiliar, Couch is a good columnist for the Lansing State Journal in Michigan, as well a fine podcast host, and I mean those things sincerely. He's not one of the many AP voters who spends little-to-no time on his ballot each week. He's not somebody who doesn't take his responsibilities seriously. But for reasons that make no sense to any sensible person, he has a rule that prevents him from ranking teams that haven't played a true-road game by a certain point in December. And it's that rule that led to him submitting a ballot this week that omitted No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 8 Auburn and No. 11 Texas Tech.
Simply put, this is a dumb rule that leads to stupid results.
Which is not to suggest everybody should take the same approach to ranking basketball teams because everybody doesn't, and that's fine. Some people value complete bodies of work over everything else. Fine. Others mostly disregard long-ago results and focus strictly on how teams are playing in the present. Fine. Others list teams in a best-to-worst order based on what they believe would happen if games were played on neutral courts. Fine.
To each his own.
And I'm also not going to pretend it's wrong to have some guiding principles when it comes to ranking teams because lots of people do, and that's fine too. Some refuse to ever drop a No. 1 team unless it loses. Fine. Others refuse to punish a team for losing a competitive game it was supposed to lose. Fine. Others will not rank a team that's outside of the top 100 at KenPom because advanced numbers suggest anybody outside of the top 100 at KenPom isn't actually close to being one of the 25 best teams in the nation. Fine.
Fine and reasonable, all of it.
But not ranking undeniably great teams with terrific records and quality wins on their resumes only because they haven't played a true-road game by some arbitrary date you created is neither fine nor reasonable. It's ridiculous. More specifically, it's a mind-boggling example of an AP voter trying to punish programs for not doing something they're not actually required to do -- and it really isn't much different, in design, than having a rule that prevents you from ranking undeniably great teams with terrific records and quality wins on their resumes because they don't shoot enough 3-pointers or something. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Again, no school in the nation is required to play non-league road games -- and the growing number of high-profile neutral-court opportunities available to the sport's biggest brands has actually decreased the number of opportunities for non-league road games to be scheduled. Regardless, Couch mostly ignores this fact and just insists that "to avoid playing on another team's campus altogether is a sin of cowardice," which is obviously nonsense. I mean, do you really believe Mike Krzyzewski was brave enough to commit to putting his team in the Champions Classic each season against other blue-blood programs, and brave enough to commit to placing his team in the Maui Invitational this season -- with Gonzaga, Auburn, Arizona, Iowa State, Xavier, Illinois and San Diego State -- but too scared to schedule, I don't know, a road game at Tulane? Because a road game at Tulane, by Couch's own admission, is literally the only reason he believes Florida State can be ranked this week but Duke cannot. Because Leonard Hamilton courageously scheduled a road game against a Tulane team that's currently 3-6 and ranked 210th at KenPom.
Meantime, Mississippi State has played exactly zero top-40 KenPom teams while Kansas has played three in the top 35. But, according to Couch, Kansas can't be ranked this week because playing and beating Tennessee, Michigan State and Marquette doesn't qualify you for his ballot unless you also played somebody on the road. He has Mississippi State 15th on his ballot, though, because the Bulldogs, who still have zero top-40 wins, were brave enough to play a road game last month against a Dayton team that's currently 5-4 and ranked 75th at KenPom.
I could keep going.
But we're all on the same page here, right?
Couch's rule is the most nonsensical rule any AP voter has ever publicly admitted to enforcing. It's his attempt to punish coaches for not doing something they're not required to do that they've also decided isn't in the best interests of their programs in any given year. And considering the coaches in question this week are Bill Self, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Barnes, Bruce Pearl and Chris Beard -- i.e., super-successful coaches across the board -- it would be hard to argue their approaches aren't working well.
Bottom line, messing with the integrity of the AP poll because you disagree with some coaches' approaches to non-league scheduling is weird and wrong no matter how strongly you feel about it. It's not the biggest deal in the world, I don't guess. But it is the absolute dumbest thing in this world of ranking college basketball teams, and nothing else is really even close.
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