Poll Attacks: One voter in the AP Top 25 has four Big Ten teams ranked -- but not first-place Michigan State
The Spartans were left off one ballot even though they're in first place in what is the nation's best conference
Michigan State started this season 5-3 with losses to Duke, Kentucky and Virginia Tech. It was so uneven, not to mention surprising, that, at one point, I dropped the Spartans completely out of the Top 25 And 1.
But a lot has changed since then.
Michigan State is 9-1 in its past 10 games with victories over five top-40 KenPom teams. As a result, the Spartans are now 14-4 overall and alone atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 league record -- which is among the reasons why they were safely in Monday's updated Associated Press Top 25 poll.
MSU is No. 11 this week.
No thanks to Sam Blum, though.
In a move best described as confusing, Blum, a fine reporter for the Dallas Morning News, is the only AP voter not ranking Michigan State. He did, however, rank four other Big Ten teams -- Iowa, Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland -- which means he's ranking four Big Ten teams not named Michigan State even though Michigan State is alone atop the Big Ten standings and ranked ahead of every other Big Ten team in Sagarin, KenPom, Torvik and the NET. The Spartans are No. 6 in Sagarin, No. 7 at KenPom, No. 7 in Torvik and No. 8 in the NET. So they're top 10 across the board but still absent from Blum's latest ballot.
What in the world?
Blum is ranking Liberty, Northern Iowa and East Tennessee State while omitting Michigan State. And though I could easily explain in great detail why that makes little sense, I have no interest in picking apart true mid-majors who cherish the exposure. So I'm not going to do that. But what I will do is take the one power conference team Blum is currently ranking that I'm not currently ranking -- Arizona -- and show why there's no sensible way to have Arizona on a Top 25 ballot ahead of Michigan State right now.
(To be clear, I have no issue with somebody ranking Arizona even though I'm not ranking Arizona because ranking Arizona is totally defensible. So that's not what this is about. This is about Arizona being ranked on a ballot that omits Michigan State because that's not defensible at all.)
Michigan State is three spots ahead of Arizona in the NET, four spots ahead of Arizona in Torvik, seven spots ahead of Arizona at KenPom and 11 spots ahead of Arizona in Sagarin. So Michigan State is ahead of Arizona in the computers. Beyond that, Michigan State has six top-40 KenPom wins and zero sub-55 losses while Arizona has just two top-40 KenPom wins and two sub-55 losses. In other words, Michigan State has better wins than Arizona and better losses than Arizona.
But what about the NET, you ask?
Michigan State is 4-4 in Quadrant 1 opportunities. Arizona is 1-4. Michigan State is 8-4 in Quadrant 1/Quadrant 2 opportunities. Arizona is 3-5. So it really doesn't matter how you slice it. There is no way to intelligently rationalize having four Big Ten schools ranked ahead of Michigan State and/or having Arizona ranked ahead of Michigan State given the things that have happened in this season to this date. That's why literally no other AP ballot has four Big Ten schools ranked ahead of Michigan State and/or Arizona ranked ahead of Michigan State.
Sam Blum's ballot is the only one doing either.
I'm sure he has his reasons. I'm just not sure I'd understand them.
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