Whether you love them, hate them, or flat out ignore them, polls in college basketball are a part of life and go a long way in dictating where teams shake out when March rolls around. The Associated Press poll is thought of as the gold standard when it comes to polls because it is these guys' job to sit and watch college basketball to be educated journalists. The beauty of the Internet is that, at the click of a mouse, we can access how each and every AP voter ranked the teams. Through the outstanding website Pollspeak, every voter's "record" is at our fingertips and it really is an outstanding case study of how people vote and how certain biases may or may not enter their voting patterns. Like it or not, these voters control how the nation looks at the college basketball landscape and they deserve as much scrutiny as the teams they rank. Now, most of the voters hover around a general region with individual teams. However, there are always extremes on both sides and that is what makes the polls so fascinating.
This time last year...
Sadly, we have hit the point in this story where the Zags began their mini-meltdown. After running the Cougars of Washington State out of their own gym, Gonzaga headed south for a date with the Wildcats of Arizona. The U of A was bolstered by their "big three" of Nic Wise, Chase Budinger, and Jordan Hill. Heading into the game, I would describe our confidence as very high for the game as it appeared the Zags had way too much for the thin Wildcats. This did not happen as Gonzaga's veteran big three of Josh Heytvelt, Micah Downs, and Jeremy Pargo combined to shoot 5-22 against Arizona. Austin Daye was the only Zag to show up as the Wildcats upset the fourth ranked Bulldogs. The next day, the pollsters dropped Gonzaga four spots to #8 and the slide began.
Moving on to this season...
Gonzaga's rise into the top fifteen was not so much a result of their outstanding play but rather the mediocre play of those in front of them. The two-loss Bulldogs are the highest ranked team on the West Coast as Washington is barely hanging on to their spot in the poll and everyone else in the Pac-10 is just struggling to right the ship. Here is a general look at some of the AP Poll stats.
-- There are 65 voters in this year's Associated Press poll
-- Of those 65; 60 voters decided the Zags were worthy of a spot in their rankings
-- Jon Wilner continues to be our favorite voter as he put the Bulldogs #11 this week
-- After last weeks loss to Wake Forest, 19 voters left Gonzaga out of the top 25, this week only five still need convincing. We'll examine some of the oddities of the poll after the jump.
For the past few weeks, I have been discussing the poll of one Mr. Cory Curtis from Nashville. I'm now happy to report that this will not be necessary as he has added Gonzaga and finally dropped Vanderbilt from his poll. Welcome to the good side, Cory.
Jon Wilner has been one of the most extreme voters this year and he kept it going this week. He ranked Syracuse #1, Florida #5, Memphis #9, and Gonzaga #11. On the reverse side, he ranked Kansas #3, Texas #7, Villanova #14, and Georgetown #19. The first group of teams were extreme on the high side and the second group was on the low side. If I had to guess, I think it's obvious that he hasn't been impressed with the quality of teams Texas and Kansas have played. Syracuse and Florida, on the other hand, have been two of the most surprisingly good teams in the country and have done their work against some solid competition. While it's hard to argue with his logic with those two teams, I still do think he has Gonzaga and Memphis too high considering GU is a two-loss team and Memphis really hasn't beaten anyone yet. Their most impressive game thus far was probably their two point loss to Kansas earlier this year. An interesting sidenote is that Wilner actually had Gonzaga ahead of Duke in this week's poll. Looks like someone won't be surprised if the Zags pull off the upset on Saturday.
Even though Cory Curtis is out of the doghouse, I have to stay out East with the poll I question the most. Of the five voters that left Gonzaga out of the top 25, Chris Lang from Lynchburg, Virginia had the most interesting poll in my estimation. Lang covers Liberty University for the Lynchburg News & Advance. Unlike Jon Wilner's poll, Mr. Lang is not a real progressive voter as most of his rankings are pretty standard with the rest of the nation. The only area of real interest has to be that he decided to put Washington at #14. This is the same Washington that has lost two games...the only two games which they have left the state of Washington for. What makes this ranking even more interesting is that he has UW four spots ahead of Texas Tech...the team that beat Washington and has still yet to lose a game. Thankfully, Mr. Lang was kind enough to explain his rankings on his blog, here is what he had to say:
I’m not as sold on Gonzaga and Georgia Tech as the rest of the voters are, apparently. I’d like to see Georgia Tech beat someone before I rank them. Gonzaga is up there on the strength of its name and its title in the Maui Invitational, but that field wasn’t as good as we originally thought. I’ve really warmed up to Georgetown, and Kansas State had a great week last week beating Xavier and UNLV. Cincinnati would have been at No. 24 had it closed out the Musketeers Sunday night. Great double overtime game. Love that Crosstown Shootout in Cincy. And Missouri State? Well, I was pretty high on Tulsa at the start of the year and Missouri State beat the Golden Hurricane, so I’ll keep the Bears at No. 25 as long as they remain unbeaten. A Missouri Valley team tends to make noise every year in the NCAAs, and the Bears look pretty strong to this point. Memphis is ranked pretty much entirely on its effort against Kansas. I know it was a loss, but the Tigers are the only team to give the top-ranked Jayhawks a game.
Looking at Georgia Tech's schedule, you kind of have to agree with Lang as their only quality win thus far is over Siena but, in this twisted logic, you would have to say that Washington has beaten no one but he has them fourteenth. He really must dig Georgetown as he actually moved the Huskies UP after their loss to the Hoyas from 15 to 14.
As for his claim that Gonzaga is ranked high because of its name, I also find that peculiar. On Gonzaga's resume is a very close loss in East Lansing against Michigan State, and then wins over Wisconsin, Cincy, and Washington State. I normally wouldn't have the MSU loss on the resume but since he was so impressed with UW's losses to Tech and G-Town, I figured I should include them. He kind of shrugs off the Maui title like it means nothing but he was obviously impressed with Cincinnati as they lost to Xavier and he has to factor in the fact that Wisconsin, a team GU dominated, upset Duke. Aside from Vanderbilt who has been horribly average, I'd argue that the Maui field has exceeded my expectations thus far.
The good thing is that Gonzaga has a chance on Saturday to prove to everyone, even those in Lynchburg, that they belong when they take on Duke at MSG.