Tuesday, February 15, 2011

5 comments Why Isn't It The Top 30?

First, a note of business. For those of you that have subscribed to Bottom of the Barrel by email (the link to do so is on the right side of the page), you may have noticed that it stopped working. Well, have no fear. I have resolved the issue. However, you will not receive email updates on every post until you resubscribe. I apologize for the inconvenience.

For those of you who have not subscribed via email, let me be the first to tell you that you are missing out. I, like most people, am lazy. So lazy that sometimes I ignore my favorite blogs only because I do not feel like visiting 10 different web pages every time I go on the computer. ESPN.com, CNN.com and Gmail are more than I can handle. If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, email is the cure.

Bengoodfella's post on Sunday (on rushing the court) left me with unreconciled thoughts. On the one hand, excessive court-rushing defeats its purpose: to celebrate an unusual event. On the other, I understand the impetus as a student. It's not as if each school is rushes the court with each victory. As outside observers, it seems like a daily occurrence. In reality, most students won't have the honor more than 2 or 3 times during their college careers.

Although a team may not have suffered historically, the majority of fans are college students who only recently became fans. Part of me wants them to have their glory. College is a time for creating the "remember when we" stories. If you take away the court rushing, you take away the passion of the game. And let's be honest: the reason why we love college basketball is not for it's skill. It's something more. Every player cares. Every coach cares. Every fan cares. Hoards of business men do not fill the seats. Without the obscene chants, heavy drinking and absurd intensity, the college game loses its distinct flavor.

But then I wavered again. I am Wisconsin fan (my brother is an alumnus) and, based on this weekend's events, a proud one. But even I admit that defeating Ohio State for the umpteenth time at the Kohl Center did not constitute an overly impressive achievement. This was no Patriots/Rams Super Bowl upset. It was more like Steelers/Seahawks. But the biased judgments of the ranking system clouded our view of the game. #1 vs. #14. A big difference, it seems. But is it really? Realistically, the polls serve no purpose. They are a small and insignificant factor in determining the participants in the NCAA tournament.

The top 25 is a fabled group with extreme exclusivity. Teams 26-30, just on the edge, receive zero recognition. And with no public visibility comes no buzz. No buzz, no discussion. No discussion, decreased chances of making the tournament. Despite the selection committee's every attempt to neglect media influence, it will always play a role. Even the top 25 polls, as determined at the beginning of the season, are in itself flawed. From year to year, college teams change personnel at a rate only matched by the NFL. To arbitrarily create rankings that significantly sway opinion and discussion is to do a disservice to the game of college basketball.

If you're outside that top 25, it's like you do not exist. I'm not just talking about the top 25 bubble teams. Think about teams in the 50-60 range. Although RPI supposedly fills this void, it falls into the trap of the BCS. There must be some human element. When 25 teams have a number stamped onto the beginning of their abbreviation, they automatically achieve a subconsciously elevated level.

Imagine if we applied the NCAA rules to the NFL (I chose the NFL, and not the NBA, because of the similar player turnover and change in power teams). A team like Kansas City, with a presumably poor preseason ranking, would have missed the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Buccanneers, only eliminated by a mathematical difference, would not have even entered the conversation. In short, preseason rankings would seem arbitrary, cruel and not conducive to equality. The NFL possesses too much year-to-year parity for such a system to legitimately function.

Every year college basketball experts weigh different factors to determine a tourney field, one of which is record against the top 25. Yet the top 25 is an ever-changing range. A win against a hot team that fizzles out towards the end of the season loses weight. The only honest judgment stems from assessing a certain team at a certain time, not how it finished the season. Overall record is only an average of past events. To ignore contemporary circumstances is to ignore the true impact of a win or loss.

I understand why we rank teams. It makes life easier. We have an inherent need to compare. LeBron or Kobe? Manning or Brady? These are everlasting questions that will never settle on an answer. For the sake of college basketball, I have one request. Rank every team, or rank no one. When an unranked team defeats a ranked one, we label it as an upset. But what if the #26 team #24? Or even #35 over #20? Are these monumental defeats?

Let's go back to the Wisconsin/Ohio State game. Ohio State was undefeated, and Wisconsin was a 5 loss team. Ohio State was ranked #1. Wisconsin was ranked #14. By the end of the season, this one win will not make or break Wisconsin's season. But what if the #151 team defeats the #40 team? As of now, it's no biggie. Neither has a number next to their name. But that second game will impact the 151st ranked team in a much more significant manner.

Realistically, it's nearly impossible to rank all 300-some-odd NCAA Men's Basketball teams. There are too many to track. Too many conferences, too many players. So I say just get rid of the damn thing #26 deserves as much recognition as #25.


Martin F. said...

I remember when it was jsut a Top 10. I'm so old. Then it was Top 20. Now it's Top 25. Just go Top 67 or whatever the number is that "make it" into the Tourney.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin F, I hate the polls. They drive me crazy. I think college basketball should do what I want college football to do and that is not have a poll for three weeks after the season starts.

What is annoying is the talk about "who is #1?" in the polls. It doesn't matter a certain point. Sometimes I feel like the certain point is "ever."

rich said...


I wouldn't mind them, but they have huge implications on the BCS games (and therefore money) that teams get.

I feel like I'm beating a dead horse now, but Florida started the year off ranked 4th, USC 16th, Texas 5th.

Now obviously there are teams that are disappointments and don't meet expectations, but why do the polls need to have any bearing on anything until we know how good teams actually are?

Like you, I find it hard to listen to all of the "who is #1?" Talk. Who cares? In college football, being number 1 isn't that big of a deal b/c you still have to beat number 2 to win the NCG. In basketball, 67 teams make the tournament and four teams get 1 seeds. Is the "true" number 1 really that special?

The only thing I hated about Wisconsin beating OSU is the incessant talk about who was worthy of being the new number 1...

Dylan said...

Martin F,

As you can tell, I detest the polls. And sooner or later the tourney will be up to 128 teams.


I'm not opposed to the three weeks idea. It could put an interesting spin on things. Although experts would love debating the #1 even more when that first poll came out.


It's a fun horse to beat. Especially in college basketball, where these rankings have no impact whatsoever. That's why I just want them to be completely eliminated or applied to every team.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I agree with you. I don't think you are beating a dead horse, I think you are correct. Wait three weeks and then do the polls. That's all I want.

I saw that "who is #1" question in nearly every college game. It was insane. Just put a team there and that team will most likely lose at some point. Even the best teams lose 3-4 times a year in college basketball anyway.

Dylan, I will never want a 128 team field. I feel like this is an idea a person like Bill Simmons could get behind. You know, someone who doesn't watch that much college basketball but will look at it from the "how much fun would it be" point of view. 68 teams is plenty. No team outside of the 68 can win the National Championship.

To me, it just makes sense to wait a few weeks for the first polls to come out. How can you rank teams you've never seen play?