Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tenth Place, After All!

So the Big East coaches had it right all along: UConn is the 10th-place team in the Big East. At least that’s where the Huskies are right now. (Actually, they’re in a three-way tie for eighth, but if you check the Big East standings, they’re in the 10th position).

Just another example of how incredibly strong the conference is this season. Jim Calhoun made a great point the other night: the Huskies will almost certainly be a higher seed for the NCAA tournament (right now probably a four or five) than for the Big East tournament (right now, 10th).

As for my Top 25 this week … this was a tough one. It really was.

Who do I rank No. 1, after my (and seemingly everybody else’s) top four teams (Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Texas) all lost over the prior seven days?

Can I actually keep Ohio State at the top after a loss, again, for a second straight week? Yeah, I could. But I won’t. There’s no great shame in losing on the road to E’waun Moore … er, Purdue, and the final score (76-63) didn’t necessarily indicate how close the game was. Nevertheless, a 13-point loss is a 13-point loss. Bye, bye Buckeyes.

Kansas? The Jayhawks looked pretty good blowing out Colorado on Saturday, but looked just as bad getting popped by a disappointing Kansas State team a few days earlier.
Texas? Sorry, I’m not as big on the Longhorns as a lot of people. They’ve got four losses, most recently on Saturday to Nebraska. I mean, come on … Nebraska? I know the Cornhuskers are a borderline bubble team, but … Nebraska? Who’s their center, Dave Rimington?

Can I vault San Diego State, Duke or BYU (my No.’s 5, 6 and 7, respectively) up to the top spot? I’m not prepared to rank San Diego State No. 1, despite the fact that they’re the nation’s lone one-loss team and No. 3 in the RPI. BYU, either.
Duke certainly gets some consideration. Duke, after all, is Duke. They’re on TV more often than ‘Leave it to Beaver’ re-runs. They’re 24-2. But … the ACC is pretty down this year. Not this week.

So that leaves a somewhat unconventional choice: Pittsburgh. Yeah, they lost to St. John’s on Saturday in the Garden but, lately, who doesn’t? Duke did. So did UConn, Georgetown and Notre Dame. The Johnnies are good, and they’re real tough at home. Still, if Dwight Hardy’s reverse layup with 1.2 seconds left goes in and out, the Panthers are 25-2, 13-1 in the Big East and probably atop of a lot of voters’ Top 25.

Oh, and Pitt has also beaten Texas this year.

Here’s my main rationale: Pitt is the best team in by far the best conference in America. That’s good enough for me. Not sure if many other voters will think the same way, so if you see in tomorrow’s AP rankings: 1. Pittsburgh (1) … yup, that’s me.

Elsewhere, I’ve righted a wrong and got Vanderbilt ranked this week. I’m always slow on warming to them, but the Commodores are worthy. I’ve booted out St. Mary’s and Coastal Carolina, which left one other spot open (along with Vandy). I narrowed it down to two: St. John’s and George Mason. Big East or UConn fans’ biggest nightmare?

I went with the Big East. Best conference in the land. (And don’t look now, but Cincinnati is knocking at the Top 25, too).

My top 25:

1. Pittsburgh (24-3)
2. Ohio State (25-2)
3. Kansas (25-2)
4. Duke (25-2)
5. San Diego State (27-1)
6. Texas (27-4)
7. Brigham Young (25-2)
8. Purdue (22-5)
9. Florida (21-5)
10. Georgetown (21-6)
11. Notre Dame (21-5)
12. Arizona (23-4)
13. Louisville (20-7)
14. Connecticut (20-6)
15. Wisconsin (20-6)
16. Missouri (21-6)
17. Villanova (21-6)
18. Kentucky (19-7)
19. Utah State (25-3)
20. Vanderbilt (20-6)
21. Texas A&M (21-5)
22. Syracuse (22-6)
23. North Carolina (22-6)
24. Temple (21-5)
25. St. John’s (17-9)



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