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Fun with rankings

College basketball rankings are so damn strange.

Look, I know that they don't mean jack until March.  Their main goal is to stir up debate and interest in the sport.  But they are very influential.  Would Duck fans be celebrating the UCLA win as much if they weren't the #1 team in the country?  Probably not.  The rankings do serve a very symbolic purpose even if, unlike football, they will not ultimately determie the champion.  It still is very significant to the fans of a program if there school is in the top 25.

However, there are so many issues with the rankings, I wouldn't even know where to begin.  One of the main issues is why the rankings start in the preseason.  However, if we all agree that the only real purpose of the rankings is to create discussion and interest in the sport, why would they not start in the preseason.

But here is something I have been thinking about a lot in the wake of the Oregon/UCLA game:  why is it that after a loss, the voters automatically assume that they have to vote a team down.  Specifically if that team is the number one team.  Case in point.

Week 9 AP Top 5             Week 10 AP Top 5

  1.  UCLA, 13-0                1.  North Carolina, 14-1
  2.  North Carolina, 12-1            2.  Florida, 14-2
  3.  Florida, 12-2                3.  Wisconsin, 15-1
  4.  Wisconsin, 14-1            4.  UCLA, 14-1
  5.  Duke, 12-1                5.  Ohio State, 13-2
Okay, so if UCLA had won at Oregon instead of lost, we would generally agree that UCLA would still be the #1 team in the country.  However, because they lost, voters felt the need to move them down to #4?  Are you trying to tell me that a three point swing at Oregon is the differnce between the best and the fouth best team in the country?  What?

Okay, so what happened last week to change the rankings so dramatically?  Lets talk about the four teams in question, UCLA, UNC, Florida, and Wisconsin:

UCLA:  Took care of business at Oregon State.  Lost by two in one of the five most hostile environments in the country, to a team that also happens to be the 17th ranked team in the country.  Really, this is not a bad loss at all for UCLA, especially considering they have already beaten four ranked teams this year (Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, and Washington), and have also beaten Washington State, who has since entered the rankings.  Its a pretty impressive resume.

UNC:  Won a pair of home games against powerhouses (cough) Penn and Florida State.  Their one loss came on a neutral floor to Gonzaga, who was ranked #23 at the time.  A decent loss, nothing to be ashamed of, but certainly not the same as beating Oregon in The Pit.  NC only has two wins against ranked teams, Tennessee and Ohio State, although, like UCLA, they have beaten Kentucky, who was unranked when they played.  They have a decent resume, but clearly one that pales in comparison to UCLA's.

Florida:  Also jumped ahead of UCLA by winning home games against Liberty and Georgia.  Like NC, nothing that screams "move this team up."  Their resume?  Only one win against a ranked team (Ohio State).  Two losses.  On a neutral floor against then #12 Kansas, and at Florida State.  I know its a rivalry game, but a two loss team ahead of a one loss team, when that two lost team lost to Florida State and the one loss team lost at Oregon?  I fail to see the logic there.

Wisconsin:  Proved that they needed to move up in the rankings by beating mighty Minnesota at home.  The same Minnesota team that fired their coach earlier in the season.  Only two wins vs. ranked teams.  Loss was against a decent, but by no means world beating team, in Missouri State.

Bottom line, if you look at the resumes, none of these teams did anything to earn them being ranked ahead of UCLA.  It makes no sense.  How could you think that UCLA was the number one team in the country a week ago, and all of a sudden have them ranked number four after only a two point loss to the number 17 team in the country in one of the toughest environments in college basketball.  Especially when none of the said three teams beat anybody last week, and they all have far worse losses on their record?  And less quality victories?  It makes no rational sense, so I have come the the conclusion that losing means that you are no longer the top team in the country, period, end of story, regardless of the circumstances.

Ridiculous but true.  Go figure.  UCLA is clearly getting hosed.  At least this isn't football.  Rankings won't determine anything in March.

BTW, Ducks are ranked 15th in AP and 17 in the coaches this week.