College hoops polls might be inconsequential noise, but that doesn't make them any less fun to argue about. In that spirit, I present the creatively named "Poll Thoughts," which you can expect every Monday until the season is over.
New week, new poll, new inclusions and new No. 1 overall team: Let's jump right into some of the immediate impressions of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, Week 6 Edition. To the bullets!
Yes, Syracuse is the new No. 1 team in the country. This is not surprising. The Orange are 10-0, they were ranked No. 3 behind Kentucky and Ohio State, and both of those teams lost, and this is the way poll voting works: If the teams in front of you lost, but you didn't, you move up. Death, taxes, and uncreative poll voting, I suppose. Thing is, are we sure Syracuse really deserves to be No. 1? Its record is peerless at first glance, but let's break it down: Syracuse has yet to play a single true road game this season. The only time SU left the comfy confines of the Carrier Dome was to play Virginia Tech and Stanford at the NIT Season Tip-Off at MSG (and they were relatively unimpressive in both wins). The only truly "marquee" win Syracuse has came against Florida, which, again, was at the Carrier Dome. Meanwhile, Ohio State's only loss came on the road at Kansas without its best player, forward Jared Sullinger. Obviously, the Orange are very good. Obviously, the polls don't matter, which is the undertone of this entire post every Monday. But it is a little bit frustrating to see a team schedule the way Jim Boeheim's team has scheduled -- which is to say, incredibly favorably -- and still be rewarded by default when other top teams suffer close and/or undermanned losses. Alas.
I'm sort of confused: Why isn't Marquette ranked higher? The Golden Eagles are undefeated. Arguably, they got the best nonconference win of any team in the top 10 with the possible exception of Kentucky (which beat North Carolina at home) when they beat Wisconsin in the Kohl Center. Based on sheer results alone, isn't Marquette's resumé, so to speak, better than Baylor's? For that matter, can't we say the same thing about Missouri and Xavier -- two other undefeateds with much more than a win at Northwestern buttressing their positions?
Another thing I'm curious about: Kansas' win against Ohio State earned the Jayhawks nothing more than a one-spot jump, from No. 13 to No. 12, in the poll this week. What if the Jayhawks had beaten Ohio State with Sullinger in the lineup? Would they have jumped higher then? Would voters have noticed the difference? Or would they have chalked the win up to the benefits of home court advantage in Allen Fieldhouse anyway? I guess we'll never know.
Two new teams make their way into the poll this week. Those teams? Indiana and Michigan State. The Hoosiers are coming off Saturday's upset win against No. 1 Kentucky, but they're also undefeated with a win at NC State on their docket, so it's a little surprising to see them not come in a little higher in the poll. (That said, I'm guessing Indiana fans will just be happy to see their team listed among the top 20 in the country for the first time since 2008. It's been a long road back to relevance in Bloomington) Meanwhile, Michigan State receives some deserving credit for its win at Gonzaga, yet another impressive performance that has MSU at 8-2 -- including a convincing home win against FSU -- after starting out 0-2 with losses to North Carolina and Duke in the first four days of the season.
One team, Vanderbilt, is back from the poll dead this week. (Perhaps we will start naming these teams "poll zombies." OK, perhaps not.) To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what the Commodores did to deserve inclusion this week, what with their only win since being knocked out of the poll coming in an 87-83 squeaker against Davidson. Meanwhile, Harvard lost at Connecticut and somehow fell out of the coaches' poll (as if losing at Connecticut is some kind of indictment), while Alabama survived a loss at Dayton to remain at No. 21 and Texas A&M moved up three spots to No. 22 after beating Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe. OK then.
Harvard didn't deserve to drop out of the top 25, but I don't think you can say the same for Gonzaga or Memphis. Frankly, it was a bit of a miracle that the Tigers were ranked for this long, given how unimpressive they'd looked in Maui and the dearth of quality wins on their track record. A home loss to Murray State finally sealed the deal. And Gonzaga, which entered the season with a fair deal of hype, has struggled thus far. It lost at Illinois -- which is a good but still developing young team -- and again this weekend at home to Michigan State. The Zags might get there eventually, but right now, this team is hardly the Final Four contender some hoped for with that returning frontcourt (Robert Sacre, Elias Harris) and the addition of point guard prospect Kevin Pangos. Their fall from poll grace is deserved.
Other than that, the poll is largely uncontroversial. At least, it is to me. Come on, commenters: What say you?