College hoops polls might be inconsequential noise, but that doesn't make the arguments any less fun. In that spirit, I present the creatively named Poll Thoughts, which you can expect every Monday until the season is over.
Since we started Poll Thoughts, I've spent a lot of time making fun of the coaches poll. This is not hard to do. We can safely assume most coaches don't really spend all that much time worrying about their ballot; it is a notorious joke. But the Associated Press poll deserves nearly as much scorn, because I'm pretty sure there are a ton of AP poll voters who don't really pay all that much attention to college basketball.
Which brings us to UCLA.
First of all, lest you thought the Bruins' drop from No. 11 to outside the top 25 is the steepest in poll history, rest assured, it is not. According to ESPN Stats & Information's Jeremy Lundblad, Missouri's fall from No. 9 in 2011 was higher -- the only decline steep enough to eclipse the Bruins.
Then again, it was no surprise to see UCLA fall out of voting favor in the latest Associated Press poll. What was a surprise, at least to me, was that there were still 85 voters who kept the Bruins in their top 25. Eighty-five! Next to the coaches poll, which actually kept UCLA in the top 25, this looks downright enlightened, but that is not the standard by which we should be judging our pollsters.
The bottom line: UCLA hasn't beaten anyone good, and has struggled against teams it should beat (it needed overtime to beat UC-Irvine and barely got past Georgia) and on Sunday night suffered the upset of the season in a come-from-ahead home loss to Cal Poly featuring quite possibly the single dumbest foul of all time. UCLA was ranked so high in the preseason based solely on its incoming talent -- it's not as though last year's team was anywhere near top-25 worthy -- and that talent has thus far struggled under Ben Howland. They do not belong anywhere near the top 25. The fact that they are anywhere near it is a regrettable mistake. The fact that they received 30 more votes than did Pittsburgh is unforgivable.
Associated Press poll voters: Please pay more attention to basketball!
This goes for North Carolina, too. Perhaps it makes sense that UNC didn't fall all the way out of the poll -- at least the Tar Heels have been good on a per-possession basis, and have a road win at Long Beach State, and have stomped on teams they're supposed to beat badly -- but last week's 82-71 loss to Butler in Maui was hardly impressive. The young Tar Heels were thoroughly schooled by Brad Stevens' Bulldogs, especially in a blowout second half, and it took a ferocious comeback (in which Butler never really lost control of the game) for North Carolina to make the final score look remotely respectable. Even then, it was deceptive. UNC didn't guard anyone, didn't have any clue how to get offense in the half court, and just generally looked like the type of team that is going to blow out the Chaminades of the world based on sheer talent alone, but will run into serious trouble when facing remotely competent foes. And for all this, they fell a grand total of ... five spots. Maybe I'm being harsh, but that seems too few to me.
I have no problem with the top 10 to 12 spots of the poll. I can understand the Duke-as-No. 1 movement, considering the number of quality opponents Duke has already beaten, but it's impossible for me to unseat a No. 1-ranked team that a) hasn't lost and b) is solidly ranked No. 1 in adjusted efficiency. Gonzaga probably deserves to rank higher, but oh well.
The new inclusions -- Georgetown, Illinois, New Mexico, Minnesota -- are all deserving. And speaking of which, how about those Illini? Sure, they needed a late 3 to survive Gardner-Webb on Sunday, but they avoided that post-Maui hangover and got the full ranking benefit of unexpectedly winning the island tournament, and in style to boot.
NC State basically stayed where it was, thanks to its 82-80 survival of UNC-Asheville. I did not rank them in my power rankings last week or this week. Maybe I am just more ready to abandon preseason expectations than most, I don't know. But I struggle to understand why they should be included and not, say, Pittsburgh.