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.
"I don't think too much about rankings. We will probably be ranked after this week but that doesn't make us any better than what we were last week."
After Saturday's win over Indiana, someone asked the victorious Brad Stevens a question about what it meant to beat a No. 1-ranked team, and what the polls would eventually say about his group, and probably something about national respect or whatever, and with a total and utter nonchalance that could not possibly fit the spiritual mission of Poll Thoughts any better, Stevens replied with the above.
This is something I try to say just about every week, but it is a difficult thing to hammer home when you are writing 600 words about that week's Top 25 poll. But it's true all the same: rankings are dumb! If you are a fan who gets worked up about the precise position of your team in the polls, and wait how is that other team ranked higher, and isn't this just a total injustice -- you're wasting your mental energy. If you use rankings as nothing more than a crude snapshot of the current hoops landscape, you will lead a much happier and more fulfilled life. Promise.
If you don't take my word for it, will you take Brad Stevens'?
Speaking of Stevens, thanks to his Bulldogs, Indiana fell from its preseason No. 1 perch all the way to No. 6 this week. Personally, I am surprised the Hoosiers didn't fall a bit further. Consider the losses of teams ranked below them: Ohio State lost to Duke at Duke, and Florida lost to Arizona at Arizona (more on that below). Indiana lost to previously unranked Butler on a neutral floor (one dominated by IU fans) in Indianapolis after the Bulldogs lost three players to late foul outs. Maybe people were that impressed with Butler; maybe people just think Indiana is better on a per-possession basis -- which is not entirely unfair (at least to Ohio State). But the polls are usually not quite so forgiving.
Florida shouldn't be ranked so low. I know, the Gators lost, and they melted down a bit in the final minutes of Saturday's Arizona win. (The best was the final possession, when the TV camera panned out to the crowd; Florida players were still scrambling to recover the ball and Billy Donovan was already walking to midcourt to congratulate Sean Miller well before the game finished. The second the ball was mishandled, Donovan knew the deal.) But for one, Arizona appears to be good. Also, the Wildcats were at home. The Gators have had one of the most impressive starts to the season of any team -- they lost and still moved to No. 1 in Ken Pomeroy's per-possession efficiency metric -- and there is absolutely zero shame in leading the entire game at Arizona and then succumbing to pressure on the road in December. It happens. It improved my opinion of Arizona somewhat, but it didn't change my opinion of the Gators one bit.
NC State crept back into the poll at No. 25. I would be 100 percent all right with that, except ...
Pittsburgh remains unranked yet again. The Panthers are underrated. I say this every week. I said it last week. I will say it again next week. And the week after that, too, if I have to. Doesn't anyone notice this?! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!
Oregon is still just outside the cusp of the poll, and no one but the Ducks and Panthers received much extraneous love.
Oh, and Stevens was right: Butler is now the No. 19-ranked team in the country. First Alex Barlow, now this. It's like he can see into the future!