Dec. 17, 2003
When you look at the college basketball polls right now, it's obvious that there is no dominant team out there. This week, there's a debate over who's No. 1: Connecticut (AP poll) or Kentucky (ESPN/USA Today coaches poll)? There have been consistent changes at the top already this season, with four straight weeks with a different No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
That's why I firmly believe that college hoop polls shouldn't begin until after the college football bowls are done. By then, we would know who the pretenders and contenders really are.
Rankings are good because they keep fans interested. Just remember, though, that Syracuse was not ranked in the coaches poll until February last season, but coach Jim Boeheim celebrated his first national championship in New Orleans.
|Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim hopes to have more to cheer about Saturday after back-to-back Big East losses.|
So many teams put up gaudy records early, but they don't have the ability of many of the real contenders. And even the contenders need time to sort things out.
The Huskies were No. 1 to start the season before falling to then-unranked Georgia Tech in the Preseason NIT semifinals.
Then it looked like Kansas would be there for a while ... until losing to Stanford out west. So much for the Jayhawks staying atop the rankings. Coach Mike Montgomery's brilliant game plan and Stanford's work ethic and talent ended Kansas' brief reign at the top.
Next, Florida became No. 1 for the second time in school history. The first time came last season. It didn't last long then, as Kentucky easily defeated coach Billy Donovan's Gators. Since the Wildcats were playing at home in Lexington, one can understand that outcome.
This season, the Gators' first game as the top team in America came at home against a young but talented Maryland squad. Florida did not have the answer for coach Gary Willliams' Terps.
Now Kentucky gets its chance at the top of the mountain. The Wildcats are coming off a win over Michigan State before a record crowd of 78,129 at Ford Field. Coach Tubby Smith's team faces Indiana at the RCA Dome -- not an easy place to play -- this weekend in Indianapolis.
The beauty of college basketball is that it doesn't matter who's No. 1 in November or December. It only counts come March. Early losses will not end any dreams of chasing that national title. Unlike college football, college basketball is won on the hardwood -- there's no computer determining if you play for the national title. It's humiliating to see the No. 1 team in the college football polls, USC, not playing for the national title. The BCS (Bowl Championship Series) has become the Brutal Computer System.
People have to realize that while coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State are 4-4, the Spartans have played the best of the best, the créme de la créme of college basketball in their early-season schedule. Yes, the Spartans have hit bumps in the road against Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and Oklahoma.
Early losses will not end any dreams of chasing the national title in college basketball.
That doesn't mean we won't see Michigan State compete for the Final Four. Right now, Michigan State has slid in the polls.
College basketball can be divided into three seasons: the preconference season, where you find out about your strengths and weaknesses; the conference season, where seek honor against your league rivals; and finally the run for the gold, the NCAA Tournament.
There is nothing like conference tournament play and the Big Dance, baby! That's when No. 1 counts. You want to cut down the nets at the Final Four in San Antonio!
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