Pastner proving to be worthy successor to Calipari at Memphis (cont.)
This week's AP ballot
(Last week's rank on my ballot in parentheses)
1. Kentucky (2)
Dropped from my ballot: North Carolina (22), Northern Iowa (23), Siena (25).
Skinny: This week felt a little more perplexing than the last few have been. The season is far enough along that in the end I simply went with my gut. I'll clue you in to my reasoning, but it won't be hard to find inconsistencies. I'm sure you all will be happy to point them out.
Ranking Kentucky No. 1 was a cinch, but it was surprisingly easy to decide how far to drop Texas. I just kept going until I got to the teams that also lost last week. Kansas State was a little trickier. Do I put more weight in the win over Texas (keeping in mind that the Longhorns lost again to a slumping UConn team playing without its head coach) or the loss at home to Oklahoma State? In the end I went with the win, but I also rewarded the Pokes by putting them on my ballot for the first time this season.
The middle didn't change much for me. Even if Gonzaga keeps winning, it will have a hard time cracking the top 10 because it does not play any more ranked teams. As I moved further down my list, I reconsidered some of the decisions I had been making in the past. The thing I am looking for most right now is quality wins. In other words, did that team beat someone else on my ballot? If not, they paid a price.
That's why I dropped BYU six spots even though the Cougars did not lose last week. BYU's best wins this season were over Arizona State and UNLV at home, and Arizona and UTEP on the road. They can make a better case by winning Wednesday night at New Mexico, but for the time being I felt the need to make a course correction.
Ole Miss is holding steady, largely because their neutral court win over Kansas State is holding up so nicely. Northwestern still makes my grade thanks to respectable wins over Notre Dame, Iowa State and on the road at N.C. State (where Duke lost), at Michigan (where UConn lost) and at home over Purdue. That's a pretty strong resume.
The lack of quality wins remains the only reason I am not ranking Vanderbilt, despite all the, uh, helpful suggestions from Vandy fans that they are ballot-worthy. The Commodores' best wins are over Florida at home and Alabama on the road. Not great, not terrible, but they also lost to Cincinnati and Western Kentucky on neutral courts. Vandy will have plenty of chances to make its case over the next two weeks, when it plays at Tennessee, at Kentucky, home against Mississippi State, at Georgia, and home against Tennessee.
Siena dropped off my ballot for the same reason I did not include Vanderbilt: No wins over another team in my top 25. My other almost teams were Northern Iowa, Dayton, Xavier, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Get me some more quality W's, boys, and I'll be happy to give you my vote.
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