Luke DeCock

Luke DeCock’s AP Top 25 basketball poll ballot: Week 11

Texas Tech's Niem Stevenson (10) pushes away West Virginia's Daxter Miles (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Lubbock, Texas.
Texas Tech's Niem Stevenson (10) pushes away West Virginia's Daxter Miles (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Lubbock, Texas. AP

The reaction to last week’s ballot from West Virginia fans wasn’t surprising, but it was educational: It was a great indication of how one very visible data point can, in otherwise reasonable people, be weighed more heavily than the totality of the evidence. I moved Virginia ahead of West Virginia despite the Mountaineers’ head-to-head win over the Cavaliers because a) it was in Morgantown and b) with half of the regular season played, that one game continued to shrink in overall importance. A preponderance of the evidence, objective and otherwise, leaned toward the Hoos. As did I.

My suspicion is a lot of voters had West Virginia ahead because not many people thought much of Virginia to start the season and there’s a certain amount of unavoidable inertia on ballots. Even though I’ve had Virginia higher than most, that was what I was trying to counteract in moving Virginia ahead. The funny thing is, if West Virginia had beaten Texas Tech on Saturday, I would have certainly considered flipping the teams again because that would have been a heck of a road win and Virginia merely took care of business against Syracuse and N.C. State.

The lesson here: Whether WV fans (or Minnesota and Arkansas fans in past weeks, who have gone suspiciously quiet, hi guys!) like it or not, my ballot will always be a balance of resume, predictive metrics and personal opinion. And just to infuriate West Virginia fans, Texas Tech goes ahead of West Virginia this week despite Texas Tech losing to Oklahoma in Norman, by virtue of the Red Raiders’ home win over West Virginia. (Not because of that game specifically, but because of what the result meant to both resumes; that said, it’s not a loss I really hold against West Virginia, just as I don’t hold the Oklahoma loss against Texas Tech. A bigger problem for WV is that the season-opening Texas A&M loss keeps looking worse and worse as the Aggies keep losing). Oklahoma jumps from 12 to 5, but there’s not a ton to distinguish between those three teams. It would be easy to shuffle them through those 5-6-7 spots.

The tricky decision this week was with Michigan State. If the Spartans are as good as I/we thought they were – I had them No. 1 in the preseason – they shouldn’t be losing at home to Michigan in the same week Rutgers took them to OT in Breslin. I still think we’ll see Sparty in San Antonio, but just like Duke, there are some issues to address there before we can be as confident of that as we probably should be.

Ohio State rockets into the poll at 18 with the fastest-improving resume in the country, not unlike Auburn last week; Nevada, one of my preseason teams to watch, gets back in at 25 this week in part because of a dearth of competition for the spot. I’m still high on Notre Dame, but that just isn’t a top-25 team at the moment without Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell.

PAST BALLOTS

Week 1 (Preseason) Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10

MY TOP 25

1. Villanova (Last week: 1)

2. Virginia (2)

3. Duke (5)

4. Purdue (6)

5. Oklahoma (12)

6. Texas Tech (7)

7. West Virginia (3)

8. Wichita State (8)

9. Michigan State (4)

10. Kansas (11)

11. Xavier (10)

12. Gonzaga (13)

13. North Carolina (16)

14. Seton Hall (9)

15. Cincinnati (18)

16. Auburn (20)

17. Tennessee (21)

18. Ohio State (NR)

19. Arizona (22)

20. Arizona State (15)

21. Clemson (19)

22. Kentucky (23)

23. TCU (14)

24. Creighton (24)

25. Nevada (NR)

OUT Notre Dame (17), Miami (25)

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, @Luke DeCock

  Comments