Illini move up to No. 13 in new AP Top 25 poll. Where are they on my ballot?
And if the Illini win at No. 3 Purdue on Tuesday, will they be ranked above or below the Boilermakers next week?
I don’t love the “body of work” approach to poll voting in college basketball. Most teams change directions, trend in different ways — whatever you want to call it — during a season before revealing their true selves. It’s the nature of sports. Broadly speaking, I try to vote according to how teams are playing. If nothing else, it guides a lot of my decisions further down my ballot.
Here’s an example: The new AP Top 25 poll still has Villanova ranked ahead of Big East rival Marquette — and the metrics back that up — but I have it the other way. Why? Because the Golden Eagles have won eight of their last nine in a very tough league, the only loss coming by a bucket at first-place Providence and two of the eight wins coming at the expense of — wait for it — Villanova.
You beat ’em at your place and you beat ’em at their place, I’m pretty much sold.
Or look at Illinois, which is in first place in the Big Ten and played marvelously last week in wins against Wisconsin and Indiana. The AP poll has the Illini at No. 13. I have them at No. 10. The difference is I put them ahead of UCLA, which got smacked by Arizona then lost at awful Arizona State, and Baylor, which is 4-4 in its last eight games and just got blasted by 24 at Kansas.
I also put the Illini ahead of Providence, for which, come to think of it, I don’t have a particular defense or explanation. But put those two teams on a neutral floor tomorrow, and I’m going with the Illini. I suspect the lion’s share of my fellow voters would, too.
To the poll:
AP Top 25
1. Auburn, 2. Gonzaga, 3. Purdue, 4. Arizona, 5. Kentucky, 6. Houston, 7. Duke, 8. Kansas, 9. Texas Tech, 10. Baylor, 11. Providence, 12. UCLA, 13. Illinois, 14. Wisconsin, 15. Villanova, 16. Ohio State, 17. Michigan State, 18. Marquette, 19. Tennessee, 20. Texas, 21. USC, 22. Saint Mary’s, 23. Murray State, 24. Connecticut, 25. Xavier.
(Click here to see the poll in more complete list form.)
1. Auburn, 2. Gonzaga, 3. Purdue, 4. Kentucky, 5. Duke, 6. Arizona, 7. Kansas, 8. Houston, 9. Texas Tech, 10. Illinois, 11. UCLA, 12. Baylor, 13. Providence, 14. Wisconsin, 15. Michigan State, 16. Marquette, 17. Ohio State, 18. Villanova, 19. Tennessee, 20. Arkansas, 21. Texas, 22. USC, 23. Notre Dame, 24. Connecticut, 25. Murray State.
(Click here and then on “all voters” to see each voter’s individual ballot.)
• Illinois at Purdue on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN) is a monster game. If the Illini win it — and then take care of business Sunday at home against Northwestern — will they be ranked above or below the Boilermakers next week? Logic says above, but this stuff can be frustratingly illogical.
• Why in the world is Xavier still ranked? The Musketeers have lost three of five, and five of 10, and did it somehow fail to register with some voters that they lost at home Saturday to — ahem — DePaul? (See: frustratingly illogical.)
• Why in the world isn’t Arkansas ranked? Yes, this team went off the rails for a bit after a 9-0 start, losing five of six. But since then? The Razorbacks are 8-0. It hasn’t been a murderer’s row stretch of the schedule, but the SEC is stacked this season. This is a dangerous team with one of the better coaches around in Eric Musselman.
• My ballot crashers this week: Marquette, Arkansas and Murray State.
• Kicked to the curb (for now): Miami, Iowa State and Alabama.