Over the past few weeks I've been voting, albeit poorly, in the CBS blogpoll for college hoops. While I've managed to avoid "winning" any of the awards for a whack-ballot I no doubt have a lot to learn about the art of ranking basketball teams. The first few weeks came so quickly that I haven't really been able to sit down and establish some sort of codified "poll-rules" by which I'll be ranking. I look to establish those soon so that the rankings don't appear as random, and hopefully I'll avoid putting Notre Dame anywhere close to the top-25. Ballots are always due by 11 AM on Monday morning, so I hope to have a "rough-draft" for peer edit on Sunday night.
H'okay. Now that the business end of this stick is out of the way, fellow SBN blog A Sea of Blue is graciously hosting the first roundtable of the poll-season. The questions:
Who really looks like the best team in college basketball this season?
Oh, how I wish Dyson hadn't of gotten hurt. This question could have been easy. Level of competition is always the mitigating factor when it comes to these types of questions at this point in the season, which is why the tournament is always so much fun. Take Oklahoma. To me, they look like the most consistently dominant team, but they're also sitting with the 68th strongest schedule. What's their most impressive win to date? At Oklahoma State? Texas Tech? Sure, they look awesome, but I can't help but wonder at their level of competition. We'll know a lot more about Oklahoma after their next four games, which include @ Texas, Kansas at home, @ Texas Tech, @ Missouri.
The ACC has North Carolina, who looks like the North Carolina we all thought we'd see at the beginning of the year and is running away from the pack, the Big Ten has Michigan State, and Pitt is beginning to separate themselves in the Big East. I suppose my pick is going to be the flavor of nearly everyone's pick: Pitt. They just beat Uconn, rock the number 9 SOS in the league, and have all the parts necessary to make a real run at the Championship game. North Carolina is nipping at their heels, and don't sleep on Memphis. They get dinged in my mind for their SOS - similar to Oklahoma - but they're going to be a tough out in the tourney.
Is Blake Griffin the Player of the Year already, or can somebody catch him?
Once the media anoints you, it's pretty tough to lose the award. We see it year in and year out with the Heisman, and its no different here. Hansbrough was the media darling at the beginning of the season, and you'll definitely see his name high up on the ballot (on reputation alone; numbers aren't great), but Griffin is going to win the award.
And why shouldn't he? He's 9th in scoring, 1st in rebounding, plays great defense; I can't see a reason why he shouldn't get it. A Sea of Blue points to Luke Harangody of the Irish, but that team lost themselves to the point where they're waaaaaay outside the media's radar range. He won't get the exposure.
What currently ranked team is the biggest disappointment so far this year?
This has got to be UCLA. Ranked pre-season 3rd, they've really struggled to find an identity. They still rock a kenpom rating of 7th, but for a team that was supposed to dominate the Pac10 on their way to (another) final 4 appearance, they've looked decidedly lack-luster. It's a shame, really, because the better UCLA is, the better Michigan's win over them looks. Right now, they're sitting 4th in the Pac10 standings, but only a game and half out of 1st. Still plenty of time to win that conference, especially with a huge home game against 1st place Washington tonight. We'll know a lot more about UCLA after tonight's game, but they definitely don't have the luster that a preseason top-5 team should. At best, they still win the Pac10 and get set up for March. At worst, they're a middling Pac10 team that sneaks into the tourney on reputation. Michigan fans: hope for the former.
Predict the next team to beat Oklahoma.
The Sooners have, as detailed above, a wicked final 5 games in conference. I've seen Kansas play recently, and if they can handle the pressure of playing in Norman, I think they have the chops to beat Oklahoma. If the Sooners get past that game, they've got another tough test up in Missouri, but I think the Jayhawks knock off Oklahoma on the road Monday night.