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The Basketball Polls are Still Bad

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We aren’t arguing for the Frogs to be ranked after last night, but that doesn’t mean the polls shouldn’t be questioned.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Author’s note: This list has lost a little of its injustice with TCU’s complete and thorough implosion in Lubbock last night, but the point still stands - AP voters are making poor decisions based on name brands and feel-good stories, ignoring boring, under-the-radar power teams in their ranking decisions.

TCU has had a heretofore underwhelming season, given expectations coming in. The Frogs are still on pace for a tournament at-large bid, provided they can take care of business at home, which is a fun consolation prize for a tough season.

On it’s own merit, though, the Frogs’ resume is vastly under-ranked. TCU is 15-5 on the year, 2-4 in the Big 12 Conference. The Frogs’ lone bad loss is a 9 point defeat to an Atlantic Sun conference team, Lipscomb, who ranks 47th in Kenpom; we have discussed the context surrounding that game previously, so I won’t do it again here. TCU has wins over #67, #90, #30, #35, and #27, and three of four conference losses come on the road to ranked opponents, the fourth on the road to a Kansas State team in the midst of a five game conference winning streak. The Frogs are 5-5 against top 100 teams, (note that they are 5-1 at home in that span), and in college basketball, home court matters. Below, I’ll discuss the comparable teams ranked in front of TCU and demonstrate again that when it comes to the polls, TCU don’t get no respect.

A partial list of teams ranked ahead of TCU (9 votes in AP, 28th in KP):

Buffalo (18th AP, 22nd KP): The Bulls’ three best victories are neutral vs #41 San Francisco, at #36 Syracuse (no joking, this is a great win that will age well), and then... At #101 West Virginia in OT on the first week of the season. Sure, WVU has since beaten Kansas, but TCU beat that same West Virginia by 31 in regulation. Do better, voters.

LSU (19th, 25th): Win streaks are sexy, even if they come against mediocre opponents. LSU has an awful loss to #79 Oklahoma State. A neutral court win against St. Mary’s at one at Mississippi State are the Tigers’ lone top 40 wins. Their nine game winning streak comes against an average opponent rank of only 78, almost a full 10 spots behind TCU’s average rank. Not great, voters.

Maryland (23rd, 23rd): Lost to Illinois and Michigan State this week. Stays in the polls. Had a tough schedule, and is 8-5 against the top 100 with a win over #18 and #11. Makes sense for them to stick around. This is fine.

Mississippi State (22nd, 29th): SEC Bias is creeping into the polls again. The Bulldogs’ marquee wins are home vs Auburn and home vs. Florida... Why does that win sound familiar? MSU has lost to #102 South Carolina, and hasn’t won a meaningful road game since November. Stop it; do better, voters.

NC State (23rd, 32nd): NC stays in the rankings, milking an early season home win over Auburn for all it’s worth. The Pack are 5-3 against the top 100 with a loss to lowly Wake Forest on their resume and a bad bounce away from a loss at home vs Clemson. Bad votes. Come on, voters.

Wisconsin (24th, 11th): Broke Michigan’s unbeaten streak and are somehow underrated this season? I get it. This is fine.

Florida State (25th, 28th): The Seminoles move into the rankings this week after... checks notes, a win at home vs an underwhelming Clemson and a win at #103 Miami FL? They have wins against Purdue and LSU in the early season, but in their last 7 games, have losses to two sub 60 teams. Those OOC wins are shiny, but how sticky can they really be? This is defensible, but increasingly less so.

Auburn (85 votes, 17th): Do the results matter? Auburn has lost three straight, blowing a lead against Kentucky, failing to beat a bad South Carolina Team, and not looking competitive against Mississippi State on Saturday. What does Auburn have to do to stop getting votes? Their best win is... Washington at home? 6-5 vs top 100, and 4 of those outside the top 60. Come on.

Cincinnati (76 votes, 27th): The Bearcats lost to #252 East Carolina THIS MONTH. Their best win is a neutral court win over a Mississippi team still bolstered in perceptions by a fun and unsustainable hot streak to start conference play. Cincy’s next best win? At #74 Temple or home vs. #86 Northern Kentucky. Sure, they are 6-2 against the top 100, but 5 of those wins come outside the top 70. Why they are getting votes is beyond me. Do better, voters.

Washington (75 votes, 35th): I constructed this list from the bottom up, and I was legitimately ruffled when I started, and seeing Washington up here induced a spit take. The Huskies have no bad losses, and they are on a 9 game win streak stretching back to December. The Huskies have played three teams in the top fifty and looked competitive in one of them. Their nine game win streak features an average opponent rank of 157. For comparison, TCU’s last nine games, in which they have gone 6-3, have featured an average opponent rank of just under 70. TCU has two better wins in the last week (Texas and Florida) than Washington does on the season. Legitimately ridiculous by any standard, that Washington ranks ahead of TCU. (Have I mentioned that TCU’s lone “bad” loss is still ahead of Washington’s “no bad losses” resume?) Do better, voters.

Kansas State (73 votes, 42nd): Beat TCU h2h at home, white hot in the conference. I get it. (But also, what a terrible game in College Station.)

Oklahoma (41 votes, 21st): Beat TCU h2h at home, competitive in the conference. I get it.

Iowa (28 votes, 30th): Should’ve beaten Michigan State on Thursday night. This might be defensible, but count me skeptical. The Hawkeyes best wins came at home vs an injured and since-on-fire Iowa State team and at home vs a spiraling Nebraska team, who looks like they may not even make the tournament. Their resume includes no bad losses, which I’d argue is their strongest point. This is defensible.

Wofford (10 votes, 39th): Terriers is a cool name for a scrapping, small basketball school. And they are in Spartanburg, which sounds intimidating as hell. But, the feel-goods stop with the resume. Wofford has three top 100 wins: home vs. #63 ETSU, away vs. #94 UNCG, and home vs #92 Furman. They just took #137 Stanford to overtime and barely eeked out a win at home. The Terriers are 0-4 vs the top 50. Do better, voters.

Hofstra (9 votes, 61st): Ok, this is just a joke at this point, right? Hofstra vs. top 100 Kenpom: 0-2. Hofstra vs. top 150 Kenpom: 2-2. Their best win is... Home vs. Northeastern (105th in Kenpom)? But hey, they have nineteen wins, working on a win streak of 16, 14 of which are outside of the top 110, 11 of which are outside the top 200. Do better, voters.