College Rankings? Mostly Meaningless Right Now.
College basketball is in full swing, but most schools have yet to begin conference play. That’s because teams play upwards of 14 games before getting in 16 regular season games against conference rivals. League play begins around Jan. 1 and lasts until early March followed by a postseason conference championship where the winner is guaranteed placement in the NCAA tournament.
What we are seeing now, especially from the upper tier conferences, are games against local or in-state rivals plus a smattering of inter-conference show downs.
Duke, for example, has had its games against Belmont and Presbyterian, but the Blue Devils have also battled ranked teams such as Michigan, Kansas and Ohio State, barely beating Belmont and getting bashed by Ohio State. Still, the Blue Devils are right where they’re expected to be — in the national Top 10.
The current rankings which have Syracuse at #1 will most certainly change. In fact, if recent history is a good example, we’ll see some dramatic changes beginning in January. Those changes are likely to include the following:
Big East Shuffle — Syracuse is #1, but will soon begin a Big East schedule what includes games against several ranked teams. Six BE teams are ranked and each one will be gunning for the Orangemen. Look for the Top 25 to be shaken considerably by March, with several BE schools disappearing and perhaps one or two programs emerging.
Harvard Emerges — The Crimson are having a phenomenal season, having already been ranked once this year. Look for Harvard to prove itself as it battles with Boston College and St. Josephs before opening Ivy action against Dartmouth on Jan. 7. There is a good chance we’ll see a ranked Crimson team again this year with perhaps be given the chance to ruin someone’s dreams in the post season.
Zags Rising — Gonzaga is currently not ranked, but can make a case by beating Xavier on the road on Dec. 31 A depleted Xavier roster was whipped by Oral Roberts this past weekend, but when the Musketeers have everyone playing, they’re one of the toughest teams on the court. Win, and the Zags are a shoe-in for Top 25 recognition, something they should be able to maintain all season long. Lose, and the Zags will have to battle a handful of teams that are residing just outside of the Top 25 including Virginia and UNLV.
Injuries Impacting — Some player of significance will be injured this year, profoundly affecting how his team performs for the rest of the year. We don’t wish injury upon anyone. However, there are some teams that are highly dependent on one player to lead the team. Doug McDermott of Creighton is one example of a player whose absence could change his team’s outlook dramatically.
With well over 300 Division 1 men’s basketball teams, placing in the Top 25 doesn’t give everyone a complete picture. That’s because the Field of 68 — the number of teams that will partake in March Madness in 2012 — are the ones that will really matter. ESPN know this which is why Jay Bilas has dismissed the whole notion of the Top 25 and has come up with Top 68 Rankings subscription required. Because in the grand scheme of thing, weekly polling just may not give us an accurate measurement of the state of men’s college basketball at any point in the season.