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Thursday Morning Power Poll

December 19, 2003 Columns No Comments

TMPG Thursday Power Poll

by Dean Austin

I got some great feedback this week taking me to task over various items of the Poll. I’m more than happy to receive it, especially from the impassioned Wake Forest fans. I also got some negative comments that attacked me personally. Now you can write a brilliant e-mail, with tremendously salient points, insightful and witty, but if it ends with a personal attack then none of the good parts will be addressed. This isn’t a thin skin on my part but rather a specific objection I have. I’ve noticed over the past 20 years that this has become the prevalent means of debate, not only in this country but all of the “Western” democracies. Rather than engage an individual on their ideas it has become the norm to attack that individual. This stifles intelligent debate and leads to a society of extremists on both sides of the political spectrum.

Back to the basketball.

Here’s what I said last week and boy did I get some feedback. “There’s always the chance that North Carolina will be “upset” by Wake Forest on December 20th, but then as Wake Forest isn’t in the Power Poll either Roy Williams’ squad will not get tested until an early January at Kentucky.”

First up was Chip, “You must be kidding. Your poll can calculate potential trouble using crazy formulas, but to say UNC will not be tested by WFU is nuts. You will never build any type of credibility with those type of statements.”

Possibly a poor choice of words in that I wasn’t trying to say Wake Forest was bad or wouldn’t win on the 20th, I believe quite the opposite, but that North Carolina is the latest to join the ranks of the over rated. What I meant was that North Carolina would not be tested by a top team until Kentucky. And yes, that means that I don’t think Wake Forest is a “top team,” yet.

Next up was Mark, “I like the idea of the Power Poll, but it doesn’t work when you limit it to 25 teams. Wake Forest and North Carolina not even on the list? Are you kidding me? Wake Forest has a current RPI of around 3 in the nation, so it isn’t like they have been playing cupcakes. And as much as I hate North Carolina, they are indeed a top 25 team. Basically, next Saturday, when the two teams meet… both will be top 15 teams (maybe even top 10) and the winner won’t even sniff your top 25. However, since they beat Florida, Maryland will jump up the list. Anyway, your poll is an interesting concept… but some of those teams are ridiculous.”

Great e-mail Mark, that brings up a number of points. I like the idea of expanding the Poll to more than 25 teams. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll certainly push it around. Stay tuned. However let’s look at Wake Forest and “cupcakes.” The Demon Deacons started the season in my Poll at #25 based on their performance last year in March Madness. Teams have jumped ahead of them based on performance and Skip Prosser’s squad has played no-one. At 6-0 Wake has beaten a perennially under achieving Memphis squad, the powerhouses that are Elon University, Yale, Richmond and SMU, and destroyed the once proud Indiana Hoosiers on national television. On this the Deacons are ranked #15 by Hoopville and ESPN has them a mind boggling #9. Let me repeat, Wake Forest is not a bad team, in fact I think they are quite good, but they have yet to do it on the court either last year or so far this year.

Let’s also address the comment that North Carolina is a top 25 team. How? I’m serious; I love Coach Roy Williams as much as anyone, well at least from a basketball standpoint but this is a team that didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament last year and now has beaten Old Dominion, Davidson, Cleveland State, George Mason and Akron. Not a top 50 team amongst them. The Tar Heels did beat an over rated Illinois team but that proves nothing. What you’ve got in Chapel Hill is a combination of Roy Williams and a returning starting five that rivals Arizona for the best starting five in the country. Also, curiously like Arizona, they lack depth. All that matters is who have you beaten – and recently. North Carolina is #2 in the Hoopville Top 25 and #4 in the ESPN and it’s all on the basis of “could be.”

Again I’m not trying to diss a couple of great programs. Year in and year out Wake Forest and North Carolina are superb athletic, and academic, institutions. But so far, this year, they haven’t done anything.

Another e-mail I got was from Michael, “Your characterization of a potential Wake Forest win over Carolina being a huge upset is ridiculous. Wake, the defending ACC regular season champs, returned 8 of its top 9 players from last year’s 13-3 ACC winners. Any concerns about a drop-off after losing NBA 1st rounder Josh Howard would seem to be misplaced. McD’s AA Chris Paul has played like a 1st team Frosh All-American and Wake is 5-0 on the young season, including a 100-67 drubbing of your power poll worthy Indiana Hoosiers (as well as potential tourney teams Richmond, Memphis, and Yale). I know you use a nontraditional set of criteria for the poll and that you don’t take yourself too seriously, but try watching some hoops before you make big judgments. Let’s place a wager: Wake wins at the Dean Dome, and you stop writing about college hoops. UNC gets the W, and I stop bothering you.”

No Wager Michael, I think Wake will win. Chris Paul might just be the best kept secret of this young season. As Michael states he’s a freshman and yet his assist total has equaled or improved on the previous outing each of the six games that the team has played. Tremendous player and this Deacons’ team without a single Senior is going to be very good come March. My point remains, they haven’t done anything‚Ķ yet.

Lastly on this subject a note about Indiana. The Poll is all about what have you done lately. Previous reputation means nothing and a great game the first week of the season means nothing today. Indiana snuck into the Poll by beating Notre Dame on December 10th a week after Wake blew out the Hoosiers. Frankly if Wake plays Indiana ten times in a row I think they win all ten. But then I’d say the same about Connecticut and Syracuse last year but Syracuse ended up the national champion.

Moving on to one final e-mail from John who wrote, “How is Saint Joseph’s not in your power poll if they beat Gonzaga, who was a higher ranked team than them, and have not lost a game this season?”

St. Joseph’s entered the Poll after the victory against Gonzaga but subsequent upsets above them in the Poll moved both them and Gonzaga out of the Poll. The Zags returned on the back of beating Maryland while St. Joseph’s have done little since, other than of course win. As much as I’m impressed with Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s has a real chance to be the poster child for the annual over rated east coast team come late January and early February. If I had to pick one team that will be high in the polls, get a relatively high seed come March Madness time and then crash out early it would the Hawks. Which is a shame because I really like what Coach Phil Martelli is doing in Philadelphia.

The upsets waiting to happen:

North Carolina, Connecticut and (gulp) Wake Forest. Let the intelligent slings and arrows rain down.

Games to watch this week:

Duke vs. Texas and Stanford vs. Gonzaga top the list this weekend. Texas probably has a better overall squad than last year but I think Coach Rick Barnes did a disservice to his team by scheduling so many cream pies prior to their loss against Arizona. James Thomas, who played awful against the Wildcats needs to step up or this game will get ugly, quickly.

Joining the Power Poll this week:

Louisville is thee only team to join the Poll this week with Notre Dame exiting since being in the Poll from the start of the season.

Again to summarize:

1. If you beat a higher ranked team you take their spot. The higher ranked team moves down half the distance between its old ranking and the victor’s old ranking.

2. If you lose to a higher ranked team you move down 1 position.

Thursday Morning Power Poll
December 18th, 2003

1. Alabama
2. Stanford
3. Arizona
4. Oklahoma
5. Marquette
6. Maryland
7. Kentucky
8. Duke
9. Auburn
10. Texas
11. Purdue
12. Georgia Tech
13. Pittsburgh
14. Kansas
15. Michigan State
16. Louisville
17. Vanderbilt
18. Charlotte
19. Syracuse
20. Gonzaga
21. Florida
22. Central Michigan
23. Michigan
24. Indiana
25. West Virginia

See you all next Tuesday with the latest edition of Tuesday Morning Point Guard.


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