College Basketball: B/R Top 25—Explaining My Picks

Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2009

This week was the first time I voted in Jameson Fleming’s weekly college basketball top 25. I intend to vote in the poll each week for the rest of the season.

I also plan to publish a column a few hours after each poll is published explaining my own picks; I will focus on the selections that differed from the general consensus. This article is the first edition of that column.

It was a big week in college basketball, with a shakeup near the top of the rankings. My top five looked a little different than most—sorry, Cameron Crazies, you won’t be thrilled—but as is often the case, the biggest differences were at the bottom of the poll. 

Below is an explanation of my more controversial picks. My actual top 25 can be found in the comments section. The poll itself can be found here.

North Carolina is still in the top three

Yes, they are winless in the ACC and currently last in the conference. But the Tar Heels can obviously still play.

If voters weren’t willing to punish Carolina much for its loss to BC, why should a loss on the road against a top-five team drop the Tar Heels either? North Carolina proved itself in the non-conference, and one mini-slump isn’t enough to discount what they achieved. One more loss, and things may be different.

UCLA is No. 6?

There was a pretty large gap here, especially for such a highly ranked team—I ranked UCLA No. 6, while the Bruins were ranked No. 11 in the overall poll.

I was impressed by UCLA’s start to Pac-10 play—three road wins to start the conference schedule is not something to take lightly. Oklahoma and Syracuse haven’t been tested much of late (aside from the Sooners’ loss to Arkansas), but if they prove themselves this week, the top 10 could undergo a bit of a shakeup.
Texas falls all the way to No. 13

Sure, Texas’ three losses are all good losses, but they simply haven’t had that many good wins over the past month (since defeating UCLA and Villanova in early December) to effectively offset those losses.

Teams such as Georgetown and Notre Dame—yes, even though Georgetown lost to both Pittsburgh and Notre Dame during the past two weeks—have had more impressive wins lately, so they jump Texas in my poll.


Welcome back, Gonzaga 

Considering that Gonzaga only received 24 votes in the entire poll, I’m pretty sure my ranking of No. 17 was a bit on the high side for them.

I was very, very impressed by the way Gonzaga played in the second half against Tennessee Wednesday—Austin Daye looked like a lottery pick again, and the Zags looked like a Final Four contender again. I think this team has found whatever it lost in December.

No SEC shutout

Both Tennessee (No. 21) and Arkansas (No. 23) received berths in my poll. Both teams have been maddeningly inconsistent, but they have amassed enough quality wins to deserve spots in the rankings.

These two teams are the class of the SEC and have the talent to compete at college basketball’s highest level. But they need to show more consistency if they’re going to crack the top 20.