College Basketball Preseason Rankings 2013: Winners and Losers of Coaches Poll
The rankings that do not really matter are out (via USA Today). Nothing against the coaches and their preseason poll, but let's just keep this in mind before overreacting to a poll in October: The coaches have correctly picked three out of the last 15 national champions.
Don't pre-order those 2014 national champions T-shirts just yet, Big Blue Nation...
But go ahead and puff your chest for today. Kentucky is No. 1 after losing to Robert Morris in the NIT, and it's well deserved—or at the very least, well expected.
Ever since John Calipari capped off what could be the greatest recruiting class ever by signing Julius Randle, this became Kentucky's preseason fate.
Calipari is a winner today. And somewhere in the NCAA headquarters, they're drying their tears. (I hear Calipari loves the taste of NCAA tears.)
As for the rest of the winners and losers in this somewhat historical poll, let's take a look.
If you polled the pollsters on why they voted for each school—now this would be interesting—here are some of the answers you'd likely get.
- No. 1 Kentucky: That freaking recruiting class, duh. I wish Calipari would share with the rest of us.
- No. 4 Duke: Jabari Parker. Good luck to any power forward who tries to guard that guy.
- No. 5 Arizona: Go watch tape of freshman Aaron Gordon during the U-19 World Championships and you'll understand.
- No. 6 Kansas: Andrew Wiggins and friends.
- No. 24 Indiana: Talented, deep freshman class.
Last year was a down year for freshmen. This year's class is motivating NBA teams to tank before the games even begin. If the preseason hype is any indication of how this season will go, freshmen are going to have a big say in what happens in March.
Preseason No. 3 is nothing to get down about, but when you win the national championship, return three starters including your leading scorer, and have a Hall of Fame coach, usually that gets you preseason No. 1.
This wouldn't be such a big deal for the Cardinals—they can flash their rings when they feel disrespected—but it does have to stick in their craw that their rivals, a team that missed the NCAA tournament, are No. 1.
The time has passed when mid-majors are ignored in these polls.
It's hard to actually define who is a mid-major and who is not—especially because of all the conference realignment—but by my count, the mid-majors landed four in the coaches poll: Gonzaga (14), VCU (15), Wichita State (16) and New Mexico (20).
This marks the third straight year at least four mid-majors made the preseason Top 25. And if you want to count the newly formed American Athletic Conference or the new Big East (I don't), you could add four more.
Loser: The SEC and Big 12
Out of the power conferences, apparently the coaches think less of the SEC and Big 12 than the others, putting only two teams apiece in the Top 25.
Sure, those two teams in each conference (Kentucky and Florida for the SEC and Kansas and Oklahoma State for the Big 12) are respected, but even the American Athletic Conference got three teams in the Top 25.
Arguments could be made for Baylor, Iowa State and Tennessee to be in, and the good news is this poll means absolutely nothing. Still, you could say it means something for bragging rights, and it's hard for the casual fan to buy a coach saying "Our league is going to be really good" when the polls say otherwise.
Winner: ACC and Big Ten
Get ready to hear a lot of arguments about which league is the best in the country this year and for years to come.
Both the ACC and Big Ten can make the claim with five teams each in the Top 25.
No other league put more than three teams in the poll. And neither league has to compete with the Big East for that title any longer. The new Big East is a shell of itself. And the ACC is already benefiting, with two former Big East members that are now in its league (Syracuse and Notre Dame) appearing in the poll.
Loser: The New Big East
The new Big East did its best to put together a decent league after the old Big East blew up, but it might be tough to convince anyone to pay much attention this first year. Marquette, at No. 17, is the lone representative in the Top 25.
On the bright side, Creighton, Georgetown and Villanova appeared in the "Others Receiving Votes."
Yeahhhhhhhh...not seeing much of a bright side.
Admit it, lovers of what used to be the Big East, conference realignment sucks and you guys have reason to be angry. If you want to burn this poll, by all means do it. You can send the ashes with a strongly worded letter to the ACC and Big Ten.
Hey NCAA tournament selection committee, how do you like this ranking?
The Ducks got no respect in March when they won the Pac-12 tournament and ended up with a No. 12 seed. But after a Sweet 16 run, Dana Altman's team is getting its due this preseason.
You could make the argument that Oregon might have a tough time replacing its starting frontcourt, even with the addition of UNLV transfer Mike Moser. But let's just wait and see on that.
For now, congrats Ducks. If the coaches were the tourney committee and they were slotting the field today, you'd be a No. 5 seed.
Loser: Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford convinced a sure-thing top-five pick to come back to school, he returns four starters (including two others who considered the NBA), and he's still looking up at Kansas in the polls. And those darn Jayhawks lost all five starters!
Ford had this to say about Andrew Wiggins at his team's media day on Monday, via The Oklahoman:
Wiggins is, from what I understand, the best player to ever play. I've seen him play and he's really good. They're still the No. 1 team and should be. They've got tons of talent, they've got depth, they've got the best player to ever play at Kansas and that's a pretty good deal.
He was just having some fun there at the hype for Mr. Wiggins. But you do get the sense the Cowboys were ready to soak in the spotlight when Smart returned, only to get overshadowed, as usual for all Big 12 schools, by Kansas.
Winner: Tom Crean
The last two seasons have been a great ride for Indiana coach Tom Crean. He built the proud program back up and even had enough talent last year to be preseason No. 1.
The fact that the Hoosiers are still in the Top 25 after losing four starters, including stars Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, is a sign that Crean's peers think what he's built is sustainable. It's also a compliment to his perceived coaching ability that a team so unproven with so many question marks is in the Top 25.
Loser: New Coaches
Dear Athletic Directors,
Looking for a reason not to can your coach? Well, stability apparently helps in building a respected and winning team. Only two new coaches—Steve Alford at UCLA and Craig Neal at New Mexico—saw their new teams appear in the Top 25, and no teams coached by new coaches appeared in the "Others Receiving Votes."
It's not all that surprising considering most programs with a new coach are typically rebuilding, but it is good news for the mid-majors. It's easier for them to hold onto their coaches these days (see Gonzaga, Wichita State and VCU), and as a result, those programs are consistently showing up in these polls.
Winner: New Mexico
It was a rough offseason for the Lobos. They started it off by giving Steve Alford an extension, only to see Alford break that deal a week later to go to UCLA. And then Alford didn't feel the need to pay all of his buyout.
Well, the Lobos can stick their tongues out at Alford and his Bruins, who are looking up three spots at the Lobos in this poll. New Mexico returns four starters and definitely has the better team on paper.
Loser: The Atlantic 10
Last year was a good year for the Atlantic 10. It welcomed VCU and Butler. The league sent five teams to the NCAA tournament, all five made it out of the Round of 64, and La Salle made a surprise Sweet 16 run.
Now Butler and Xavier are in the Big East, Temple is in the AAC and only one A-10 team (VCU) made the Top 25.
The league probably deserves more respect than the coaches poll gave it—defending league champ Saint Louis is a fringe Top 25 team—but the league's stock is definitely falling a year after it was at an all-time high.
Get in all of the Robert Morris NIT jokes now while you can. Kentucky is back. And John Calipari has all of his swagger back, justified in a way by the coaches poll.
Of course, it sounds kind of crazy to pick a team that missed the NCAA tournament last year as preseason No. 1. That's a first. And it's just another reminder that you'd better get every punch in on Calipari while you can when he's down, because he can flip that quicker than anyone in the sport.
Loser: Doug McDermott
What's a guy gotta do to get his team into the Top 25?
Doug McDermott is a two-time All-American. He's the best scorer in college basketball. And he could have gone pro but decided to return for his senior year.
C'mon, coaches. Even if you don't think Creighton is Top 25 worthy, don't you love these stories? Isn't McDermott good for the game? Give the guy and his pops some more votes!