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Beating the dead horse: Poll issues

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The bulk of Big Blue Nation collectively gnashes its teeth each Monday afternoon. Why? Because that's when the national polls show us how little folks think of the Cats, not to mention how little they pay attention to college basketball.

I never thought I'd give the media credit over the coaches, but this year's AP Poll voters have shown more insight into the national state of the game than the coaches, who are either not paying attention or are voting based on general intuition.

Kentucky breaks back into the AP rankings this week at #25, a welcome sight. Meanwhile, the latest ESPN/Coaches' Poll shows Kentucky as the 27th best team in the nation, behind such schools as Maryland, Texas, Connecticut and Arizona, among others.

I single those teams out because a head-to-head comparison of each schools' season to date shows a frightening lack of insight from the coaches' poll voters.

[NOT RANKED] Kentucky (14-3, 3-0 SEC)
Key Losses: #2 UCLA (neutral), #18 Memphis (neutral), #4 UNC (road)
Key Wins: unranked Indiana (home), unranked Louisville (road), unranked Umass
Resume: Ten straight wins, a perfect 3-0 conference mark and no losses to unranked teams. UK is hurt by losing its games in the course of two weeks, even though it hasn't lost since the UNC game. No marquee wins, though the Indiana win looks better each week.

[#12] Arizona (13-3, 4-2 PAC 10)
Key Losses: Unranked Virginia (road), #21 Wash. St. (road), #10 Oregon (home)
Key Wins: at Washington (1-5 PAC 10), Memphis (neutral), unranked Illinois
Resume Why is Arizona ranked so high? Potential. With a crew of athletic swingmen who play absolutely miserable defense, Lute Olsen has another second-round flameout ready and willing. Oregon came into the McHale Center and beat Zona on Sunday, meaning that the Wildcats have lost to both ranked conference foes they've played. Did beat Memphis, something the Cats did not do.

[#19] LSU  (12-4, 1-1 SEC)
Key Losses: Unranked Wichita St. (home), #9 Bama (road), unranked Washington (road), #23 Texas
Key Wins: #8 Texas A&M (home), unranked UConn (home)
Resume: How much mileage does a Final Four get you? Just ask John Brady and Co., who were humilated by a now bubble-team in Washington and lost at home to a now unranked Wichita St. Beating an overrated Texas A&M club -- whose best wins, I kid you not, are Colorado, Baylor and Kansas St., a combined 26-20 -- has merited the Tigers huge leeway on very little.

[#22] Maryland (15-3, 1-2 ACC)
Key Losses: Unranked Boston College, unranked Miami (home), #20 Notre Dame
Key Wins: Unranked Mich. St., #16 Clemson
Resume: Simply put, while a win over Clemson is big, losing at home to a MISERABLE Miami team is fodder enough for not being ranked. Combine that with a second-best win over Mich. St., who narrowly avoided an 0-3 Big Ten mark with a win Sunday, and you have almost nothing to point to. Much depends on how Clemson plays down the stretch. Under .500 in the conference.

[#23] Texas (13-3, 3-0 Big XII)
Key Losses: Unranked Mich. St., unranked Gonzaga, #24 Tennessee (road)
Key Wins: #19 LSU, unranked Arkansas
Resume: Why is Texas ranked? Two words: Kevin Durant. The hype about star freshmen clous everyone's better judgement. While Texas is young and has some good talent, they have only a win over an overrated and fading LSU squad to point to. While losses to the Zags and Spartans might have meant something at the time, neither mean much right now. A watered down Big XII means this so-so club has a lot of fattening up ahead of it.

I don't mean to post this to imply that because the Coaches Poll isn't ranking the Cats, that they are inherently stupid. I think that what I show above is that several teams do not deserve their lofty rankings, most notably Texas A&M (hasn't beaten anyone other than LSU) and LSU.

So while I respect the voters' right to pick who they want to, I think their judgement when the facts are looked at is, well, terrible. What does it all mean in the end? Nothing. If the Cats keep winning, the rankings will follow. And playing better basketball in March means a lot more than playing it in November (like LSU).

But it remains silly to me that Kentucky, and coach Tubby Smith, get punished for early losses to top-5 teams, while other teams get free passes based on (a) last year's results, (b) overhyped individual players and (c) some nebulous benefit of the doubt (Arizona).