Graham Couch is a journalist for the Lansing State Journal, and he has one of the 65 top-25 votes issued to members of the Associated Press. For the second year in a row, Couch has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand that allows teams to qualify for his ballot.
“As soon as they play a true road game, they’ll be back on my ballot,” Couch wrote on Monday.
I am sure you are currently running the top teams in the country through your head and realizing that many teams have yet to meet Couch’s standard. You’re right. The top three teams on the newest AP poll, the Kansas Jayhawks, Duke Blue Devils, and Tennessee Volunteers, have yet to play an opposing team in their arena. And Couch did not list any of them in his top-25.
In the midst of his article filled with random and contradictory arguments, he tried hard to defend his “standard of fairness”:
“In no other sport is the home court worth so much to momentum, to confidence. In no other sport does a road team, so smooth and high a few nights earlier in its own building, so often look like a befuddled, haphazard mess. The contrast between home and road in college hoops is so severe, to not play on the road is to take advantage of a system that creates the appearance of a larger chasm than really exists between the haves and have-nots.”
These are pretty strong claims to back up with no numbers. If you are trying to present a new standard illustrating that home court is worth so much, throw some statistical facts out there. Let’s see those.
Yes, Vegas will give college basketball teams about three points of credit for playing at home. However, that is not a “severe” discrepancy from the NBA’s average of 2.33 points per game for home court advantage.
Couch’s “theory” is not supported by numbers because those numbers do not exist.
He also spends some time disparaging the overall judgment of AP voters. In the middle of talking about how worthless neutral site games are, he argues that the San Francisco vs. Buffalo game in Belfast, Ireland showed that both teams are more worthy of a top-25 spot thanthe Wildcats because they have yet to show they can play on on the road. In case you missed a minor detail in his argument, that San Francisco matchup with Buffalo took place at a neutral site in a neutral country on a neutral continent.
By disregarding neutral site results, Couch is completely dismissing some huge games where teams have shown their value and earned votes:
- Kansas over Michigan State
- Duke over Kentucky
- Duke over Auburn
- Gonzaga over Duke
- Michigan State over UCLA
- Virginia over Wisconsin
- Villanova over Florida State
- Nevada over Arizona State
- Tennessee over Gonzaga
- Kansas over Tennessee
Just so I am clear, does this mean that Tennessee’s win over No. 1 Gonzaga on Sunday on a neutral court is less impressive than if they had defeated Eastern Kentucky University in front of 6,000 screaming fans in Richmond, KY? Would that road environment at Alumni Coliseum have proven their worth more than coming from behind to take down the Bulldogs in Phoenix, AZ? Give me a break.
According to Couch, none of those top-10 neutral site games matter. Or at least they don’t matter yet.
“As soon as they play a true road game, they’ll be back on my ballot,” Couch wrote. “No penalty. No need to climb over other teams.”
Wait, wait, wait. He is trying to make this grandiose statement about the integrity of playing a road schedule, and yet everything is forgiven in one game? That seems to completely devalue everything he is trying to argue.
Given that argument, the undefeated Buffalo Bulls could play eight true road games and be a top ten team, but as soon as Tennessee defeats the Memphis Tigers on Saturday, none of that matters anymore? Tennessee instantly becomes the No. 1 team because of one game, and now Buffalo’s willingness to prove their worth on the road means absolutely nothing?
That “standard of fairness” is so much more unfair than the standard approach most AP voters use that values both venues and opponents.
Couch’s article makes absolute zero basketball sense.
As a writer, it perhaps makes even less sense. Journalism is built on the shoulders of those that take a principled stance based on research and reason. Couch’s standard takes neither of those things into account, citing zero evidence for his claims and constantly contradicting his own arguments.
He also claims that Kentucky does not “step foot on another campus until the new year.” The Kentucky Wildcats will travel to play the Louisville Cardinals on December 29th. Last time I checked, that is in 2018. Seems like fact-checking dates is the least you could do, Mr. Couch.