Two teams can make a rightful claim to the No. 1 ranking in the latest AP Poll.
Indiana wasn’t one of them.
The writers inexplicably voted the Hoosiers No. 1 for the second consecutive week, this despite Tom Crean’s team muffing a late double-digit lead in a loss to Illinois as recently as Thursday. That’s some short-term memory loss.
In the greatest non-sequitur of a college basketball season chock full of them, AP voters barred the hottest team in college basketball and the team with the best body of work from the top spot all at once. In their place — the status quo, a pseudo No. 1 team with neither the momentum nor the portfolio to compare.
Reward recent success and Miami gets the nod. Reward the totality of a résumé and the No. 1 title is Duke’s to lose.
Reward a mutable, illogical voting system and I guess that leaves Indiana.
To clear up a popular misconception, top-ranked teams who lose in a given week should not necessarily have to forfeit their No. 1 ranking, provided no other contenders for the top spot stack up. They should, however, when teams like the Hurricanes and Blue Devils are knocking on the doorstep, submitting better applications for the hollow distinction.
Miami has won 11 straight games — the most of any high-major school — since an overtime loss to Indiana State on Christmas. The ACC frontrunner is the only remaining high-major program still undefeated in league play and has yet to lose a game this season at full strength. The Canes played without starting point guard Durand Scott in an early-season slip-up against Florida Gulf Coast and without interior enforcer Reggie Johnson in successive losses against Arizona and Indiana State at the Diamond Head Classic. Jim Larranaga’s upstart, veteran-laden squad has clubbed conference opponents by an average of 13.9 points per game, including 27- and 26-point thrashings of Duke and North Carolina, respectively.
Duke, meanwhile, sports the best track record of any team nationwide. The Blue Devils are No. 1 in the RPI, own the No. 1 non-conference strength of schedule to go with the second toughest schedule overall and tote more quality wins (four against the RPI Top 25 and seven against the RPI Top 50) than any other team. Indiana’s non-conference slate (ranked No. 74) is awfully light by comparison. What’s more, Duke’s two losses came against teams ranked in the RPI Top 20 — both on the road, while playing undermanned. The Hoosiers hold a bad loss at home to then-unranked Wisconsin at full capacity.
AP voters are still caught in the trance of the Big Ten’s lofty reputation. They’re not alone. Once the pollsters snap out of it, they’ll realize the team most deserving of the top ranking, at least as of now, resides in the ACC.
Have your pick of two equally deserving finalists.