Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon.
Don’t look now, but Kentucky’s won six of it’s last seven games, and is in 2nd place in the SEC, behind only Florida. After the crazy weekend of college basketball we just had (probably the best of the year, maybe longer), there’s really no team that looks unbeatable, and certainly no team wants the top spot. But this Kentucky team, which dropped out of the rankings after losing two in a row much earlier in the season, just isn’t getting any love, even with the dearth of elite teams nationwide.
Yesterday’s “Top 25 (And One)” from CBS had a few surprises, but unfortunately, the Wildcats weren’t one of them. Most surprising? Well, how about keeping Kansas in the Top Ten, even after their implosion, losing three in a row. And one of those losses was to TCU, who hadn’t won a Big 12 game in… ever. But that 19-4 record is somehow that much better than UK’s 17-6, which didn’t merit any of the remaining 16 spots?
Also surprising: Ohio State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all made the list, despite having records identical to or worse than UK. And Ohio State and Minnesota each lost both of their last two games.
In football, where the polls matter substantially more, there’s a saying that “it’s better to lose early than lose late,” because at least if you lose early, you’ll be put back in the polls as other teams also drop some games. Well, that’s exactly what’s happening here, but so far no dice with the rankings. Is this just not viewed the same way in college basketball? Are teams punished more harshly for losing early, getting put in a hole to deep to climb out of? I suppose pollsters are just assuming that, because those teams won a lot early, they’re substantially better and shouldn’t be punished for losing a couple recently. Heck, even VCU made the list at 19-5, but then again they did just beat Charlotte. That’s apparently enough.
But I suppose that “losing early” isn’t the best thing to do in college basketball, and Kentucky seems to be feeling the worst of that right now. At least the polls don’t matter too terribly much come Selection Sunday, where RPI is considered more strongly. And if Kentucky can extend it’s streak to winning 8 of 9, picking up W’s against Florida and Tennessee, there’s almost no doubt that the Cats can find their way back onto the polls. Until then, though, just be glad we’re not North Carolina.