College Basketball Man and Machine Consensus Top 25: 10 Teams Are Rated #1 By At Least One Human Or Computer

posted in NCAA Basketball

In the latest set of polls, Syracuse is securely in the top spot of both rankings. They’re listed first on 30 of 31 AP ballots, and on 53 of 64 in the Coaches poll.

Given the simple, biased mechanism that drives the polls — start with last week’s rating, then move people up when they lose and down when they win — the Orange make sense at #1.

We’re not going to argue they don’t deserve that top spot. But it’s by no means a unanimous decision, and no team has yet emerged as a clear front runner this season.

In fact, here are 10 different teams that are ranked first by at least one human poll voter or one respected computer ranking.

TeamW-LBest WinLost ToRated #1 By
Syracuse11-0vs Florida--83 humans, both polls
Ohio State10-1vs Duke@ Kansas (w/o Sullinger)6 humans
Kentucky9-1vs UNC@ Indiana4 humans, TR Priored Predictive
Louisville10-0vs Memphis--2 humans
Wisconsin10-2vs UNLV@ UNC, vs MarquetteSagarin Predictive, Pomeroy
Missouri11-0vs Cal (N)--TR Pure Predictive
Baylor9-0@ BYU--Sagarin Elo Chess, TR Overall
Indiana10-0vs Kentucky--TR Wins Only
Marquette10-0@ Wisconsin--Sagarin Overall
Duke9-1vs Kansas (N)@ Ohio StateRPI*

*Yes, we know we said “respected”. The RPI is respected — by the selection committee.

The Man And Machine Consensus Top 25

With all these dissenting opinions, we thought it would fun to do a poll of the polls and rankings.

We let each poll or ranking listed above have one ballot, and awarded 25 points for a first place vote, 24 points for a second place, and so on, down to 1 point for 25th place. Here are the results:

RankTeamTR PrioredTR Pure PredTR WinsTR OverSag PredSag EloSag OverPomRPIAPCoachTotal
4Ohio St47983104322208
10N Carolina59161461411556169
13Murray St1410102441262222110
14Michigan St131618179211512191920107
20S Mississippi2421211719450
22N Iowa24232024336
29Seton Hall521
30St. Mary's25202025252219
31Wichita St17192418
32Mississippi St181717
33St. Joseph's1115
33Saint Louis25201815
38Indiana St1511
44Cleveland St233
49Kansas St251
49C Florida251

Syracuse is in first place here because of the humans and the RPI. Ignore those, and Kentucky rises up to number one.

The RPI looks absolutely ridiculous when you put it in context here. No Ohio State. No Baylor. No North Carolina. No Missouri. No Indiana. And so on.

Marquette may be the most underrated team in the country right now, at #10 in both polls, despite coming in third in the consensus.

Either that or Wisconsin. The Badgers are ranked in the top 6 of every predictive rating listed, yet are only #13 and #14 in the polls. (This could explain why Marquette is underrated, since their best win is against Wisconsin.)

Snubbed By The Polls?

Five teams make the consensus top 25 despite not being ranked in either human poll:

  • Ohio — When I saw the Bobcats listed here, I went back and checked to make sure I didn’t accidentally give them any votes that should have gone to Ohio State. Nope, this ranking is legit. Ohio is 9-1, with the only loss coming at Louisville by 4 points. Their best win up to this point is probably Marshall, which explains why they’re unranked.
  • Southern Miss — This is more an example of why you should ignore the RPI, as opposed to a true poll snub. The Golden Eagles are ranked #4 by the RPI, which is absurd.
  • Stanford — Now here’s a true case where the voters and the reliable computer ratings disagree. The Cardinal are 9-1, and their lone blemish is a 6-point loss to Syracuse in New York City. Stanford definitely looks like a solid club, and a contender in the Pac-12. This looks like an example of anti-Pac-12 bias. Yes, the league is down. Conference play hasn’t started yet, though, so that should be totally irrelevant for evaluating Pac-12 squads right now.
  • Northern Iowa — See Southern Miss. Northern Iowa is ranked #3 in the RPI, otherwise they wouldn’t be listed here.
  • California — Here’s another case of possible anti-Pac-12 bias. Or, it could be anti-lost-to-Missouri-by-40-points bias. That was certainly a stinker, but no team is as bad as they appear in their worst loss. Cal came close to winning on the road against a good San Diego State team, and has taken care of business outside of that, including blowing out a decent Denver team.

Why Are They Ranked?

Five teams are ranked in both the AP and Coaches poll, despite not appearing in the top 25 of any of the computer rankings we included. Not even the RPI.

  • Pittsburgh — Pittsburgh has been winning (they are 9-1), but not against great competition, and not by all that much. Their early loss to Long Beach State has initially hailed as a great win by LBSU. It’s looking more like a bad loss by Pitt, given that Long Beach’s next best victory is probably over Idaho.
  • Xavier — Completely explainable: the computers don’t know that several key players were suspended in the loss to South Carolina.
  • Mississippi State — Yes, they are 11-1. But they lost to Akron at home, and are getting too much credit for beating a couple teams whose name recognition outstrips their 2011-12 quality: Texas A&M and Arizona.
  • Michigan — The Wolverines are rated around #30 by quite a few computer ratings, so this isn’t as big of a disagreement as it looks. They may be a bit overrated, but not much.
  • Illinois — The Illini’s ranking was inflated due to their undefeated record. That bubble burst with a 16 point loss to UNLV. They fell, but not quite all the way out of the polls.