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February 11, 2008
The List
Week of February 11, 2008

by Joe Sheehan

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How much should a road loss in conference hurt a team in a ranking like this?

That question is front and center this week, as three of the top six teams from last week went down in conference games, two of those on the road. Is any conference road loss enough information, on its own, to affect an evaluation of a team? Aren’t all road games in conference supposed to be difficult, no matter the level?

Take a step back and ask another question: how much should any one game result affect a ranking system at this point in the season? When you consider the razor-thin line between wins and losses in so many cases, is a given night’s final score worth more than 5% of the schedule, or, if you’re so inclined, perhaps 10% of the “non-automatic” portion of a team’s schedule?

Is it reasonable to penalize Georgetown for being shut down by one of the nation’s best defenses on its own court? The Hoyas were completely taken out of their game by Louisville Saturday night, an outcome that inspired calls of “upset!” Then again, it was Louisville who was picked, before the season, to be a national-title contender, with Georgetown chasing them in the Big East.

How about UCLA, which lost the back end of a trip to Washington Sunday evening, going down to the Washington Huskies 71-61. How much did the extended roadie—the Sunday afternoon start being a day later than most Pac-10 second game—affect the team? Was it just a bad matchup for UCLA, with Washington featuring a solid front line and enough speed in the backcourt to harass shooters? The Bruins shot 34% for the day, including 1-for-16 from three-point range. Neither is likely to happen again—even the inside-centric Bruins shoot 35% from behind the arc.

Now consider what we can learn outside of a final score. North Carolina’s loss to Duke and narrow escape against Clemson revealed them to be a completely different team in the absence of Ty Lawson and Bobby Frasor. Losing one point guard—the backup—was a survivable situation; with no point in place the Tar Heels didn’t look like a team that would make it out of the first weekend. That’s a real weakness, and one we should consider, regardless of final scores.

So here are this week’s rankings, with commentary excised on account of a nasty sinus infection. All records are Division I games only, and the second number in parens is a team’s rank in last week’s poll.

  1. Memphis (23-0) (1).
  2. Kansas (22-1) (2).
  3. Duke (21-1) (5).
  4. UCLA (20-3) (4).
  5. Tennessee (20-2) (7).
  6. Georgetown (19-3) (6).
  7. North Carolina (22-2) (3).
  8. Xavier (20-4) (9).
  9. Drake (20-1) (10).
  10. Stanford (20-3) (13).
  11. Connecticut (18-5) (14).
  12. Michigan State (20-3) (12).
  13. Washington State (18-5) (1).
  14. Butler (21-2) (15).
  15. Wisconsin (19-4) (8).
  16. Texas (18-4) (16).
  17. Kansas State (16-5) (19).
  18. Indiana (20-3) (20).
  19. Texas A&M (19-4) (21).
  20. Louisville (18-6) (NR).

  21. Arkansas (17-5) (24).
  22. Notre Dame (18-4) (25).
  23. St. Mary’s (19-3) (NR).
  24. Purdue (19-5) (NR).
  25. Vanderbilt (20-4) (NR).

Writing Nasty Letters: No one. Of the top 16 teams unranked in The List, just two, Mississippi State and BYU, won both their games last week. The two are 37th and 41st in the statistical index.

Leaving: Marquette (17), Arizona (18), Oklahoma (22), Gonzaga (23)

Joe Sheehan is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Joe by clicking here or click here to see Joe's other articles.

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