Rant: No love for UNC in polls

Many of us rejoiced yesterday when we saw Carolina climb in the AP Top 25 and reenter the Coaches poll for the first time since week 4. But instead of patting ourselves on the back for cheering the team back into the national picture, shouldn’t we all be a little dismayed?

Without trying to sound too “whine and cheese,” this year’s squad has been getting no love in the polls. Not even that, but the manner in which the voting and ranking occurred has seemed off. Let’s flashback. In the preseason this team was ranked in the Top 10 of the Coaches poll and found itself at #8 of both by week 2 with a 1-0 record. Even diehard fans such as ourselves had to admit that was too high for an unproven team. So what happens? UNC loses two games in two days to Big Ten and SEC squads on neutral courts in Puerto Rico and falls to #25 in both polls for week 3. Not out of the polls, but at the bottom.

Interestingly, it takes UNC winning convincingly twice over the span of the next week to push the team out of the rankings. What? UNC loses back-to-back games against (at the time) unranked opponents, but it takes the Heels winning two in a row to miss out on the polls? That happened in week four. It’s taken ten weeks to get back into both polls and now UNC is only at #20/#21 with a 17-5 record. What’s been going on in the polls while UNC has been waiting to get back in?

The answer is, as eloquently as we can put it, a lotta bullshit. Minnesota, a team that was unranked when it beat UNC, jumped all the way up to #15 in both polls after beating UNC and West Virginia in Puerto Rico, not uncommon for early season movement, but still a large jump. Since then Minnesota has stayed in a least one of the two polls while winning only one game against a ranked opponent (#8 Purdue) and losing to the likes of Virginia at home and at Indiana. Vanderbilt, the other loss in Puerto Rico, has had similar luck in the polls despite not achieving much. Vandy first entered a poll in week 9 with an 11-2 record. They subsequently lost to South Carolina and underwhelming Tennessee but only left the polls for one week. Why? Because they beat a #21 ranked Saint Mary team. Forget that Vandy has lost to both Arkansas and Florida in a little over a week. The Commodores are still in the rankings.

Side note: We realize that the ACC is not where it normally is this year in terms of competitive squads, but it is without a doubt better than the SEC and PAC-10. So why is the SEC getting this poll love?

UNC beat Kentucky while the Wildcats were ranked #11 in the country and UNC was unranked. It dropped a couple spots but recovered after knocking off ND and Louisville. The team even cracked the top ten in the AP poll. Since January 8th though, UK has gone out to lose at Georgia, at Alabama, at South Carolina and at Florida, proving convincingly that it cannot win on the road. Kentucky is now 16-6 and has lost four of its last eight but is sitting at #18 in both polls. UNC has won 10 of its last 11, including the last three by a minimum of 20 points, has a 17-5 record, 7-1 ACC record (to UK’s 4-4 SEC record) and beat Kentucky in a head to head match-up when Carolina was supposedly not as good and Kentucky was much better. How is this team ranked above UNC?

And while we’re streaking here, remember who UNC’s last loss was, besides the Georgia Tech debacle (that did probably set back any hope of UNC regaining a ranking  for about two weeks)? Texas by two on a last second shot on technically a neutral floor. IT Was December 15 and Texas was ranked #25. Texas has since won 11 of its 12 games with a lone lose coming against UConn, and beaten then-ranked #12 Michigan State, then unbeaten Kansas, #10 Texas A&M, #13 Mizzou and #16 Texas A&M again. The UNC margin of victory was the closest of any of those games. Texas is now #3 in the country. No respect for the Heels.

Know who else is ranked too high, and has been, while UNC has watched from the outside? Arizona. Tell me what Arizona has done? You can’t. I can. Nothing (you actually probably could have told me that). Arizona has four loses, three of those have come in the only games Arizona has played against a ranked opponent. So, no wins over a ranked opponent. They have one more loss in conference play than the Heels and in a worse conference. It took them three overtimes to beat Cal on Saturday, a team that doesn’t even get a sniff from poll voters. Nothing is impressive about Arizona. Nothing. UNC ranks above them in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game and field goal percentage while having a more impressive resume. Yet Arizona is ranked #16. ?

Want another one? Syracuse lost four games in a row earlier this year, yes, four. The latter two of that streak were to Seton Hall (IN the Carrier Dome) and at Marquette. The Orange only have two quality wins in beating Notre Dame and UConn. Yeah, they beat Michigan State when they were ranked No. 7, but we’ve seen what a farce that ranking became. Go ahead, look at their schedule. They have no other good wins. Why are they still ranked No. 12? Please, someone tell me.

So, what’s had been keeping UNC down? At the beginning of the season, the team did have some losses and was really just ranked too high to begin with. So in week seven, having just lost to Texas, it’s understandable why UNC wasn’t in the polls. But after that, UNC began to add up some quality wins with one at Rutgers and one at Virginia. No the Virginia win wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done. The same goes for Virginia Tech. We’ll omit the Georgia Tech game because we know about that debacle, and it single-handily set the Heels back for a couple weeks. UNC came back against Clemson and Miami strong, and has since blown out State, BC and No.3-in-the-ACC and Dook-beater Florida State.

We would say that voters aren’t watching these Heels even play, but these score sheets have been speaking for themselves. Carolina is getting over-punished for the Georgia Tech aberration, and it’s not even debatable. Voters might have been wary this week after the departure of Larry Drew II, but UNC should have silenced critics with that 20-point win. I’d put some serious cash down to bet that most of those voters turned in their sheets BEFORE that game.

And here’s the even stranger/frustrating thing: UNC has been getting the shit end of the stick from pollsters this year (see: above) but come tourney time, all that will be forgotten. Yeah, UNC looks really strong right now, but it apparently hasn’t looked strong enough, yet when it comes to March UNC will again be seen as the stoic figure it historically has been. Even if current #6 San Diego State somehow meets the Heels in the NCAA tournament, it will be David vs. Goliath, with UNC playing Goliath. People will conveniently forget what’s been happening all year and revert to their normal perceptions of  college basketball. Even the same people who vote on these polls would call any mid-major beating UNC, regardless of their rank, an upset. Funny how that works. UNC gets the respect when they may not completely deserve it, yet when they’ve fought for it and earned it, like this season, they don’t get a lick.