The polls are specifically removed from the criteria to which the Selection Committee is permitted to utilize to compose the NCAA Tournament field. Thus, what you see below has no bearing on what will happen a week from today in a hotel room somewhere. Remember: in-season poll rankings are much different than NCAA Tournament resumes; one attempts to gauge where teams are relative to each other with respect to performance, the other attempts to complete a bracket and seed teams based on delineated results and criteria that may diverge from in-season rankings.
Here's what I'm submitting this week. As always, some brief notes accompany the ballot so that you can understand why I did what I did.
- New this week: Virginia. Dropped out this week: Marist. I do the Red Foxes a solid last week and Marist repays the favor by losing to Manhattan in Riverdale. I don't even know how that happened, but the result is clear -- the Red Foxes are jettisoned to the unknown for an indeterminate period of time. The Cavaliers move into the top 20 this week mostly because they appear to be the least awkward option among Army, Villanova, and Hofstra. I don't know what would happen if Virginia played any of those three other teams, but the Cavaliers' win over Maryland and the way they sort of hung around with Carolina gives Virginia a bump into the back end of the poll. Villanova and the Cavaliers are close in my mind, but Virginia gets the nod (even if the Cavaliers' season is finished and the Wildcats are still playing ball).
- The Tar Heels and the Big Red are 1a. and 1b. in my mind. I kept Carolina at the top of the ballot on the strength of their two wins this week, but Cornell was very impressive at MetLife Stadium this weekend. Those two teams, to me, are in their own tier right now, although the gap back to Loyola et al. isn't particularly pronounced.
- Pennsylvania and Yale earned big movements this week mostly due to course corrections. I had the Quakers and Bulldogs a little underrated from where they probably should be, and each earned an extra bump this week due to my patience in previous weeks. (Please note: The Quakers may be even better than their current 12th position. For now, though, Pennsylvania sits at the back end of the top dozen.)
- Maryland and Hopkins' slotting is a form of punishment. The Terrapins haven't played like a top five team in recent weeks and the Jays are just too uneven to have them positioned higher than some other clubs that are a little more trustworthy. Both teams show stronger in efficiency metrics and the LaxPower rankings, but my faith and patience is only so deep. If both play well against Colgate and Army, respectively, I'll provide a course correction next week. For now, however, each team earns a tumble for failing to achieve their potential.
- On Albany: Yes, the Great Danes lost to Siena this week. However, Albany was down two Thompsons in that game; with the entire group back on Saturday, they slaughtered a Stony Brook team that is comparable to the Saints. So, the Great Danes earned a one-spot jump despite suffering a setback earlier in the week.
I'm always willing to hear what you guys think. Have something to add or want to call me a moron in a few sentences? The comments are your launching pad.