Breaking The Poll: Week 3



N.C. Brown

| The News Record)

As if the AP Poll itself wasn’t meaningless enough, there is actually a story behind the story. There’s a tiny number next to teams in the Top 25, but there are a ton of little things going on behind that number. Breaking the Poll is a series that will break down AP voters and dissect why the Bearcats are ranked where they are. (This series is made possible by College Poll Tracker.)

Well, we got that over with. The Bearcats suffered their first loss of the season, and it felt very similar to last season’s foibles. We knew it was coming, and now it’s out of the way. It could’ve been worse. The game was against #21 Rhode Island (23rd in this week’s poll) and was technically a neutral site, although it was basically a Rams home game. It wasn’t a bad loss.

Despite convincing, dominating victories over Albany (#180 in KenPom) and Penn State (#109 in KenPom), the AP voters were tough on the Bearcats for losing a virtual road game to a Top 25 team by five points. So be it. Early in the season, nobody has a long enough resume to withstand a loss without falling in the polls, so I understand why UC took a hit. When you only have four games in your pocket, a loss in your toughest outing doesn’t look great.

The Bearcats ended their short stint in the Top 25 by falling to #30 in the Week 3 AP Poll.

Looking at who is ranked #15–25, it makes sense. The only teams with losses are Wisconsin (started #9), Purdue (lost to #3 Villanova), Rhode Island (lost to #1 Duke), and Michigan State (lost to #10 Arizona and #2 Kentucky). Unless you started the season in the Top 10 or suffered your only loss against teams in the Top 10, you aren’t ranked this week. The Bearcats have taken care of business and don’t have a bad loss, but there are simply too many teams with unblemished resumes to warrant a Top 25 newcomer retaining its position after a loss. If the Bearcats go undefeated this week with big wins over Samford and Lipscomb, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back in the Top 25 in Week 4 if they can get some well-placed losses from ranked teams.

The biggest concern moving forward will be the exodus of voters on Cincinnati’s side. Last week, I wrote that UC was building solid support among the AP voting body. This week, that support dramatically dwindled. The Bearcats slipped from 120 points to just 39 points, easily their lowest total of the young season. They didn’t receive a single vote in the Top 20, and some of their biggest Week 3 supporters (looking at you, Jon Rothstein), gave up on them entirely.

32 AP voters had UC in their Week 3 ballot. In Week 4, that number fell to just 13.

UC is going to have to win some people back, and they’ll likely have to wait until December 1 when they travel to Ames to take on the Iowa State Cyclones, who are ranked #21 this week. Win that road game, and they’ll have the attention of the college basketball world. For now, they have a simple task: demolish Samford and Lipscomb.

Biggest UC fan: Graham Couch (Lansing State Journal), Mark Berman (The Roanoke Times), and Steve Wiseman (The Herald Sun) for ranking the Bearcats #21. Honorable mention to Seth Davis for moving Cincinnati from #24 to #23 in his ballot despite the loss.

Biggest UC hater: Jon Rothstein, for moving the Bearcats from #19 to unranked after the loss. I never thought I’d say this: Don’t hate on the Bearcats, Jon. The loss wasn’t great, but it wasn’t worthy of dropping from #19 to unranked.