The Bearcats have been ranked for 14 weeks this season, the most since 2013–14 when they received their 14th placement in the season’s final AP Poll following a win at Rutgers — pictured above. (Jim O’Connor | USA TODAY Sports)
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 breaks down the AP voters and dissects why the Bearcats are ranked where they are. (This series is made possible by College Poll Tracker.)
I don’t understand the AP Poll. I’ve been writing about the Bearcats in the poll each week for 3.5 months and I feel like I have no deeper understanding than I did when I started.
When the Bearcats lost to SMU in Dallas, fans were upset but mostly shrugged. The Bearcats hadn’t lost in more than two months, the Ponies were ranked, and Moody is a extremely tough place to play. It wasn’t a bad loss by any stretch. The AP voters lit the ‘Cats on fire, plunging them from #11 to #18 in the rankings the next day.
On Sunday, the Bearcats lost on the road to UCF. The Knights are a pretty respectable team, but they aren’t ranked (or close to it). To make matters worse, the Bearcats looked downright miserable for 75% of the game. It was not a good look for the Red & Black, and the fans responded as such, sending Twitter into a frenzy. The AP voters this week have essentially looked the other way, and the Bearcats slipped just three spots — back to #18. I’m not complaining, I just don’t think it makes any sense. (Gonzaga lost at home to middling BYU and is still ranked #4 with multiple first-place votes. Again, none of this makes any sense.)
I should point out that the Bearcats are on shaky ground. They’re 218 points outside of the Top 15 and just 59 points from falling out of the Top 20. We’re to the point in the season where the tournament picture is beginning to come into focus, so I’m not sure this matters. The Bearcats can’t afford to lose this week, and that has nothing to do with the AP Poll.
Elsewhere in the league, the SMU Mustangs climbed to #14, their highest ranking since Week 13 (2/1) last season. They’re going to win the American and earn the tournament’s 1-seed. Cincinnati’s job now becomes meeting them there. It would be a colossal game.
We also have a milestone this week. The Mick Cronin Rankings Tracker tells me that the Bearcats have now been in the Top 25 for 14 of 17 possible weeks, tying the Cronin Era record. If the Bearcats handle business this week, they’ll set a new high water mark.
Biggest UC fan: I gotta give it to Seth Davis again. For the first time in nearly two months, he dropped the Bearcats in his ballot — which is fair considering it was only one spot and UCF is unranked. You’re the best, Seth.
Biggest UC hater: Mandy Mitchell (WRAL Raleigh) for ranking the Bearcats at #24. The last time the Bearcats received a vote at #24 or lower was six weeks ago. Elsewhere in her poll, 19–9 Iowa State is ahead of UC and 20–8 Miami is in her Top 20. In case her location didn’t give it away, Mandy is a big Duke fan, and she ranked the Blue Devils at #12 — five spots higher than their placement in the composite poll. Okay, Mandy. Okay.