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.)
The regular season is over, which seems impossible. It feels like just yesterday I was on campus for Homecoming, watching Cane Broome tear up the Red & Black scrimmage, and producing the first basketball coverage of the season. More than any season I’ve experienced, this one seemed to fly. I think that’s a good thing. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. The 2015–16 campaign was a long, arduous path to a devastating finish. The 2016–17 season has been a blast, and I think the AP Poll tells that story.
The Bearcats clocked in this week at #18, a position they’ve held every other week for the last month. It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day, but I think there’s a better way to look at it. Despite falling to #18 on three separate occasions in the last month, there’s always been a bounce back.
The season in review. (CollegePollTracker.com)
After the latest setback — a defeat to #11 SMU in the AAC title game — the Bearcats look towards Friday in hopes of bouncing back one final time. They haven’t lost back-t0-back games this season and I don’t see them starting now. This is the most resilient team of the Cronin era. Where others faltered down the stretch, this team stayed on track. The ‘Cats enter the tournament with a 10–3 record in February and March (better than previous teams) and 29 total wins on the season. The last time the Bearcats hit the tournament with that many wins was 2002. In that bracket, they won a first round game before falling to UCLA in the second round. Cincinnati will have a chance to exorcise those demons this weekend.
This is the most decorated team of the Cronin era from an AP Poll perspective. The ‘Cats were ranked in 16 of 19 possible polls and — if it weren’t for preseason disrespect — likely would have run wire-to-wire. The team received votes in every poll, never falling below #30. That’s an achievement no Cincinnati team has earned since 2003–04.
Despite the resounding opinion from Cincinnati faithful that this is the best team in a decade and a half, the AP Poll never really saw it. The voters consistently ranked the Bearcats among the nation’s best, but never gave them their full vote of confidence. Mick’s most ranked team never hit the Top 10. The 2016–17 peak at #11 places this season just third in the Cronin era. (The 2012–13 team hit #8 and the 2013–14 team hit #7.)
It’s been a weird year for the Red & Black. By every metric, including the eye test, this team is special. The fans have seen it all season. National pundits never did, unless you count a reluctant #11 AP Poll placement before snatching it away following a road loss to a ranked team. AP voters never came around on the Bearcats, and neither did the selection committee. Such is life. If the Bearcats get the respect they deserve next season, they have a real chance at running wire-to-wire in the poll for the first time in 14 years.
I think it’s fitting that the final AP Poll comes out the day after Selection Sunday. As the preface before this post has said all season, the whole thing is meaningless. Each week, we all get worked up, offended, or excited. None of it matters.
I ended up liking Breaking The Poll. For a short weekly blurb about the boring numbers behind a meaningless ranking created by a bunch of people with varying degrees of expertise, it proved to be an entertaining series for me to write. Hopefully you all enjoyed reading me put way too much thought into this every week and then roasting some poor schmuck in Kansas City. It’ll be back next year… maybe even for football season?!