With Ohio State becoming the final team to lose today (and isn't it great that we don't have that melodrama surrounding the final team that loses, like what happens with the 1972 Dolphins in the NFL?), the discussion simply must be had: Who should be ranked No. 1?
Now, this means very little, really. You know that, yes? Because the teams being debated for the No. 1 ranking in Monday's polls are all considered No. 1 seed-worthy as of now, and that's what really matters. But we can have some fun and address some resumes. So let's do that. Gary Parrish is making the case for Ohio State. You can read his take here.
You know where Parrish stands. What follows are the cases for Texas (Matt Norlander), Kansas (Matt Jones) and Pitt (Eric Angevine).
Norlander says Texas
To me, with rankings (something I find myself caring about less and less each year), it's as much about how good you are on the court as it is the scalps on the wall. Nobody is dominating like 22-3 Texas, who improved to, hello, 10-0 in the Big 12 this afternoon. Yes, the Longhorns have yet to lose in the Big 12, unlike Kansas. Oh, right: Texas beat Kansas.
And that was in Lawrence, ending the Jayhawks' 69-game streak of wins at home.
I've told you this a couple of times already just how good Texas is in regard to other teams. They're winning by double-digits on the regular in the conference. Heck, today's nine-point win over Baylor may as well be considered skin-of-the-teeth variety. The Longhorns are ferocious-yet-disciplined on D, and that's only one of six or seven things that makes this team a great one within the context of the 2010-11 season.
Cory Joseph (right) is playing well as a freshman point guard. Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson: these are future high-first-round draft picks. Maintaining a win streak is the ultimate criterion for keeping a No. 1 ranking. Texas' upcoming schedule (home vs. Okie State, at Nebraska, home vs. Iowa State) doesn't seem to indicate any losing soon.
Before Ohio State lost I considered Texas the top team in America. This just helps build my case.
Jones says KansasWhen the Top 25 is released on Monday, the smart money is on Kansas being No. 1 once again. And in the same way that contestants were usually well-served to go with the answer most favored when using the “ask the audience” lifeline on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” the selection of the majority is correct in this case as well.
There are really only three contenders for the No. 1 slot. Pittsburgh and Duke have nice teams, but as a quick glance of the stats on kenpom.com showcase, when it comes to the best combination of offensive and defensive efficiency, only Texas, Kansas and Ohio State are worth discussing.
I eliminate Norlander's pick, Texas, from the outset because it has three losses. The polls don’t exist to simply tell us who is playing the best at this very moment. If that were the case, Georgetown and its seven game win streak would be in the conversation. The overall body of work does matter and the Longhorns have two more losses than either the Buckeyes or Jayhawks. That two game spread is decisive, regardless of how dominant Texas has been in recent weeks.
That leaves Ohio State and Kansas and for my money, the Jayhawks get the nod because they have the better overall resume. While Ohio State has been squeaking by teams in a variety of Big Ten slugfests, Kansas has been blasting its opponents in every way imaginable. Bill Self’s team has won its last five games by an average of 21 points, and unlike the Buckeyes, has put on a clinic for all of its opponents. All but three conference games for Ohio State have been a battle. All but three conference games for Kansas have been a beatdown.
Plus, the Jayhawks loss is a better one than the one Ohio State took today in Madison. Kansas lost at home, immediately following the tragedy involving Thomas Robinson’s family, against a great Texas team. That Longhorn team is better than the Wisconsin group that took down Ohio State and would beat them on a neutral court. Advantage Kansas.
But most importantly, the Jayhawks are just better. While Jared Sullinger is the national Player of the Year, no team has as many diverse scoring options as Kansas. With the Morris twins, Josh Selby, Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor and others, no team can shut down all of the weapons in the Kansas arsenal. If I were an opposing coach, I would want no part Selby’s athleticism, the Morris twins’ field goal efficiency or the entire teams’ defensive pressure. Give me Kansas at No. 1 both now, and when the nets are cut down in early April.Angevine says Pitt
Each of these teams is worthy. I just think Pitt is more worthy. Both Big 12 teams handled easy opposition today to make their cases for No. 1. The other two teams we're considering were in flat-out heavyweight slugfests. Ohio State lost theirs, and Pitt won.
What I like about Pitt is their ability to take a punch. Literally and figuratively. They bounced back immediately from the news that Ashton Gibbs would have to sit while rehabbing an injury, and Travon Woodall has stepped in and played his role on offense and defense with no problems. When I say they can literally take a punch, I'm referring to a moment in the Villanova game where Nasir Robinson was tapped on the chin by Isaiah Armwood. He could have lost his cool and started a brawl. Instead, he absorbed the contact and let the resulting technical foul turn the tide of the game in Pitt's favor.
That's why I think the Panthers prove worthy of the honor based on present factors that should weigh in their favor going forward. Here's why they deserve it based on past performance:
Pitt has had more wins against more tough teams, both in conference and out, than any of these other contenders for the top spot. For quantity and quality of wins, our new number one team has to be Pitt.