As the Racers continue their undefeated run through the conference, much of the talk is turning to the Racers ranking, especially the Number 10 ranking bestowed upon them by the coaches who vote in the ESPN / USA Today Coaches Poll. And as Gary Parrish made clear this week in his “Poll Attacks” column, (a great weekly read, by the way) he’s made it quite clear that no matter how many wins the Racers amass, a top-10 rating isn’t valid.
And he’s not without a valid point. To compare the OVC to a major conference is laughable; in fact, comparing the OVC to a mid-major conference isn’t a fair comparison either. You can use whatever terminology you want, but lets face the facts that the Ohio Valley Conference is a low-major conference, and likely not ever borderline to mid-major status at that.
It doesn’t help that the team picked to win the conference, who also likely played the toughest schedule, finished an anemic 2-10 against Division I competition. Nor does it help that the entirety of the conference, minus the Racers, won a paltry 42.2% of their non conference games, including wins against teams from lower divisions.
But saying the Racers aren’t deserving of a top-15 ranking is another example of where the college football mentality is running rampant in all college sports.
It’s not like the Racers wins are completely without merit: The Racers beat a ranked Memphis team in Memphis, and regardless your belief on where, or if, the Tigers should be ranked, that’s a quality win. As is a home win against Dayton.
But everyone wants to focus on the lesser teams on their schedule. The Harris Stowe, Tennessee Temple, and well, UT Martin’s that the Racers have faced and beaten.
But put the “top” teams in the nation against Murray’s schedule. How many would come out unscathed? You can put the best teams in the nation against the same schedule, and few wouldn’t come out undefeated. Many might come out with one loss, but going undefeated through 19 games, against any schedule, is an impressive feat.
And that’s what they’re being rewarded for. And in college basketball, that’s exactly what the rankings are, an award. Unlike college football, the rankings don’t matter. Unlike college football, the Racers will get a chance to play for a national title.
And that’s why college basketball rankings shouldn’t be treated like college football rankings. So many people are afraid to rank teams highly outside of the big 6 conferences because they “feel” that they couldn’t compete.
Have we really learned nothing from Butler? In college football, a middle of the road team could never compete with the likes of LSU or Alabama. But in college basketball, it’s a completely different animal. The national powerhouses get challenged yearly by teams deemed “inferior,” and often times beat. It’s this singular philosophy that makes March Madness the most exciting tournament in sports.
Yet, we still look at the teams like the Racers, and say “they couldn’t compete with Kentucky. They couldn’t compete with Syracuse.” Despite that year in and year out, teams like the Racers compete with teams like the Wildcats every year.
So to the people who continue to say the Racers aren’t a top 10 team:
What’s your team’s record?