Luke DeCock

Luke DeCock’s AP Top 25 basketball poll ballot: Week 12

RJ Barrett on Duke’s win over Virginia

Duke Blue Devils freshman RJ Barrett scored 30 points in a 72-70 ACC basketball win over previously undefeated Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at Cameron Indoor Stadium
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Duke Blue Devils freshman RJ Barrett scored 30 points in a 72-70 ACC basketball win over previously undefeated Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at Cameron Indoor Stadium

With Duke, Michigan and Virginia all losing, it was time to pick a new No. 1. Duke was certainly still under consideration after ending the Cavaliers’ undefeated season, and while the Blue Devils were without two starters for almost all of Monday’s loss to Syracuse, I don’t typically take injuries into consideration. You are who you are, or as Norman Dale would have it, your team is on the floor.

So there were two candidates. Team A is third in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings and fourth in ESPN’s BPI (measures of how good we think a team is; predictive) and first in Wins Above Bubble and second in ESPN’s Strength of Record (measures of what a team has actually done; results-based). It is 6-2 in KenPom A games and 9-2 in KenPom A/B games (measures of degree of difficulty based on opponent and location).

Team B is fifth in KenPom, fifth in BPI, fourth in WAB and fifth in SOR, 4-1 in A games and 6-1 in A/B games.

Tennessee fans who know these numbers have already stopped reading this to send angry tweets, but Team A is Michigan State and Team B is Tennessee, both of whom lost to Kansas on a neutral court in an odd coincidence.

Many (most?) voters are going to promote Tennessee into the top spot by default and that’s fine; the Volunteers are obviously a strong No. 2 in my poll. But after giving the top two candidates for my No. 1 vote this serious consideration, Michigan State appears to be the better team with the better resume. (As ESPN basketball stat-cruncher John Gasaway has pointed out on Twitter, Sparty is the best team no one is talking about.)

I have been less forgiving of North Carolina and Kentucky’s miscues this season than other voters but the Wildcats take a big jump up this week and the Tar Heels have the potential to leap again next week if they can take care of business at home against Virginia Tech on Monday.

Wofford has played its way into the poll with a win over Furman in the potential-two-bid Southern Conference. Last teams out, all of which had as good a claim for a spot as Purdue, Mississippi State or Wofford: Iowa State, Louisville and LSU.

THIS SEASON’S BALLOTS

Week 1 (Preseason) Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11

MY TOP 25

1. Michigan State (Last week: 5)

2. Tennessee (4)

3. Duke (1)

4. Virginia (3)

5. Michigan (2)

6. Gonzaga (6)

7. Nevada (10)

8. Kansas (7)

9. Virginia Tech (8)

10. Buffalo (11)

11. Maryland (13)

12. Marquette (14)

13. North Carolina (18)

14. Kentucky (23)

15. Auburn (12)

16. Houston (22)

17. Iowa (21)

18. Texas Tech (9)

19. Villanova (24)

20. NC State (15)

21. Mississippi (16)

22. Purdue (NR)

23. Nebraska (20)

24. Mississippi State (NR)

25. Wofford (NR)

OUT Oklahoma (17), Florida State (19), Temple (25).

Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered the Summer Olympics, the Final Four, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.
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