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4-1-Zoo: Voters Got Top 5 Wrong This Week

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PITTSBURGH — Many Pitt fans have voiced their displeasure with the new top 25 rankings this week, thinking Pitt should be higher than its No. 4 ranking in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls.

I have to agree with most of you out there.

The big talking point is that Texas (22-3) is ranked above Pitt in both polls even though Pitt has  a head-to-head victory over the Longhorns from November at Madison Square Garden. Texas is ranked No. 3 in the AP poll and No. 2 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

The argument for the Longhorns is that they have improved as the year’s gone on and were a young team when they played Pitt. That shows and is true, considering they have won 10 in a row, four of which came against ranked opponents.

However, I’m a person that bases my opinions on fact. I refuse to speculate on where a team was months ago or where teams will be in a few months.

I live in the present and base every team’s evaluation as such, using concrete numbers to back it up.

That said, I broke out my own method for evaluating the latest polls and came up with the “Chris Gates poll.” This poll is based on five concrete ideas that, collectively, judge a team’s worth: RPI, strength of schedule, strength of conference, wins and losses.

I also had the advantage of watching No. 1 Kansas lay an egg at Kansas State last night. So here’s what I came up with:

Chris Gates Poll, Top 5:

1) Pitt
2) Texas
3) Ohio State
4) Kansas
5) Duke

Here’s a team-by-team breakdown so you can understand my reasoning (all RPI numbers are based on each team’s resume going in to this week). I’ll leave out Duke because the Blue Devils were No. 5 in both polls and were the only group not to receive a first-place vote in either the AP or ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.

Pitt:

RPI: No. 6
Strength of schedule: No. 20
Record: 23-2, 11-1 Big East (first place)

Pitt leads all of these teams in quality wins with six victories against RPI top 25 opponents: Texas (8), UConn (13), Georgetown (4), West Virginia (22), Villanova (20) and Syracuse (21). Its only losses are also to RPI top 25 teams: Notre Dame (9) and Tennessee (25).

The Panthers are third of these team involved in both RPI and strength of schedule, but being the best team in the best conference in American helps and so does those quality wins and just two losses to strong teams. Pitt comes in at No. 1 because of that and is ahead of Texas because of the head-to-head win against Texas — many say it’s a diluted win because of time, but I’m not throwing quality wins out the window here.

Texas:

RPI: No. 8
Strength of schedule: No. 18
Record: 22-3, 10-0 Big 12 (first place)

Texas has just two RPI top 25 wins. The Longhorns beat North Carolina (11) and Kansas (1). With that head-to-head win against Kansas, you’re probably wondering why Texas isn’t higher. Well, that’s because it has three losses — more than any team involved in this breakdown — and one of them came to USC, whose RPI is 101.

The Longhorns have the lowest RPI of all of these teams and have the most losses. That has to count for something. Quality wins help and so does playing in the Big 12. However, it’s not enough to vault to the top of the Chris Gates Poll.

Ohio State:

RPI: 3
Strength of schedule: 33
Record: 24-1, 11-1 Big Ten (first place)

Too many people are complaining about Texas when they should be complaining about Ohio State. The Buckeyes have just two quality wins: Florida (RPI No. 12) and Purdue (10). They play in the weakest conference in this conversation and, therefore, have the easiest schedule.

RPI and one loss helps Ohio State a lot, but Pitt and Texas have proven more so far this season with quality wins.

Kansas:

RPI: No. 1
Strength of schedule: No. 11
Record: 24-2, 9-2 Big 12 (second place)

The Jayhawks have quality wins over Memphis, Arizona, UCLA and Missouri. Arizona is a quality top-25 RPI win at No. 16 nationally. The only loss for Kansas before last night came to Texas, which has an RPI of 8.

But now, with two losses, the Jayhawks have shown the entire country they still have a lot to work on. Kansas leads all teams involved in RPI and strength of schedule, but now has two losses. They quickly went from my No. 1 to my No. 4 (and could easily now be placed behind Duke as well).

While we can all debate these facts, the math points clearly to my rankings. Nevertheless, all of this means very little in college basketball because there is a tournament. It will all play out, so don’t get too upset or offended that Pitt is “just” No. 4

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com

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