The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson is one of 65 national media members voting in the Associated Press Top 25 basketball poll this season. Every week throughout the 2018-19 campaign, he’ll break down how he voted, offering three thoughts on the latest edition of the poll, an update on the Pac-12’s ranked teams and a look at local Top 25 representative Gonzaga.
1. The weight and the emphasis placed on wins and losses in conference tournaments probably varies from voter to voter. I’m under the assumption that I value them more than most – something that’s reflected in my final ballot of the season. Duke, for example, shot back up to the top spot after appearing at No. 6 last week. That was a common trend among voters this week, but there were a few other major swings on my ballot – a seven-spot raise for SEC champ Auburn, a five-spot promotion for Villanova and an axing of Maryland – to reflect my logic when it comes to the conference tourneys.
2. The vast majority of AP voters took the same approach to the top-six as I did. Fifty-eight of the 65 have Duke on the top line, 32 of them placed Virginia at No. 2, 29 gave North Carolina the nod at No. 3, 21 put Gonzaga at No. 4, 20 moved Michigan State to No. 5 and 26 had Tennessee at No. 6. Not surprisingly, that’s also how the NCAA seeds shook out on Sunday – and you can imagine a bulk of Top 25 voters used that as a template when casting their final ballot.
3. Without surveying each of the 25 teams that finished with a national ranking, it’s hard to think anybody had more of a roller-coaster year in the Top 25 than Villanova. The defending national champions opened the year at No. 9 and briefly moved up to No. 8 – the highest ranking of the season for the Wildcats. The next 18 weeks went like this: unranked (No. 29), No. 23, No. 21, No. 17, unanked (No. 30), unranked (No. 29), unranked (No. 28), unranked (No. 26), No. 22, No. 18, No. 14, No. 14, No. 13, No. 17, unranked (No. 27), No. 23, No. 25, No. 23. If nothing else, Jay Wright’s team will be interesting to follow over the next week(s).
Perusing the Pac-12
So much for the one-bid Pac-12. The conference tournament was as hectic and chaotic as most anticipated it would be – and exactly according to plan, from the chair of commissioner Larry Scott. The Pac-12 placed three teams in the 2019 NCAA field – Oregon, the tournament champion, and two at-larges, Arizona State and Washington – but it didn’t have anyone finish in the final Top 25 poll. We’ve yet to discover the last time that happened.
There are more important things than the top ranking in the AP Top 25. A top NCAA Tournament seed, for example. Because of its WCC title game loss to Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga forfeited the No. 1 ranking it had held for nearly a month prior, but the Bulldogs were still grinning on Sunday when they were announced as the fourth and final No. 1 seed in this year’s tourney.
One brave voter, Paul Klee of The Gazette in Denver, kept Gonzaga on the top line of the AP poll while six had them at No. 2, 13 placed them at No. 3, 21 penciled them in at No. 4, 12 moved them to No. 5, seven ranked them at No. 6 and four others dropped them to No. 7.
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