Sports with Chuck McGill Dedicated to the stats and the silly in sports

Why Michigan State?

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There is a fantastic website called collegepolltracker.com (click and check it out) that lists the ballots of all 65 sportswriters who vote in the Associated Press men’s basketball poll. The website also allows the public to give ballots a thumbs up or thumbs down, and then lists the three most popular ballots, three worst ballots, three most extreme ballots and three least extreme ballots.

My ballot falls under two umbrellas this week: most extreme and lowest rated.

This probably has a lot to do with my ranking of Michigan State, which is No. 2 in the AP poll but No. 9 on my ballot. My ranking of the Spartans is the worst in the country by two spots, and most have MSU in the top three or four. Two voters even ranked Michigan State No. 1.

I just don’t get it, though, and it’s not really a slight to Michigan State.

Last week the Spartans were No. 6 overall and No. 8 on my ballot. They then picked up wins over Ohio State (RPI: 74) and Penn State (RPI: 98) while four teams in front of them — Villanova, Oklahoma, Virginia and Xavier — took one loss for the week. So, the collective votes pushed Michigan State past those four teams into the No. 2 spot.

Me? I saw no reason to penalize the four teams that lost. Villanova lost to No. 5 Xavier. No big deal. Oklahoma lost to No. 25 Texas, which has been one of the hottest teams in the country. No big deal. Virginia lost to No. 12 Miami, which also defeated No. 11 Louisville last week. No big deal. Xavier might’ve lost to Seton Hall, a sure-fire NCAA tournament team that is knocking on the door of the top 25, but Xavier also defeated top-ranked Villanova.

What did those teams do that deserved to fall behind Michigan State? How do wins over the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions convince a voter the Spartans are that much better than a week ago?

I severely underrated Michigan State in the preseason at No. 17. I corrected that mistake by ranking the Spartans at No. 1 for four consecutive weeks in December, and then I refused to harshly penalize Michigan State for losing at Iowa and had the Spartans at No. 2 in the next poll — the team’s highest ranking among the 65 voters at the time. That was three spots higher than the Spartans were actually ranked — No. 5.

Popularity is fleeting.