Graham Couch is an Associated Press voter with the Lansing State Journal who is on a personal crusade to make sure teams play in opposing gyms with loud fans (because we know that’s what gyms are like in early December).
And he’s willing to go through some mind-bending mental gymnastics in order to get his point across and have you look at him for his rankings. This week, he has excluded Kansas, Tennessee, and Duke from his rankings. Why? Because those teams have yet to play a true road game in 2018.
Disregard that Kansas and Duke opened the season with big games immediately on a neutral court against teams also ranked in the Top 10. Disregard that Duke went to Maui to play in a loaded field, and had their only loss against Gonzaga. Disregard that Tennessee just played Gonzaga in Phoenix. Or that Tennessee and Kansas met in an event at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
No, because they didn’t venture into a 4,000 seat arena against a team you might find in the C.I.T. at season’s end, but rather took on big games at neutral sites, they are unfit. Makes sense, right?
You want to be able to have some nuance and put some things in perspective. You want to evaluate a team that has played a bunch of tough road games versus a team that has not? Go for it, try to put it in context, but this bright line rule is nonsensical. And it wouldn’t matter–I mean no one is making a tournament or not because of Graham Couch–but it is concerning that this is how someone given a rare vote thinks.
Let’s go through some examples. Florida State is eligible because they played one road game at Tulane, a team that has also lost at home to Georgia State and Southeastern Louisiana. That game, then, makes them good. A loss on the road is a positive too. Virginia Tech has played only one road game, at Penn State in the pre-scheduled ACC/Big Ten challenge. But that gets them ranked at #12. Arizona State hasn’t even played a road game, they just lost a neutral game to Nevada, but they are ranked 16th and maybe Couch is giving them credit for going to Georgia on Saturday? I guess that makes warped sense since the results of the game will not matter and it’s just being willing to pack a suitcase (while not playing in a big neutral venue).
Cincinnati won at 4-4 UNLV, and that’s good enough to get them ranked even though I’m not sure they’ve beaten another team that will be an at-large in the NCAA tournament yet. Marquette lost their only true road game and lost to Kansas on a neutral court. Nope, they are good, Kansas is not. San Francisco’s two true road games are at really bad teams. Couch also favorably cites them traveling to Ireland–for a neutral game and loss to Buffalo–as the eye test reason they should be ranked. Oklahoma, who will finish well below Kansas in the Big 12 standings, is ranked because they did a Texas two-step against UT-Rio Grand Valley and UT-San Antonio to start the year.
It’s all just so mind numbing. Congrats on having that vote. Now stay away from operating machinery, especially when on the road.