Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News was the first, and now you can add Jon Wilner to that list. The San Jose Mercury News college hoops writer has also voted Syracuse number-one on his weekly ballot.
Could the Orange really be the best team in the nation? That’s a matter of opinion, but there are other ways we can check on where SU stands in the national picture.
First, the most recent rankings put the top 5 like this: Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, Purdue, Syracuse.
Now let’s get to the breakdown.
According to Real Time RPI, which calculates RPI in real time (who knew!), Syracuse is ranked tenth. (That’s the daily ranking, but the real time version has a fee and The Fizz’s budget is a tad tight around the holidays. Gotta make sure we buy Otto his snuggie!)
(For a quick explanation of how the Ratings Percentage Index is calculated. I now cite Wikipedia with more pride than ever after one professor this semester called it “The academic anti-Christ” and “The tool of the Devil.” Take that!)
Thehoopsreport.com puts Syracuse at ninth, and teamrankings.com places the Orange 10th in RPI.
That same site when comparing only strength of schedule rankings puts SU at 70th. Ouch, Jimmy B. No offense Columbia, but maybe you shouldn’t be coming back to the Dome next season.
Teamrankings.com gives Syracuse a #10 nod too. Looking at the teams with RPI ranked higher that Syracuse, all three sites had a consistent 1-2-3 of Duke, Kansas State and West Virginia. After that it was a matter of where you put St. Johns (seriously), Texas, Purdue, Temple, New Mexico, and UConn.
Being behind all of those schools in RPI doesn’t help. The RPI is much more crucial to success than any national ranking will ever be.
In fact, for a story I did for WAER Radio this past weekend, I spoke with Mike Waters, Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal (Providence College), Mark Berman of the Roanoke Times (Virginia Tech), and Pete Iorizzo of the Albany Times Union (Siena). They all said the selection committee takes rankings into account zero percent of the time.
The strongest argument for any school is to beat other programs that are going to be in contention for March. So while it’s nice to beat up on every other college basketball team in the state, (Albany, Cornell, Columbia, Colgate, St. Francis and soon St. Bonaventure) those games only matter if you lose.
“The most important thing out there is how you do against teams that are in the mix for the tournament. For example Syracuse plays Colgate, that game doesn’t matter. When Syracuse plays Florida, when Syracuse plays North Carolina, those are the games that the tournament selection committee boils it down to,” says McNamara.
So is it safe to start talking Final Four? Probably a little early.
Of the ten games so far, only two or three have actually mattered. While it’s nice to be able to smile at work on a Monday – even if you just spilled coffee on yourself – because the Orange is fifth in the polls, keep in mind that the real season has yet to begin.