Why Is UNC Still A Ranked Team?

Steve O Speak

Now I realize that writing this post will get me into some hot water with some friends and family (I guess I won’t use up all my Verizon minutes this month) for attacking UNC. But really this post is about the asinine Top-25 rankings, in particular the pre-season poll. Overall I like UNC and have nothing against them. They aren’t my favorite team by any means, but I do support them (especially since they are Duke’s biggest rival). Over the years I have throughly enjoyed watching a number of UNC stars, from Ty Lawson, to Raymond Felton and my all-time favorite UNC player Antwan Jamison. While I’m perfectly fine with UNC, what I am not fine with is the ‘walk on water’ mentality the media and basketball pundits give the Tar Heels (and other traditional powerhouses). North Carolina really has had little business being ranked in the Top-25 all season.

Yes, they have big wins over Ohio State and Michigan State but that’s about it. Last night’s loss to Wake Forest gave them 7 losses on the season, and 3 straight in the ACC. They now have back-to-back losses in Chapel Hill, plus a blowout loss at Clemson. The Tar Heels now rank 11th in the ACC and the only conference team they beat, Virginia Tech, ranks 10th. This is not exactly the resume of a high ranked team. Now they will finally be out of the poll, but I really wonder why were they still in there to begin with? After getting beat by the College of Charleston, UNC was still ranked in the top 15, and fell only three spots to 13. What other school could suffer that loss and only fall 3 spots? They should have fallen at least out of the top 15 and possibly into the 20’s.

Then after suffering two ACC losses including one at home and that blowout to Clemson, they fall 10 spots to 23. After those two losses (yes they were ranked teams, but both were ranked BEHIND UNC, so they were upsets) there is no reason the Tar Heels should have still been ranked. And the sole reason they were was because North Carolina was ranked 4th in the preseason poll. Of all the lunacy in college sports with rankings, and BCS standings, the worse travesty has to be the fact that preseason rankings can have any bearing once the season begins. There is no reason that since the voters thought UNC would be a great team before the season began, they should rank higher then teams that are actually playing better basketball then them. Where is the logic in that?

Now I know UNC apologists and rankings apologists will say, that “oh UNC lost their top 4 players” so its unfair to punish them. I get that, it is a rebuilding year for UNC and they will probably be a great team NEXT season. But right here, right now they aren’t deserving of any excuses for their artificial preseason ranking, or their current one. Last season Syracuse, UConn, and Pitt were all top teams and all of them lost plenty of talent. UConn and Syracuse lost their top 3 players, and fell in the rankings to 14th and 25th respectively. Pitt lost its top 4 players and were going to be without their other starter, and 6th man off the bench until December and fell all the way to 37th (and that’s just in the Big East).

Its one thing to expect UNC to be good, but quite another to credit them for their artificial standing. If anything, the Tar Heels should fall further then most teams, because of the level of talent they brought to the floor this season. Between the last two years they recruited 7 McDonald’s All-Americans, and everyone on that roster is a 4 or 5 star recruit. Teams like Pitt and UConn have a few of these types of players, but not a roster full of them. When UNC loses it should be a bit more of a blemish given their level of talent.

To fix this inadequacy we need to have a system where there aren’t poll rankings until after the first month of the season. This will allow teams to build their resume before we can begin to judge them. That will equal the playing field for all teams. In a case like that we would have seen a UNC team ranked between 10-15 through December, but fall hard and fast with their recent performance. That is how the top 25 should play out, without any interference of meaningless preseason or week 1 and 2 rankings. Hopefully the debacle of how the Tar Heels have performed compared to their ranking, will give some people pause enough to change a flawed system. And finally rankings will be awarded on merit and not prediction.

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