ESPN: 1. Butler. I know, I know: The Bulldogs were handled on the road at Saint Louis on Thursday night, losing 75-58 and never really threatening from the end of the first half onward. But I’m leaving the Bulldogs at the top of the league for a few reasons.
I’m not inclined to punish teams too much for losing to other good teams on the road.
Based on overall performance throughout the entire college hoops season — when Butler got wins over Marquette, Indiana and Gonzaga, and only lost to Illinois during the height of the Illini’s 3-point-shooting wizardry in Maui — it is awfully easy to make a pure “resume” case for the Bulldogs at the No. 1 spot.
No one else has truly stepped up to claim the spot.
Is this a ranking by default? Sure. But I’m not really sure who else you’d take here, and so Butler remains in place. For now.
2. La Salle. Here’s another excellent example of why the current A-10 is such a chaotic rankings haven: Last Wednesday, La Salle toppled Butler at home. On Saturday, the Explorers traveled to Richmond, Va., and got the best league win of the season to date, a 69-61 victory at Virginia Commonwealth in which they didn’t let VCU kill them on turnovers and held the Rams to just 0.95 points per trip in their own building. Here come the Explorers, right? Right!
That is, until Wednesday, when La Salle lost at home to Massachusetts 61-60. Being held to 60 points on your home floor by a defense as mediocre as the Minutemen: not a good look.
Even so, I dare you to find me an A-10 team without at least one confusing or just downright bad loss in recent weeks. It isn’t possible. So La Salle gets the bump up to No. 2 this week, even if it sort of backed its way in.
14. Rhode Island. Rhode Island is not good — let’s not get carried away — but the Rams are not bad, and nowhere near as abysmal as they were last season. Consider their past four games: On Jan. 19, they won at Saint Louis. On Jan. 23, they lost to George Washington 66-65. On Jan. 30, they lost at VCU 70-64. There was a three-point road loss at Fordham sandwiched in there, but nobody’s perfect, and the point is not that Rhode Island is even a top-100 team — merely that it is playing teams both good and bad close, both at home and on the road. Considering where this program left off last season, it’s pretty impressive stuff.
The Top 5 seems to be in order here. Can’t really complain about the arrangement of the schools.
The story buried in here is Eamonn Brennan listing the rest of the A10 (except for URI and Fordham) as a tie for 6th place in the rankings. While I think there is a bit of laziness here because I don’t think George Washington is as good as Dayton, St. Joe’s, or Xavier. I get Eamonn’s overall point. A lot of old school college basketball fans (who firmly believe in the clear delineation between high majors, mid majors, and low majors) will say this is because the conference is just mediocre except for a small few top tier teams. I believe this shows just how competitive this conference is and how much parity exists in the A10.
I also like the little bit of praise Eamonn gave to URI. It is better than earlier in the season when he had URI and Fordham at the bottom and all he wrote was something to the effect of “these schools are bad. Until things change, I won’t bother writing anything about them.”