Last time through, we stated the following: Up until now, we've had only the Rivals rankings, which were fun, but what we were hoping for was a second source to compare and contrast the Rivals rankings with. And now, today, we have the USA Today/ESPN/Coaches Poll. And a coaches poll is a powerful thing. For now on, we will pit these two lists against each other. And so we begin, with the 11-15 rankings.
#11--Rivals: Kansas State. Coaches: Duke.
This is by far the widest disparity yet. The coaches poll doesn't have Kansas City in the Top 25, much less hovering near Top 10. Rivals has Duke at #16. So why the huge divergence? It is apparently due to a differences in philosophy. Duke is all about returning players, returning Coach, and a track record. Kansas State has a new coach (Frank Martin, who is in his first Head Coaching gig), and several young players that Rivals think will be badass. They are particularly excited by Bill Walker and Michael Beasley, who they call the #1 prospect of the freshman class.
I dislike Duke with a smoldering passion, but the idea that a team led by a New Head Coach, with freshman recruits will be in the Top 15 at the end of the year sounds kind of crazy to me. Kansas State may be scary, but they probably won't be in the Sweet Sixteen. Which means Rivals is a little infatuated with Freshman talent.
#12: Rivals: Arizona. Coaches: Marquette.
They aren't far from each other here. I'd say the Coaches are giving a little too much credit to a severely compromised Dominic James. Arizona sounds about right to me. They are in a tough position, playing in an insanely competitive conference. But they've got great new talent, and an underrated do-it-all player in Chase Budinger.
#13: Rivals: Stanford. Coaches: Oregon.
You will see difference, but at this point, if you've been paying attention, you have noticed just how many PAC-10 teams are showing up in just the Top 15. They will get 6 teams into the March Clinically Insanity. Maybe 7. I'm guessing Rivals made this pick before Brook Lopez's troubles with academia were known. He is missing at least nine games. Oregon is a guard heavy team that will be as good as their shooting percentage, and no better. Their shooting percentage should be quite good.
#14: Rivals: Washington State. Coaches: Gonzaga
The Coaches are often slow to love, and slow to unlove. Gonzaga will be the class of their conference, to be sure, but I don't know about Heyveldt and Pargo and Matty Boldin. They will be good, to be sure. Top 15 good? I don't think so. Washington State is part of the dogpile that will be the PAC-10. They would probably beat Gonzaga 8 out of 10 times.
#15: Rivals: Marquette. Coaches (actually a tie for 14): Texas A&M
The Big East and the Big-12 aren't getting much love 15 picks in. They show up here. For the Rivals, Marquette is just the second team from the pretty badass Big East conference, after Georgetown. Sure, a lot of teams graduated a lot of talent from the Big East, but still--is Boston College or Pittsburgh or Villanova or Syracuse that depowered? In the Coaches Poll, Texas A&M is the second team from the Big-12 to make an appearance after Kansas. Of course, Rivals is loving Kansas State, but that simply means that so far, we've seen a total of three teams from the Big-12. And so far, no mention of Texas (yeah, Kevin Durant is gone, but they still have one of the best point guards in the country in Augustin.)
Oh, and I think there are a couple of mid-major teams who should have been mentioned by now. Maybe not Gonzaga (who was mentioned) but SIU, Butler, and Creighton will probably all crack the top 15 at some point this year. Sleep on ODU at your peril.