Here’s a question for y’all: when the final USA Today coaches’ poll rankings are released, after the NCAA Tournament ends, where should Davidson be ranked?
I think it’s pretty obvious that the top 4 teams from the final regular-season poll will remain the same, in whatever order, in the post-tournament poll. After all, they all made it to the Final Four. But after that, then what? Who else, if anyone, should be ranked ahead of the Wildcats?
Davidson, which was ranked #23 in that final poll, knocked off #26
Gonzaga, #8 Georgetown, and #5 Wisconsin en route to the Elite Eight,
and damn near beat #4 Kansas. And that’s on top of almost beating North Carolina, Duke and UCLA in the regular season, and going 20-0 in their conference.
Admittedly, Davidson did have three "bad losses" during the regular season: at Western
Michigan, at Charlotte, and at N.C. State (the latter was once counted
as one of their "near-wins" over a big-name opponent, but now that
we’re judging them against other elite teams, I think losing to a
sub-.500 ACC team has to count as a bad loss).
Overall, though, I daresay
their body of work compares favorably to just about anyone outside of
the Top 4. And they certainly pass the elusive "eye test" after their
NCAA Tournament run. I could see maybe Texas finishing ahead of them,
and perhaps Tennessee and/or Louisville and/or Xavier. But I think Davidson has to be somewhere in that
#5-9 range… preferably closer to #5 or #6. Am I wrong? Certainly, I think they’re a Top 10 team.
Possibly relevant precedent: in 2006, George Mason jumped from unranked — receiving zero votes, in fact — to ranked #8. Davidson didn’t go as far as Mason did in the tournament, but their regular-season resume was
better, their weren’t blown out in their final game*, they have less of a hill to climb because they were ranked
to begin with, and their success was less baffling to "eye test" practitioners than George Mason’s (because of Stephen Curry).
*This isn’t really fair to Mason, considering that — as I mentioned in comments yesterday — being blown out by Florida in 2006 was not exactly a badge of shame. However, it is what it is.