Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Works, poll-popping-style

We're number 5! We're number 5!

Wow, you're really getting into this whole "women's hoops" thing, huh? After their triumphant throttling of the two-time defending national champions, in this week's AP poll the sixth-ranked, undefeated Auburn women's hoops team jumped all the way up to ... fifth. And War Eagle Extra's Andy Bitter is pissed.
So this the reward for beating the two-time defending national champions AND being of only two unbeaten teams left in the country -- a No. 5 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll?

Auburn is still behind three teams with at least one loss. Those are the cold, hard facts. Makes you wonder what some voters are thinking.
Well, they're not thinking, which is the point of the media and coaches' polls, has always been the point, and will always be the point, forever and ever amen. The national media seem to think Auburn should be in the mix for No. 2; Bitter breaks down in nice detail why Auburn deserves that second slot--Duke, in particular, looks awfully shaky to me, since they have the worst loss, the same best nonconference win Auburn has (Ohio St.), and a whole string of close calls in ACC play--and he's exactly right. But it just isn't worth getting worked up over. The Selection Committee doesn't care about the polls. The team shouldn't care about the polls. Even the pollsters clearly don't care about the polls. We as fans shouldn't care, either. (If anything, the slight is a good thing, as maybe it'll help keep the Auburn women just a tad bit more focused over their next few games.)

What is worth caring about is where Auburn gets seeded come NCAA time. It's tough to get a read since women's bracketology is so much harder to come by, but ESPN's dude had Auburn as a No. 2 and North Carolina--now losers of three straight--as a No. 1 on Jan. 20. The relatively uniformed guess here is that Auburn becomes the fourth No. 1 seed next update. More importantly, it's also my guess that an SEC title with no more than one loss and an appearance in the SEC tournament final would be enough for a 1-seed in the actual brackets, particularly if Oklahoma is nice enough not to split the Big 12 regular season and tourney titles with Baylor.

More hoops. Yesterday's argument that the Auburn men are better than their record and currently underrated in the SEC hierarchy got a little more support from John Gasaway's efficiency numbers, which show Auburn as the fourth-best team in the league to date. There's some bad news, too, though: LSU is way out in front of the pack, so much so that even the ease of their league schedule--their away games have been Alabama (which they somehow contrived to lose) and Ole Miss--isn't enough to just shrug aside their per-possession dominance to this point. They're the West favorites. By the by, Auburn does have a nonconference game against UT-Pan Am tonight, a team even I couldn't tell you that much about.

One quick note about Mark Gottfried: I generally think the Sporting News's Mike DeCourcy is OK as national hoops guys go, but his ridiculous assertion that Gottfried has been a great coach the last couple of years except for Ron Steele's injury is a great example of why sometimes, you just can't be a national media type and still "get it." The Tide have enough talent even without Steele--Alonzo Gee? JaMychal Green?--to win the West this season. And instead they basically quit weeks ago. It was time for Gottfried to move on, and everyone who follows this league at all knew it.

I lied. I said I wasn't going to bring up Bad Lando again, but you really should read Phillip Marshall's (free) description of the severance pay conflict. In a nutshell: Auburn paid out its severance checks before Tubby's staff members were officially terminated and "university policy" dictated that because he never actually left the payroll, Willis had to repay the $50K. On the one hand, knowing he was backed by official Auburn policy makes Jacobs' request for the money a little more understandable. But that's about the only thing this changes: as before, Jacobs and Chizik still should have done a better job of smoothing things over, but as before Willis is still the Bad Lando who should have either swallowed his pride or walked away.

Also: as much as I respect him generally, K-Scar's Willis column is stunningly condescending and naive. Not once does he acknowledge that the timing of Willis's decision might have something to do with the reaction of the fans he obviously feels so gleefully superior to. Not once does he mention that Willis was in the home of a recruit preaching the Auburn gospel and bad-mouthing the same Tide staff he fled to just two days afterwards. He brings up Tracy Rocker, but that only hurts Scarbinsky's argument; of course Auburn fans never cared that Rocker coached other SEC rivals, because he never promised Auburn he would coach for them and then left for Alabama two weeks before Signing Day. What this "it's just a job"/"it's just business" nonsense seems to miss is that there's a right way and a wrong way to leave your day job, too, and Willis's departure was the equivalent of a waiter tossing his apron aside and walking to the restaurant across the street in the very middle of dinner rush.

Recruitstuff. Ray Cotton is officially down to two schools who aren't Auburn. Le me get my Surprise-Meter out ... hold on ... nope, not even getting a reading.

Also, Chris Low tells us what we already know about Auburn's recruiting needs, and if you haven't seen it already, Bitter provides a link to this rather awesome Google map showing where Auburn's recruits have come from over the past five years. As it turns out, this whole "snagging recruits out of Texas" thing is just as unusual as you might think it is.

Grotus. Brilliant, as always, here comparing Willis to Godfather turncoat Sal Tessio:
Don't get me wrong - college football is not the Mafia, and Saban, really, is no Don Barzini. But the same complex regionalism, the deep sense of terroir and historical justice and injustice that burn in Sicilia, those same things saturate college football and make it the sport of America. Nothing else expresses our particular national pride and fervor quite like the sport played on Saturdays. It's why college players are all amateurs, why we have honest-to-God fight songs that people actually play and sing, why we hate Bama, why I can hardly stand to see the Crimson Tide on the field playing anybody, why people like me say "we" when they refer to a team they've never played on and will never seriously affect. It's that blinding, clenched devotion to family that made a Don Corleone out of Michael, and yet it's the reason why The Godfather is so compelling. These ferocious, violent people are so deeply sympathetic because they cling so tightly to one another with that that unspeakable, fervent, gnawing us-ness that drove our very ancestors to these shores.

And James Willis - who has been sheltered by his alma mater for more than a decade as an athlete and a teacher - doesn't think it matters. Moreover, he doesn't seem to think any of it really matters, except on the recruiting warpath. What kind of talk is he going to talk about Auburn next year? What things did he say about Bama that he will he recycle into lies about us, to feed that next high school senior linebacker? Like Sal Tessio, he'd probably say that he does like us, likes Auburn, and appreciates all the good it's done him - it's just business. Business that left him behind, and business that led him to a Tuscaloosa welcome.

James Willis truly belongs where he landed and he doesn't belong at Auburn.

There's more, including an appropriately bewildered good-bye to Saturn V Durst. Read it all.

Elsewhere in the blAUgosphere, Auburntron reproduces an excellent little satire on the recruiting obsession of your common Tide fan, and Ball St. blog OverThePylon tells Auburn (sort of) their meeting next Sept. 26 "cannot get here soon enough." (Because they want to find out what they've got in their new coach, not as a, you know, cocky thing. Sorry for any confusion.)

Aaaaaand finally, dude, check out Jevan Snead's Dad:

That, my friends, is USDA-certified 100 percent pure badass.


jd said...

Jevan Snead: "I got this salsa, it was made in New York City."

Jevan Snead's Dad: "NEW YORK CITY?!"

[/Pace commercial]

BinOBA said...

Don't stress that womens hoops stuff, they actually PLAY for a championship in a tournament style elimination. The snub in rankings can easily be forgotten by winning the tourney. WAR EAGLE, great blog, been enjoying for almost a year now, thanks for your time.