Despite a rather easy redemption win over Southern Cal on Sunday, the UCLA Bruins (20-7, 10-4 Pac-12) are still without a single vote in this week’s AP Poll.
Shabazz Muhammad (15), Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Normally, I would be the first to tell you how trivial media rankings are, as evidenced by the outlandish preseason picks that always fail to hold true. However, in this specific circumstance, the AP voters’ incompetence is beginning to get a little out of control.
UCLA has won four of its last five games, is currently a half-game out of first place in the Pac-12 and owns marquee victories over then-No. 7 Missouri and then-No. 6 Arizona. And yet, the Bruins continue to get snubbed in the polls, proving that the media just isn’t buying their product.
At first glance, it may make sense to leave UCLA out of the voting, as the Bruins have suffered a few very bad losses, including home defeats to Cal Poly (13-12) and USC (12-15). But when you take a closer look, it’s clear that teams with less impressive resumes are leap-frogging UCLA for no good reason.
Take Colorado State for example, a 21-6 Mountain West squad that has bounced in and out of the Top 25 the last few weeks. In the latest poll, CSU is receiving 49 votes, which places the Rams one slot outside the rankings at No. 26 in the nation. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that a team like the Rams is getting respect from the voters, but do they really deserve it?
Colorado State is coming off two consecutive defeats and has a major blemish on its schedule in the form of a loss to RPI 150+ Illinois-Chicago (16-13). Further, the Rams’ best wins are against MWC foes UNLV and San Diego State, and both of those teams now have seven losses.
So what about CSU screams borderline Top 25? Well, nothing really…but that’s just one instance of the media’s inconsistent voting practices.
Another example is UCLA’s lone Division I namesake, the Belmont Bruins. The Nashville natives currently boast a record of 22-6 in the mighty Ohio Valley Conference. Those Bruins have just one win against the RPI Top 50, a December victory over Middle Tennessee, as compared to UCLA’s four.
Belmont also has a handful of bad losses, including an 11-point loss to Tennessee State (16-12) earlier this month and a neutral-site defeat versus Northeastern (18-10). But nonetheless, the Belmont Bruins slipped into this week’s “Others Receiving Votes” category by earning a solitary vote.
Allow me to refine my argument by saying that I don’t think UCLA deserves to be ranked right now. After all, the only teams with seven or more losses ranked at the moment are from either the Big Ten or Big East, and both of those conferences are far more menacing than the Pac-12.
But for teams like Colorado State and Belmont to jump UCLA’s talent-rich roster is just plain absurd. The Bruins deserve to be getting votes, but the media simply doesn’t respect them.
Thankfully for UCLA, there will be ample opportunity to impress the voters this week with No. 11 Arizona and an underrated Arizona State coming to Pauley Pavilion. If the Bruins can sweep this home series, they should undoubtedly find themselves back in the polls next week. And if a 22-7 UCLA still doesn’t garner any votes, then the entire college poll system is one giant conspiracy.