Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Put up the Dukes

Welcome to the AP Top 25, James Madison!

What? Receiving votes? What are we missing?

The Dukes have not lost in six games, and that by itself shouldn't be enough to get you ranked. Fortunately for James Madison, they beat Virginia on Sunday. That's 14th-ranked Virginia. In case you're wondering, the game was in Charlottesville. In case you're wondering JMU point guard Dawn Evans had the 38 points in a game where most figured the best player on the floor would be Cavaliers first-team All-American Monica Wright.

Yet the Dukes are only "receiving votes." Enough votes to wind up at No. 29. Virginia, by the way, checked in at No. 19.

JMU's other wins aren't exactly against Podunk U. JMU started last week by defeating an unbeaten Liberty team on its home court. JMU also has a win over an underrated Georgetown team whose only other loss is to nationally ranked Dayton.

JMU should be ahead of Virginia. Ahead of an 8-0 Nebraska team that has beaten Davidson, UNLV, Idaho State, Washington State, Arkansas-Little Rock, St. Mary's, South Dakota and Miami. Ahead of a Maryland team that just checked in at No. 25 on the heels of an 8-1 record. The eight, by the way, all came on the Terps' home floor against NC Central, New Hampshire, Old Dominion, Samford, Howard, Drexel, Minnesota and Loyola. The one, since you ask, is a 29-point loss to a Mississippi State team that has fallen out of the poll. You get the idea.

We write this not to bash AP poll voters, who aren't paid for their service and are almost always unabashed supporters of the sport. But a poll like this week's diminishes the value of national rankings. Teams get ranked during a preseason when nobody has any idea about what comes after UConn and Stanford. Teams like Texas and Rutgers and a handful of other stalwarts from top conferences start the year in the Top 25 based on reputation. The anticipation is by the end of the year, they'll be good.

Trouble is it's a weekly poll. And yes, it is possible that the best team in the Summit League or CAA is better than the fifth-place ACC team.

No doubt Kenny Brooks will use this week's poll to motivate his "underdog" Dukes, who get no respect. He might even tell the media that the only poll that matters is the final one. But that's not true. A national ranking touts your program and ensures your school -- that's JAMES MADISON in caps -- appears in the national roundup in newspapers across the country. There's no Top 29. The Top 25 is a big deal for any team, particularly one in a mid-major conference.

JMU deserved the nod this week. The Dukes will be tops in our poll this week and here's why. They're the best team in Virginia. They proved that on Sunday on the Cavaliers home floor.

Let's see how the coaches view it when their ESPN/USA Today poll comes out later today.

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