Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Just how good are Darington Hobson and New Mexico? Depends who you ask.
Pick a Top 10. Any Top 10. Chances are there's no two alike.
Take the three rating systems I consult most frequently: the AP poll, Sagarin and kenpom. The first one takes votes from basketball writers around the country, compiles them and the result is essentially a reflection of who's won, while teams with recent losses tend to take a drop. The other two rate teams according to future performance, which is helpful when teams pile up victories, but that's it.
There's some consistency, but all three have some interesting divergences. (Ignore the numbers in Sagarin and Kenpom; I included them only to show how close the teams were in relation to one another.)
AP poll Sagarin Kenpom
1. Kansas Kansas 95.84 1. Duke .9818
2. Kentucky Syracuse 92.60 2. Kansas .9799
3. Purdue Duke 92.56 3. Syracuse .9638
4. Syracuse Kentucky 91.31 4. BYU .9618
5. Duke Purdue 90.30 5. Purdue .9617
6. Kansas St. W. Virginia 89.84 6. W. Virginia .9553
7. Villanova Kansas St. 89.75 7. Kentucky .9581
8. W. Virginia Villanova 89.67 8. Ohio State .9578
9. Ohio State BYU 89.23 9. Texas .9561
10. New Mexico Texas 89.00 10. Wisconsin .9549
Kansas is close to a consensus No. 1, save for Kenpom, (for which Pomeroy caught a modicum of grief on Twitter last night), while Syracuse, Duke and Purdue all in each one's Top 5. AP voters like Kentucky slightly more than Sagarin and Pomeroy.
Oddly enough, all three are the next closest on West Virginia (8, 6, 6), though I'm sure the Mountaineers will take a hit in next week's poll and not drop that much in the computer ratings. Any team in the Top 10 of all three is a good Final Four bet.
So what to make of the others? Glad you asked.
Villanova (AP 7, Sagarin 8, Kenpom 14)
Kenpom hits the Wildcats hard for their inefficient defense. They also get dinged in Sagarin for their close wins. But voters like 'Nova, despite the two recent losses. Maybe it's a residual effect from their 11-game win streak or their lofty Big East standing. Regardless, be wary of the 'Cats in March. Teams with a low scoring margin can run out of luck at the wrong time.
Ohio State (9, 13, 8)
The opposite of 'Nova. Buckeyes drop in Sagarin due to their low score in "elo chess," which rates teams only by winning and losing. However, they get a bump in future predicted performance, which reflects their higher ranking in Kenpom. Also, the voters seem to like how Evan Turner & Co. are playing. Take note: Ohio State's offense revolves around its good shooting more than most teams. As a result, it stinks at offensive rebounds. When do Buckeyes go cold?
New Mexico (10, 22, 43)
A 26-3 record and a 12-game win streak vaulted the Lobos into the Top 10. However, the computer ratings hate them. Sagarin's ratings don't foretell much future success (N.M. is behind Wake, UTEP and just ahead of ODU there); same goes for Kenpom. The problem is an inefficient defense and a decent offense. Tempo-free conference stats say the Lobos are worse than BYU and SDSU and marginally better than UNLV (and Colorado State, judging by Tuesday's night's win). Still, Darington Hobson is the kind of player capable of carrying a team to a couple of Big Dance wins. After all, worse teams have piled up wins and made Sweet 16 runs.
Texas (21, 10, 9)
Losing six of 10 will drop you in the polls. But is Texas still as good as their computer numbers? Their offense and defense has been hit and miss lately, and it just lost starting PG Dogus Balbay. Put it this way: When it comes to the tournament, Texas could steamroll foes and make the Elite Eight or be out after two games. Neither would be a surprise.
BYU (13, 9, 4)
The Cougars haven't won an NCAA tournament game since 1993. In seven trips since, they've been an 8 or a 12 seed with no success. Perhaps this is the year they win because they're going to be a 5 at worst. Still, how good can they be? They're similar to Ohio State, in that they have a star player (Jimmer Fredette) and shoot well, but can get into trouble when shots aren't falling. This is your mid-major with the greatest upside.
Wisconsin (17, 11, 10)
Yes, the Badgers can look ugly at times. But few teams squeeze more out of every possession, especially on offense. Teams have hit their shots against Wisconsin lately (six of the last eight had an eFG% of at least 51.0), which is the only reason it's lost three of those games. Opponents don't get second-chance points. Combine that with the maniacal way Trevon Hughes handles the ball, and foes have to hit shots. A team like Georgetown or Cornell would be trouble.