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Florida men’s basketball deserves the nation’s No. 1 ranking

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Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 12:45 am | Updated: 5:36 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

While mostly meaningless until the end of the season, the AP poll is a solid test of media intelligence. 

Are the voters smart enough to base their decisions on advanced metrics and quality of play? Or are they just going to put the teams with 15 wins ahead of the teams with 14 wins and call it a day?

Monday’s latest poll release gave us an answer, and it wasn’t pretty. Florida checked in at No. 8.

Because of what they’ve accomplished in terms of efficiency, quality losses and dominant wins, the Gators deserve to be No. 1. 

Florida leads the KenPom rankings by a wide margin.

For the uninitiated, statistician, Ken Pomeroy ranks teams based on their efficiency — points scored or allowed per 100 possessions on both offense and defense — and then adjusts those values to reflect each team’s level of competition.

In my eyes, his ranking system vastly outpaces every traditional method.  

This season, Florida is cruising. The gap between UF and second-place Louisville is bigger than the gap between Louisville and KenPom No. 5 Michigan.

Nationally, Florida ranks No. 1 in defensive efficiency and No. 2 in offensive efficiency.  

The Gators have a lot of season left to play, but only one team in the past 10 years has finished in the top 3 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. In 2008, national champion Kansas placed first on defense and second on offense. 

Detractors cite Florida’s two losses — road tilts against Arizona and Kansas State. 

After losing 65-64 to Arizona on Dec. 15, Florida dropped from No. 5 to No. 8 in the AP poll. Arizona jumped from No. 8 to No. 4. 

The Gators took the lead with 17:31 remaining in the first half and held it until Mark Lyons hit a layup with 7 seconds left in the game.

Florida led by six and had a 98 percent chance of victory with 56 seconds remaining before three turnovers and a missed free throw proved costly.

The odds of any team all season coming that close to winning a game without getting the job done are very, very low. And Florida did it on the road against a top-10 team. 

As first pointed out by Pomeroy on Twitter, 64 of 65 AP voters ranked Arizona ahead of Florida in the next poll, basically saying home court advantage doesn’t exist. 

To me, losing such a close game to such a good team on the road is the same as a win. 

Florida’s other loss is less excusable, but Kansas State is solid. KSU’s only two losses are away from home against Gonzaga and Michigan, both of which are legitimate Final Four contenders. 

Florida missed some shots it normally hits, and Kansas State made some shots it normally misses.

The Wildcats’ pressure pushed the Gators into a few bad shot choices, and Kansas State got hot from outside. It happens. 

After all, nobody is undefeated. No. 1 Duke lost on the road to N.C. State. No. 2 Michigan lost at Ohio State. Co-No. 3 Kansas lost to Michigan State at a neutral site. Co-No. 3 Syracuse lost to Temple at a neutral site. No. 6 Arizona lost on the road to Oregon.

Are any of those losses really that much more respectable than UF’s loss to Kansas State? 

The other teams ranked ahead of Florida — No. 5 Louisville and No. 7 Indiana — have two losses. 

The Gators really set themselves apart through their dominant wins. None of Florida’s 14 victories have come by less than 13 points. UF has six wins against teams in the KenPom top 100. The Gators’ average margin of victory in those games is an astounding 24.8 points. 

Each of the teams ranked ahead of Florida in the AP poll has at least six top-100 wins, and all but Indiana have more. Kansas leads the way with 10, and the Jayhawks also lead the AP top seven with an 18.9-point average margin of victory in those wins. But Kansas’ eight-point win against Iowa State on Jan. 9 came in overtime, so that skews the numbers a little bit. 

Knock Florida’s top-100 win total if you want, but UF can only play the teams on its schedule.  

To this point, the Gators have been more dominant in those games than any other team in college basketball. 

Contact Greg Luca at [email protected].


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