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OPINION | WALLY HALL: AP ranking nice, yet nothing but NET counts

by Wally Hall | February 16, 2021 at 2:55 a.m.

It technically doesn't mean anything important.

Definitely not disparaging The Associated Press basketball rankings, but the NCAA Basketball Tournament selection committee doesn't consider or look at them.

Yet, when something has been part of the college basketball landscape since 1949, it is hard to totally ignore, especially if you are a fan of a team that just got ranked.

After beating Kentucky and Missouri on the road, the Arkansas Razorbacks entered the latest AP poll at No. 24.

More importantly, that's also where they are in the NET rankings, which are part of the formula for selecting the March Madness field.

The NET is an interesting and somewhat complicated system based on how a team does against other teams, how those teams do against other teams, and how those teams do against other teams.

If that sounds a little like strength of schedule, that's because it is, but don't tell the NCAA.

Victories are divided into Quads 1 through 4, with a Quad 1 victory being the most valuable.

The Razorbacks, who for some reason dropped from 23 to 24 after beating No. 10 Missouri ... oops, sorry, that was just an AP rating.

The Razorbacks' 16-5 record is divided like this: 2-4 against Quad 1 teams, 6-1 against Quad 2, 2-0 against Quad 3 and 6-0 against Quad 4.

That's about as much fun to talk about as the weather or covid-19.

The College Football Playoff selection committee doesn't use the AP poll for football selections either, but everyone talks about the AP poll until the CFP rankings come out in November.

Until the BCS came along, the AP No. 1 team at the end of the season was the national champions. Of course, there is a coaches poll, too, but few believe those coaches actually take time during a season to cast a vote. More likely, a graduate assistant or sports information director casts the vote, which doesn't carry the same weight.

The University of Arkansas was not No. 1 when it won the 1994 basketball national championship. The Hogs had been for eight games through the end the season, but when they lost to No. 10 Kentucky 90-78 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, the Hogs fell to No. 2 and stayed there.

Their first three NCAA Tournament games were against unranked teams, but in the Elite Eight they took on No. 11 Michigan and the Fab Five minus Chris Webber, who already had bolted for the NBA.

Arkansas won 76-68 in a game that was tightly contested.

Of course, the Razorbacks beat No. 9 Arizona 91-62 in the Final Four, then knocked off No. 6 Duke 76-72 for the championship.

In that championship season, the Hogs were No. 1 for 16 games and No. 2 for eight.

Rankings might not count anymore, but the fans will always discuss them, although the NCAA makes its NET rankings available to the public, and they are updated daily during the basketball season. Just Google NCAA Net.

It does mean something that the Razorbacks are ranked this week -- it means they are improving in the eyes of the voters. It's not just Hog fans who are seeing, but voters from all over the country.

The coaches, or whoever votes for them, did not have as much respect for the Razorbacks, where they are listed under the heading others receiving votes.

In that poll, Oregon came in at No. 25 with 52 points (No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Baylor and No. 3 Michigan have a stranglehold on the majority of the points). San Diego State (45 points) and Louisville (41) also were ahead of the Razorbacks with 32 points.

The AP poll is still about pride and bragging rights, but being No. 24 in the NET counts the most.

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