Are the Wildcats for real?

Settling polls versus computer debates for K-State, Butler, Pittsburgh

Originally Published: January 30, 2013
By John Gasaway | Basketball Prospectus
Rodney McGruderRichard Mackson/US PresswireLed by Rodney McGruder's scoring, Kansas State is looking strong in Big 12 play.

We're far enough into the season where disagreements between pollsters and computer rating systems no longer have to be settled with just: "Well, you wait and see." Now we can start to look at actual performance, and if you've been reading along with me for a while you know I especially like to draw on the lessons offered by conference play.

There are three teams that jump out in provoking classic pollsters vs. computers arguments this season. Let's sort out which side of the argument is correct. (To check out ESPN's Basketball Power Index ratings, click here.)

Kansas State Wildcats

AP ranking: 18 | BPI: 44 | KenPom: 43

If the Wildcats (who play Texas at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPN2, Watch ESPN) are No. 18 in the polls, but both the BPI and KenPom have K-State ranked in the low 40s nationally, then who is right?

I asked coach Bruce Weber that very question this week, and, yes, he came down firmly on the side of the pollsters. "I think we're a top-25 team," Weber told me by phone.

He quickly added, "I'm not sure we're as high as 11," referring to the team's standing before it lost at home to Kansas on Jan. 22 and suffered a defeat on the road four days later at the hands of Iowa State. "But we've shown we can beat Florida, and we played Kansas down to the wire. It's not like Michigan blew us out. We just have to play consistently."

Weber asked me why his team appears in a different light when viewed through the lens of the computer ranking systems. I suggested it may be because the computers believe this is not a particularly good offense. "We've made some progress offensively led by Rodney McGruder," Weber responded. "He's starting to get a feel for how to get open and move without the ball."

You can write off Weber's opinion as biased, of course (though it occurs to me certain coaches would say their teams really are being overrated, constituting something of a motivational ploy). But in this instance I think the coach actually may be on to something.