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Posted at 6:45 PM ET, 02/22/2011

Who's voting for George Mason, Part II

By Dan Steinberg

(By Dean Hoffmeyer - Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Does the AP's college basketball poll matter? Well, not to NCAA seeding, or to RPI, or to the national championship race, or to my bracket. But apparently it still matters to players, if nothing else.

"What more do we have to do get ranked [in] the top 25?" George Mason forward Ryan Pearson asked on Twitter last week, when the Patriots only picked up enough votes to rank 30th.

"And we're still not ranked," Pearson wrote on Monday, when the Patriots finished 27th in the voting. "I guess 13 [in] a row ain't good enough for the NCAA. Makes me more motivated. Sorry Northeastern."

So yes, players care. Now, do coaches?

"No," George Mason's Jim Larranaga said with a laugh. "I don't ever bring it up, not to the players, not to the coaches either, because we have to control the things we can control and not worry about what we can't control. If it motivates you, that's great. For me, it's not something that motivates me, and it's not something that I find very valuable."

Do media members care? Well, many newspapers still run Top 25 roundups. If you're No. 26 or No. 27, you're relegated to agate type. ESPN also has a Top 25 section on its ticker, and "if you're 26, you don't make that," Larranaga noted.

Finally, do the poll voters themselves care who gets ranked and who doesn't? At least one does.

"Why not give some recognition to a team that's playing really well, has the longest winning streak in the country and won in two very tough places to play last week," said AP poll voter and Post contributor John Feinstein, who has Mason ranked higher than any other voter. "The ACC and the SEC and the Pac-10 get by on reputation; they don't need me to help them with their reputation. George Mason could use some help."

And so, for the second straight week, let's look at who's ranking Mason where. Of the 65 AP voters, 20 included George Mason on their ballots this week, up from 10 last week. The two highest scores - an 18th-place vote from Feinstein, and a 20th-place ranking by the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star's Steve DeShazo - came from voters who have published columns on the Patriots within the past three weeks.

(See last week's Mason voters here, and this week's Mason voters here.)

Only four other voters have Mason ranked as high as 23rd. Two of them - the Examiner's Kevin Dunleavy, and Roanoke's Mark Berman - work in the heart of CAA country. Those top six Mason voters were responsible for 28 of the team's 51 points in the poll. If the rest of the voters had gone for Mason at that rate, the Patriots would have finished 22nd, just ahead of Kentucky.

Meanwhile, of eight voters from states in the Pacific Time Zone or Hawaii, only one ranked the Patriots at all. Similarly, the 29th team in the poll, Alabama, was placed on five ballots, all from voters in SEC states.

"People already have a particular frame of mind," said Larranaga, who bowed out after a single year as a coach's poll member. "I found it to be something that was so important to other people, and [yet] the information that you have at hand is so inadequate to do a good job. So it really just becomes 'Oh, who are my friends, who do I want to vote for?'

And it gets even more ridiculous. David Morrison, an AP voter from the Opelika-Auburn News in Alabama, had the Patriots ranked 22nd last week. Then they went on the road, won by 20 against CAA powerhouse VCU and erased a double-digit deficit against Northern Iowa. Morrison responded by dropping George Mason one spot in his rankings.

So yeah, this thing is stupid, meaningless, and without value. Still.

"Number 26?" Mason's Mike Morrison tweeted on Monday afternoon. "Feeling disrespected."

By Dan Steinberg  | February 22, 2011; 6:45 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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I still remember in 2006 when every single week we were told by everyone and their grandmother that Mason was going to lose against Michigan, North Carolina, Wichita State, and Connecticut. We are going deep this year... watch out big east! We are armed and dangerous!

Posted by: mcbkrn | February 22, 2011 9:12 PM | Report abuse

George Mason is pretty damn good.

Posted by: Matthew_Brensy | February 23, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully this will indeed motivate the heck out of Mason to continue the streak. The non-believers will receive a fairly ugly late-night visit from Gunston the Green Bounty Hunter. Updates from Agt. Steinz at 11.

The rise of the CAA continues.

Posted by: WaPoPimp | February 23, 2011 9:21 AM | Report abuse

OMG! Mason Sucks! They won't get past the second round. 2006 was 5 years ago. Get over it!

Posted by: psock1 | February 23, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

There is still no shortage of Billy Packers around who've long pimped themselves out to the sexy conferences, and a bunch of them vote in the AP poll. Mason and Butler have both shown that big-time conferences are increasingly living off endowments when it comes to maintaining their reputation. But this is a precarious way to live with TV contracts and arena-sized debts in the balance. But as long as value continues to be attached to what the big conference boosters who vote in the AP poll think, the big conferences will continue to have cover for their declining standards. The best thing for a team like Mason to do is to beat the sexy teams on the court. That's how true value is laid bare, and how to make the Billy Packers of the world look as ridiculous and outdated as they are.

Posted by: mbcnewspaper | February 23, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Who cares where GMU is rated. Unlike football, college basketball has a legitimate championship tournament.

Posted by: jeadpt | February 23, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

OMG! Mason Sucks! They won't get past the second round. 2006 was 5 years ago. Get over it!

Posted by: psock1 | February 23, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse


Be honest now, did you get to that "2006 was 5 years ago" beauty without using a calculator??

Posted by: dkidwell61 | February 23, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Just for the record, Mason finished 2006 ranked 8th in the country, after being unranked to start the NCAA tournament. But, I would like to see them ranked in the regular season, which could be a first.

Despite the quality of mid-major teams, there is no question that most of the talent plays in the BCS conferences. The CAA has sent four players to the NBA in the past 20 years. However, three (Maynor and Sanders from VCU and Janning from NE) went in the last two years, so maybe the CAA is getting better. It has been reported that scouts are attending Mason and Hofstra games to scout Long and Jenkins.

Posted by: SonicBlues | February 23, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

The reason Mason isn't ranked is because they have yet to play a ranked team this season. Well, that's one reason. But the primary one. Many teams would go on a 13 game winning streak against the teams they've played. I understand, you can't control your opponents record or your conference but that's just it. Look at a team like, say, WVU for instance who is also on the brink of the top 25. After Thursday they will have played 5 out of the last 6 and three straight against ranked opponents and have played 8 ranked teams to date and still have two on the remaining schedule. Not to mention Mason played only a couple decent OOC games against NCSU and GW. Winning 1 of those 2. The resume is just not impressive, and the journalists should know, they cover the sport. The question really is though, is Mason one of the best 25 teams in the country? Who knows, we'll find out in a few weeks. But for now, I'd say no. Be nice to have another local team in the rankings, but don't give them the "courtesy" vote because they've gone on a long win streak against mediocre competition. That's not fair to anyone.

Posted by: smfoster3 | February 23, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

"What more do we have to do get ranked [in] the top 25?"

Play a better schedule?

They're obviously pretty good, so all they have to do is do well in the tournament.

Posted by: Benson | February 25, 2011 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps it's just as showing that the Washington Post has sections dedicated to Maryland, Virginia Tech, and UVA on their college sports home page and consistently doesn't write articles about George Mason (Excluding Dan Steinberg's fair coverage) unless they are about to make it into the NCAA tournament

Posted by: Fairfaxfan | February 25, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

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