Texas' Joyner Holmes (24) tries to pass the basketball as she is defended by Iowa State' Adriana Camber (13) in Austin on Feb. 12, 2020. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

BEVO BEAT Women's Basketball

How did the Texas women score two points in the Associated Press’ final basketball poll?

Posted March 19th, 2020

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Since coronavirus concerns led to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, a national champion was essentially decided on paper on Tuesday.

Ranked first for a tenth straight week, South Carolina (32-1) topped the Associated Press’ final poll for the 2019-20 women’s basketball season. Second-place Oregon (31-2) received the four first-place votes that didn’t go to South Carolina. Baylor (28-2), Maryland (28-4) and UConn (29-3) rounded out the top five.

Of the 25 teams that made the Associated Press’ cut, Baylor was the lone affiliate of the Big 12. TCU (22-7) did receive the 26th-most votes. Texas (19-11) and Iowa State (18-11) were listed near the end of the “others receiving points” portion of the poll with two points apiece.

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The American-Statesman — and more specifically, me in my first year on the UT women’s basketball beat — casts one of the AP’s 30 ballots on a weekly basis. The two points received by Texas came from my 24th-place vote. Iowa State picked up a point from my ballot since I listed the Cyclones 25th. I had Baylor and TCU ranked third and 22nd.

There are plenty of argument against Texas’ candidacy. The Longhorns had 11 losses, and the only ranked team with double-digit defeats was No. 25 Arizona State (20-11). The goodwill gained by UT’s upset of a top-ranked Stanford team in December had since been outweighed by 64-44 and 69-53 beatings by Baylor. The Longhorns finished with an individual RPI ranking of 43th, which would have been the worst among the ranked teams (Arizona State was 40th). UT beat ranked Tennessee and TCU programs on the road but also lost at Kansas.

Texas guard Lashann Higgs (10) shoots over TCU guard Kianna Ray (25) in Austin on Jan. 3, 2020. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
So why did I vote for Texas? The answer isn’t that complex. I simply felt that finishing third in the Big 12, which Texas did, was more laudable than placing near the middle of the SEC’s pack.

According to RealTimeRPI.com, the Big 12 trailed only the Pac-12 and the Big Ten in conference RPI this season. The SEC and the ACC ranked fourth and fifth in that statistical category. Yet, the SEC placed five teams in the final poll while the ACC had three representatives.

On the court, the Big 12 went 8-4 against the SEC this season. It was 1-2 in games with ACC opponents.

In February, Texas coach Karen Aston said the Big 12 was being “completely disrespected” by a 30-member electorate that includes three journalists from Big 12 markets. Earlier in the season, TCU coach Raegan Pebley chimed in that “The Big 12 is seriously no joke this year. I’m so tired of hearing about people talk about other leagues right now.”

As was mentioned earlier, there are plenty of reasons why Texas shouldn’t be ranked. The same nitpicks can be applied to many teams, though.

Like Texas (No. 7 Stanford), No. 18 Texas A&M (No. 24 Arkansas) beat one team that appeared in the AP’s final poll. Princeton finished with a 22-game winning streak and a No. 22 ranking but didn’t face one ranked team the entire season. No. 23 Missouri State boasted the eighth-best RPI, but the program’s only win over a ranked team was a November triumph over a Minnesota squad that finished 16-15. Heck, Arizona State and Texas essentially had identical resumes in terms of records, RPIs, big wins (Arizona State bested Oregon and Oregon State) and bad losses (the Sun Devils lost to 12-19 Cal).

In the end, the pros outweighed the cons for Texas on my ballot. It wasn’t that hard of a decision. The AP poll, however, is a democracy and the rest of the voters did not feel the same way about Texas. The Longhorns will head into an unranked offseason for the first time since their 2014-15 campaign.

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