I’m a little bit rankled by the ESPN college basketball analysts. These are the people who have way too much influence in deciding which 68 teams get invited to the NCAA tournament. ESPN’s website reports on several different daily and weekly rankings, including the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, the USA Today Coaches Poll, the ESPN.com Power Rankings, RPI Rankings, BPI Rankings, Bracketology with Joe Lunardi and the Nitty Gritty Report. Some of the basketball experts who serve on these selection panels overlap, thereby giving some individuals more than one voice in their opinions.

While my horse in the race, Maryland, is in good position to receive a decent seed in the upcoming Big Dance, the Old Coach wonders how much attention the NCAA selection committee pays to the likes of Joe Lunardi and the ESPN gurus. On a positive note, the AP Poll at least relies on the weekly votes of 64 sportswriters and broadcasters, even though some might question how sportswriters from New York’s Staten Island Advance and Olean Times Herald or Virginia’s The Daily Progress and The Free-Lance Star made the voter cut.

As “Coach’s Corner” was following the rankings from week to week, I was dismayed by the dubious disparities in the different groups. My biggest concern was that even though the RPI, AP and Coaches Polls had Maryland in the top 10, the ESPN Power Rankings only had the Terps at No. 18, and the BPI had the Terps at No. 29, with no apparent numbers to support their placement. The BPI ranking completely forgot about listing Maryland last week. One has to wonder how accurate these rating systems are. Iowa State has constantly been ranked above Maryland in most polls, which is crazy considering the Terps have a better record overall and a better record against RPI top 100 teams. Maryland also defeated Iowa State by nine points in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Missouri, in November.

When the Old Coach looked into the makeup of ESPN’s Power Ratings, it was shocking to see that the 10 members of the panel were not very balanced in their backgrounds. Three of the members had Big 10 roots, two were from Philadelphia, two ACC and two Pac 12. The 10th member had no background listed at all. That left two major conferences without representation: the Southeast Conference and the Big 12. It was not clear whether panel members had played the game or not, but it seems to me that the group is not particularly fair and balanced (no reference to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly). Why would ESPN Insider John Gasaway have Maryland way down at 24 when all nine others have Maryland in the top dozen teams?

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is composed of 10 athletic directors or conference administrators. They meet each week either in person or by conference call. The committee attempts to be reflective of the major conferences and regional representation. The committee uses the RPI rankings as a reference for their voting. Since it is virtually impossible for committee members to see every team play each week, they unfortunately draw on the analytical work of ESPN, CBS and ABC college basketball specialists. Hence, ABC’s Dick Vitale and ESPN’s Lunardi have a considerable influence. Maybe too much.

So Coach’s Corner is going to list its own top 25 based on nothing other than gut instincts. No stats. No mathematical formulas. No conference prejudices. Just ranking teams based on games that I’ve watched on TV this winter or just based on a whim. (Now that’s transparency).

“Coach’s Corner” Top 25

1. Virginia:They play unbelievable defense

2. Gonzaga: Although they play a weak schedule, they always play well in March

3. Duke: They have the best coach in college basketball.

4. Wichita State: Last year’s Final Four, and fun to watch.

5. Kansas: Second best team in a basketball-loving state.

6. Maryland: The best team in the country in the last five minutes of games.

7. Louisville: Can be scary at times.

8. Arizona: A force to be reckoned with every year.

9. West Virginia: Has the best color analyst in local Jay Jacobs, former TJ coach.

10. Villanova: Only two losses. Obviously, the Wildcats know how to win.

11. Wisconsin: Has best big man in the country in Frank Kaminsky.

12. Northern Iowa: Another Midwest power that can upset a lot of biggies.

13. Notre Dame: They have a prayer of making the Elite Eight.

14. Ohio State: Super freshman guard D’Angelo Russell can put the Buckeyes on his back.

15. Baylor: Inconsistent but talented.

16. Utah: Second only to Arizona in the Pac-12.

17. Arkansas: Best of non-professional teams in the SEC.

18. Butler: Always manages to bite somebody on the butt in March Madness.

19. North Carolina: Like “Fiddler on the Roof,” tradition, tradition.

20. Murray State: Only four losses and a great road team (11-1).

21. Stephen F. Austin: Three of four losses to top 50 RPI opponents.

22. SMU: Only losses are to Cincinnati (three times), Arkansas, Indiana and Gonzaga

23. Providence: The name of the school speaks for itself.

24. Old Dominion: Beat Virginia Commonwealth early. Only six losses.

25. Michigan State: Never count out a Tom Izzo-coached team at tournament time.

Right now, you’re saying, “Where are the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats?” The Old Coach was only ranking college teams, not the pros.

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