Gainesville, Fla. — The second consecutive brutal travel day was halfway done when I checked my phone for messages during a layover in Atlanta.
Four voice mails from the Associated Press man in charge of compiling the college basketball poll from his 65 voters, the first coming a few minutes after the flight from Kansas City to Atlanta took off. The last came shortly after it landed, informing me, as it turned out, it was too late.
My first fear was that the ballot I had e-mailed at 2:29 a.m. Monday was lost in cyberspace, out there somewhere in never land, where bags lost by airlines end up.
As far as the integrity of the AP poll itself, not receiving anything would have been worse. As for my credibility with the fan base of the team I accidentally left off when moving teams around by cutting and pasting, well, there could not have been a more unfortunate omission. Never mind that I consistently have lobbied for Kansas to play Wichita State on an annual, home-and-home basis, believing it would be great preparation for Kansas for the NCAA tournament, must-see entertainment for the entire state of Kansas and selfishly, a great story to tell.
Nobody wants to hear that now. I cut Wichita State without pasting in attempting to move the Shockers to 11th and didn’t notice the mistake when reviewing my top 25 for the final time before sending it.
The AP figured that was what happened, but couldn’t read my mind, so as the deadline passed, left it as it was. It didn’t change the Shockers’ 12th-place standing in the poll. (The 145 points they lost would have given them 899, 27 points shy of No. 11 Kentucky).
On my previous five ballots, starting with the preseason, I had the Shockers ranked 19th, 19th, 13th, 12th and 13th.
In trying to find a bright spot to my goof, I arrived upon this: If anyone uses this to bring the need for the the two Big 12 schools from Kansas to play Wichita State every year back into the conversation, well then, it’s not all bad.
I encourage everyone reading this to do what I did a couple of hours ago. Go to pollspeak.com and vote for me as the bad voter of the week.
Here’s the ballot I sent to the AP, which really was a top 26, minus 1:
1. Arizona: A year out of college, I was watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when a 14-year-old basketball prodigy came on, seemed so at ease kicking back and chatting with Johnny and then wowed with him a variety of ball tricks. I remember telling myself to commit his name to memory to see if he would resurface as a college basketball player. He sure did. Sean Miller of Ellwood City, Pa., was the starting point guard for four years for Pittsburgh and now coaches the nation’s No. 1 team. He always had even more substance than style to his game.
2. Syracuse: If you ever get there, find your way to Heid's Hot Dogs, home of delicious white hot dogs, aka porkers, not to be confused with bratwursts. White hots go well with a nice root beer and french fries smothered in ketchup. Then again, what doesn’t?
3. Ohio State: First rough week in football, another strong week in basketball.
4. Michigan State: First rough week in basketball, another strong week in football.
5. Louisville: Rick Pitino’s son, Richard Pitino, is off to a good start at Minnesota, where the Golden Gophers are 8-2 and scored a big victory against a big Florida State team.
6. Wisconsin: Sam Dekker, 6-7 sophomore forward, inspires so many adjectives. Explosive, dynamic, intense, relentless. He’s a threat to score from three-point range or from three feet above the rim.
7. Oklahoma State: Three-point shooting a forte for Cowboys (.410 from long distance) and nobody does it better than Phil Forte (.532).
8. Kentucky: Youngest team in the nation plays host Tuesday to undefeated Boise State, a veteran team that doesn’t beat itself.
9. Duke: Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, nation’s top tandem, combining to shoot 50 percent from three and scoring 41.4 points per game.
10. Villanova: Remains undefeated despite shooting just .439 overall, .328 from three.
11. Kansas: Three-point shooting woes: Frank Mason (3 for 19), Brannen Greene (1 for 5), Conner Frankamp (3 for 13).
12. Connecticut: Good in the clutch. Huskies have beaten Maryland, Indiana and Florida by one, Boston College by two.
13. Baylor: Rico Gathers, 6-foot-8, 270-pound sophomore from Laplace, La., an absolute monster on boards. Averaging 15.9 minutes and 7.1 rebounds per game. Interesting stat line in five-point victory against Kentucky: six points, 13 rebounds, three steals.
14. Oregon: Ducks remained undefeated with 115-105 overtime victory at Ole Miss. Could it be Ducks women’s coach Paul Westhead has been making guess appearances at Dana Altman’s practices? Westhead coached the Loyola Marymount men’s team when the Lions won a game 181-150 the year before they averaged 122.5 points a game.
15. Florida: Both Gators losses were to teams that remain undefeated, Wisconsin and UConn. ... KU defenders can’t lose sight of Michael Frazier II. In the loss to Wiconsin and victories against Jacksonville and Florida State, Frazier has made 15 of 21 (.714) three-pointers.
16. North Carolina: When your buddy uses comparative scores to prove his team is better than yours, hit him with a series of your own. North Carolina beat Michigan State by 14. UAB beat North Carolina by four. Temple beat UAB by 21. Towson beat Temple by 6. Sam Houston State beat Towson by 12. Liberty beat Sam Houston State by four. So that makes Liberty 61 points better than Michigan State. I’ll take the 61 points and the Spartans. You take the Flames.
17. Memphis: Coach Josh Pastner looks so much older than when he coached his second game for the Tigers, a 57-55 loss to Kansas, in 2009. Another few years or so and he’ll blend right in with college students. Youthful appearance hasn’t prevented him from compiling .760 winning percentage.
18. Iowa State: Scientists are hard at work at this very moment, trying to figure out how to wax the hardwood in such a way as to necessitate wearing a different type of shoe, but keeping it a secret. Best guess as to when the project will be completed. Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, the day Kansas comes in for an 8 p.m. tipoff.
19. Iowa: The nearby Amana Colonies feature fine family-style dining with delectable corn.
20. Colorado: It’s official: The wording “rising” can be removed from “rising star in the college basketball coaching ranks” next to Tad Boyle’s name. Smart, fiery yet poised, charismatic, confident, Boyle shares many qualities with the coach of his alma mater.
21. Gonzaga: Canadian sensation Kevin Pangos averaging 19.8 points, shooting .927 from the line, .500 from three and has an assists-to-turnover ratio of 3.5 to 1.
22. UMass: Minutemen should be called Secondmen as quickly as they put up shots. Chaz Williams, 5-9, 175-pound senior from Brooklyn, put up just 14 from field during 32-point night vs. BYU.
23. Pittsburgh: Panthers haven’t played much of anybody yet, but they sure do know how to beat up on sparring partners.
24. Missouri: Enjoyed defeating West Virignia 80-71 so much Tigers decided to do it again, beating UCLA by the same score.
25. San Diego State: In their last 99 games, the Aztecs are 99-0 when leading with five minutes left. Coach Steve Fisher’s poise is contagious.