Last season in this very spot and with the help of my media and writing colleagues, the weekly DMV College Basketball poll launched. Realistically, I unleashed a Georgetown local rankings beat down seeing as John Thompson III's crew maintained the top spot all season, fending off the likes of Virginia, George Mason and VCU along the way.
As for the 2012-13 poll, well, just like the Washington Wizards, it took a little while to get going. I could simply say I suffered from the old "not enough hours in the day" adage, but nobody wants excuses.
How about this truth: I feared the headache inducing trauma I might inflict on the voters by asking them to gauge who's the best of the best from such a schizophrenic group of teams.
In some slow-paced games, Georgetown's offensive inadequacies hurt the eyes and those with a basketball-loving soul. However, led by the stat-stuffing Otto Porter, the Hoyas have now won three out of four without suspended forward Greg Whittington, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder.
Point-ing out the primary cause for Maryland's scoring flaws is not that complicated, yet Alex Len has NBA scouts drooling, Dez Wells is an open-court menace and the Terps knocked off Top-20 ranked NC State.
Virginia stands tied fourth in the ACC, has victories over Wisconsin and North Carolina and yet lost to one-win Old Dominion. The Cavaliers also lost to a George Mason Patriots squad whose offense is the epitome of sluggish inconsistency and has but one double-digit scorer.
Not surprisingly, starting three and four freshmen leads to a wide variance of performances, hence George Washington's season. Same could be said for having only seven healthy scholarship players. Welcome to Virginia Tech's world.
Fortunately, at least at the top of the pack and at least for this week, VCU made the choice a rather simple one. Shaka Smart's crew claimed nine of the 11 first place votes with the Hoyas snaring the other two. Considering it's the backcourt fueling VCU's full-court assault, referring to the Rams opening week polling win as a true changing of the guard kinda works. If it doesn't, hey, it's also my first week writing this intro.
For our purposes, we included programs in D.C. and around the Beltway, north to Baltimore, south to Richmond and Norfolk (essentially the Comcast SportsNet region) plus all Division I spots (27 overall) in between. I asked each voter for his or her top five teams and to share the reasons why they picked whom they picked. Ranked teams listed below, followed by total points, followed by first place votes.
*I also asked for thoughts on one key or unsung player in the DMV nobody is talking about. Those responses are coming later this week.
*Votes were submitted into CSNwashington headquarters before Monday's action/Georgetown's blowout win at Notre Dame. Factor that in when reading any snarky comments below.
1) VCU (52, nine 1st place votes)
* Hard not to love watching Shaka Smart's team play. I'm not sure how many people predicted that this team will contend for an Atlantic 10 title its first season in the league, but alas, it is. Good, tough defense will keep the Rams in every game they play in this year. I'm already looking forward to their March 2nd meeting with Butler. (Nicole Auerbach, USA Today)
* Obviously. Shaka Smart has turned the Rams into one of the most difficult programs in the country to play. (Rob Dauster, CollegeBasketballTalk/NBCSports)
*Amazing how much less interesting the CAA and the schedule of George Mason is without VCU. Must be how the Horizon League feels without Butler. (Kevin Dunleavy, Washington Examiner)
* It's going to take an awful lot for me to put anyone else in this spot the rest of the season. In fact, we should just write this one in virtual pen. (Brendan Darr, 106.7 The Fan)
* The Rams defense is a relentless machine. Lead the nation in turnover percentage and are a team anyone would dread playing in this year's tournament. (Ryan Kish, GMUHoops)
*I think if the Rams played any other team in the DC/MD/VA region they would win. Maryland would turn the ball over 100 times against the press and the Hoyas couldn't keep up with the pace. (J.P. Finlay, CSNwashington)
2) Georgetown (39, two 1st place votes)
*Ben here...Since, as I stated above, the Hoyas played after all voters offered commentary, I will provide some post-Notre Dame analysis...Who saw that coming? Simply winning at Notre Dame is random enough; the Irish almost never ever never lose at home. The Hoyas have other notable victories this season, but this ranks as their most impressive, especially when factoring in Whittington's absence and significant foul trouble for two frontcourt starters. Freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and reserve center Moses Ayegba helped fill in the gaps, at least those Porter could not fully cover. By the way, I'm calling future dibs on eventually dubbing this team, "Otto and the Miracles."
*It's not exactly a compliment to DMV hoops that the Hoyas are the second-best team, as they haven't been able to score all year and are coming off a loss to South Florida. (Dauster)
*Hoyas and Terps could be a great postseason game in March...in the NIT. (Bobby Bancroft, 106.7 The Fan)
* This team has appeared offensively challenged many times this season, but when they can get baskets to fall, the Hoyas can hang with anyone. Good defense, good length out there. The buzz around Otto Porter isn't where it was back in November, but he's still an extremely talented player who can take over a game on both ends. This team may not be ranked anymore, but others won't be overlooking Georgetown in Big East play. (Auerbach)
* It seems like the same team every year – 23 wins and little hope for anything more. Blame it on the Princeton offense, which makes bad teams better and good teams worse. (Dunleavy)
* It's close, but the Big East is the best conference in the area, and they're probably a little better than Maryland and VCU, but it's close. (Rich Dubroff, CSNbaltimore)
3) Maryland (34)
* The Terps are schizophrenic but when they play well, they look good. If the offense can improve, or just get consistent guard play, they could be dangerous. The Terps defend and rebound well. (Finlay)
*Please don't storm the court because I put them third. They have played a soft schedule but the win over NC State will help their tournament resume. Interesting to see them play at Duke next Saturday & then close out the month on the road at FSU. (Steven Spector, ESPN980)
* Students storm the court for a victory they were the favorites in on Wednesday, then the team doesn't show up until after halftime on Saturday. Now THAT is a hangover. (Darr)
* Maryland has the talent this year, but they can't execute offensively and Pe'Shon Howard's confidence is shot. (Dauster)
4) Towson (11)
*Yes, the CAA is rather weak this year but I'm still impressed with what Pat Skerry is doing with this team. Too bad we won't see them in any postseason play due to academic rating. (Michele Gordon, Comcast SportsNet)
* Transfer of the Year isn't a national award, but if it were, Jerrelle Benimon would be the runaway winner. The former Hoyas reserve leads the nation in rebounding (11.7) and is Towson's leading scorer (16.9). All Benimon does is average more than the combined output of Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins, Georgetown's starting power forward and center.(Bancroft)
*It would be appropriate if the post-season ineligible Tigers won the CAA regular season. (Dunleavy)
*They're the best team in Baltimore, and clearly on the come. From one win last year to 10 already, it's a great story (Dubroff)
5) Virginia (9)
* Bad losses at Wake Forest & Clemson after a win at home over UNC have really hurt the Cavaliers. With their only quality non-conference win coming over Wisconsin, Joe Harris & company need double digit ACC wins. Luckily, they only play Duke & NCST once (both at home). They need Jontel Evans to get healthy so look for him to come back strong. (Spector)
* Aside from Saturday's performance against FSU, they're not the most entertaining bunch to watch but Tony Bennett isn't about entertainment. He's about playing defense and winning. And it's working, as long as guys can stay healthy. (Gordon)
6) Loyola (8)
*People might complain, but I think on a neutral court Loyola would beat UVA. or Virginia Tech. Jimmy Patsos has his team playing well and in contention for a second straight NCAA berth. Dylon Cormier is a real player who could score in any conference. (Finlay)
* Jimmy Patsos continues to improve this program but Charm City is only seeing purple right now (rightfully so) and the Greyhounds are not on the radar. (Gordon)
7) George Mason (6)
*The Patriots only constants this season are Sherrod Wright and fouling the opposing team. (Kish)
* Patriots have their defense figured out at home. The next step will be to show it on the road with upcoming dates with Towson and Northeastern looming heavy. (Bancroft)
*I'll give the Patriots the nod over Virginia since they own a win over the Cavs. (Dauster)
Others receiving votes: Virginia Tech (4), Richmond (1)
Voters (with links to their respective Twitter profiles): Nicole Auerbach (USA Today), Bobby Bancroft (106.7 The Fan/CBS), Brendan Darr (106.7 The Fan/CBS), Rob Dauster (CollegeBasketballTalk/NBC Sports), Rich Dubroff (CSNbaltimore), Kevin Dunleavy (Washington Examiner), JP Finlay (CSNwashington), Michele Gordon (Comcast SportsNet), Ryan Kish (GMUhoops) Steven Spector (ESPN 980), Ben Standig (CSNwashington)