-Okay, the one thing that you need to know about any preseason poll is that it is wrong. People say we shouldn’t even have preseason polls. I like the polls because it does give us some frame of reference as a starting point, and it gives us something to talk about as our first taste of college basketball. They’re wrong, though. They’re grossly inaccurate. It will go through metamorphosis throughout the year as more games are played and become a more accurate indicator of who is good, but for now, it is way off.
To illustrate this, let’s look at some of last year’s preseason poll…
-Connecticut started off at #4, and ended up very close to the bubble.
-Vanderbilt was #7. They fell way out of the rankings, and although they did win the SEC Tournament and have a good year, they were pretty far outside the top ten.
-Memphis was ranked #9. I believe they finished the year #9, but that was their seed in the NCAA Tournament, not their ranking.
-Pittsburgh was #11 and missed the NCAAs entirely
-Xavier was #15, and was barely inside the bubble. They did go to the Sweet Sixteen, but they were also the beneficiaries of Lehigh’s upset over Duke.
-Arizona was #16 and missed the tournament entirely.
-Alabama was #17 and was way outside the rankings by the end, and for a time looked as though they would miss the dance.
-Texas A&M was #19. I don’t believe they were in any postseason tournament.
-Same with #20 UCLA.
-#24 California made the tournament, if you count the play-in games as making the tournament.
-#25 Missouri was very close to a #1 seed by the end.
Of the 25 teams ranked in preseason top 25 last year, 11 of them were way off the mark.
-On the flip side, Murray State, who got as high as #7 in the rankings, did not receive a single preseason vote. In fact, if anyone had voted for them they would have probably been sent to a special home someplace. Imagine if that same voter would have also not had UConn in his/her preseason top ten. They would have been laughed out of the room, yet by the end of the season, Murray was top Ten and UConn was nowhere to be found. Creighton, Wichita State, San Diego State and UNLV were also nowhere to be found in last year’s preseason poll.
So, in case I haven’t illustrated my point, I like the poll, but it is wrong. I don’t exactly know in what ways it is wrong. None of us do. That’s part of the fun. I just know that it is.
-I think Louisville and Indiana are the logical top two. Personally, I think Louisville is ahead of them, but again, that’s simply based on speculation without having seen any games. But, they won the Big East Tournament, earned a better seed in the NCAA Tournament, went further in the NCAA Tournament, and return a great deal of their contributing players. If they can stay healthy, they should be a national championship contender.
-Indiana was another team that was nowhere to be found in last year’s preseason poll, but ended up being a solid Sweet Sixteen caliber team. This year, many are expecting that they could be a Final Four caliber team with all they have coming back, including Cody Zeller, who is a National Player of the Year Contender. Everyone is familiar with the recent scandals that set back IU and how they only won five games in Tom Crean’s first year. Despite that though, last year was just the second time Indiana had reached the Sweet Sixteen since 1994, so the program is at a level now that they have not been at in quite some time.
-Ohio State checks in at #4 and Michigan is behind them at #5. For those of you scoring at home, that’s three Big Ten teams in the top five. As they play each other and beat each other, surely someone will get knocked down. I really do like this Ohio State team, though. As I’m sure will be discussed in our first preseason podcast, they will not miss a step defensively.
-NC State is #6, largely because of their last four games last year. I don’t see them ending up anywhere near that high. There are three big criteria to preseason polls: how a team finished the previous year, how much experience they have coming back, and what they’ve added. NC State made the Sweet Sixteen and has a ton of talent coming back, so they score very high in those two criteria. They BARELY got into the dance, though. I think this is a good NC State team. I just don’t think they’re the #6th best team. Much of that ranking is based on two NCAA Tournament wins, and not last season as a whole. I’m sure this will be addressed in our preseason podcast.
-Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Syracuse and Florida are the other five teams in the top ten. No surprise that those teams are getting those types of votes. I don’t expect Kentucky to end up at #3, which is where they are starting. They basically reshuffle the deck every year and add new young talent. I just don’t think this year’s new young talent is anywhere close to last year’s new young talent.
-UCLA is #13. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m not certain that they’ll be as poor as they were a year ago. I’m just equally as uncertain that they’re a top fifteen caliber team.
-Creighton checks in at #15. I actually believe that is about right. They have a big game against Wisconsin early in the year, which should tell us a lot about them.
-Memphis comes in at #16. They were playing great ball at the end of the season, but bowed out of the NCAA Tournament early. This is the second year in a row they’ve begun the season ranked high. I keep thinking they’re going to be as good as their preseason ranking, but I’m at a point now to where I’ll have to see it to believe it.
-#19 UNLV is interesting. I actually really like this team and think they may end up ranked better than this.
-Florida State at #24 is another team that I really like. They have all kinds of size, and while the ACC is tough, it isn’t full of world-beaters like the Big Ten is this year, so they should rack up more than their share of wins. They won the ACC Tournament and made the Sweet Sixteen a year ago, and have some pretty good talent coming in. They could end up being better than many expect.
-VCU is outside the rankings, but barely. I REALLY like this VCU team. They did have some problems with initial eligibility and that will set them back a little bit, but they still look very good with everyone that is coming back.
-Murray State is unranked, but at least they’re getting votes. The deal with them is that they don’t play hardly anyone. They’re in the Charleston Classic where they could face College of Charleston, Dayton or Baylor, and they are on the road at Dayton. That’s about it. As you all know, and as Murray State demonstrated last year (and as Utah State has demonstrated in the past), the most important thing a team needs to do in order to climb the rankings is to avoid losing. That shouldn’t be a problem for Murray State. They don’t play anyone. The question is how good are they really?? They return most of last year’s team and should be dangerous, but we won’t see them be truly tested.
-Davidson received no votes. I really like this Davidson team and think we’ll see them in the rankings before the year is over. They were good last year and return virtually everyone. Unlike Murray State, they will be tested, at least out of conference, and should be able to overwhelm the majority of their opponents in conference. As was pointed out earlier, many teams that are nowhere near the radar in the preseason end up being in the rankings before it’s over. I believe Davidson will be one of those teams.