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Pull the Polls

November 20, 2002 Columns No Comments

Pull the Polls

by Mitch Schneider

Will somebody, please, do away with all preseason polls?

These things have no merit, and are about as accurate as a Florida election.

I realize Americans love to rank everything that can possibly be studied. But it’s practically impossible to select the top 25 collegiate basketball teams before they even hit the floor.

Case in point: No. 3 Oklahoma traveled to New York last week to take on No. 8 Alabama in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The Tide thoroughly outplayed Oklahoma, and won the game 68-62 (‘Bama should have won by 20). Alabama threw all polls out the window, and soundly defeated a team it was better than.

According to the polls, the Sooners should have raked Alabama, or at least hung with the Tide for most of the game. After all, a No. 3 ranking suggests you’re one of the best teams in the country… a diamond among gems. But Oklahoma fell, and thus, made a preseason mockery of a premature poll.

If you look at the Hoopville Top-25, you’ll find Arizona and Kansas occupy the top two spots. At first glance, this makes plenty of sense. The Wildcats return all five starters to a team that tied for second place in the Pac-10 last year, while the Jayhawks have more front court talent than they know what to do with.

Their high rankings seem justified.

But wait a minute, folks. Those five Arizona starters, the ones everyone has already picked to run the NCAA tables, were embarrassed by Oklahoma, 88-67, in the West Regionals last March. And frankly, this year’s OU team is pretty much the same as last year’s (minus forward Aaron McGhee).

Kansas also lost to the Sooners last year, and did so with a much better team. If the Jayhawks struggled against Oklahoma with the services of Drew Gooden, how are they going to compete without him?

Since both Arizona and Kansas lost to the Sooners in the span of a month last season, why are they both ranked higher than OU today? And since Alabama beat Oklahoma, does this mean the Tide’s the best team in the country?

All right, I’m a little off track, and you’re probably annoyed, but my point is this: Preseason polls are worthless. Their only value is to sell magazines, and give Dick Vitale something to mull over from April to November.

The first poll should be released one week after every school has played a game that affects its season record (no exhibitions). Therefore, the polls could take into account wins and losses, as well as how a team actually performed on the court.

While this new poll may also have some problems and controversies, I bet it proves more accurate than any one that comes out in October.

It was once said preseason polls are like the beginning of a beauty contest. Sure, it’s nice to be recognized based on your initial looks. But the real battle doesn’t begin until half-way through the pageant (during the swimsuit competition).

I’m not saying Arizona and Kansas (and Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Texas, etc.) aren’t worthy of their initial rankings. I just think we should see what these teams can do before we book them March flights to New Orleans.


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