Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 25, 2015

Today I'm going to have myself a little rant about the sad state of the current polling system. I frequently talk to friends/coworkers/acquaintances about college basketball. All too often, well-informed and well-intentioned sports fans place far too much emphasis on poll rankings when referencing the strength of a team. I think the 4-letter network deserves a lot of blame for this, as they constantly perpetuate the myth that a team's poll ranking equates to their ability. They bump high-ranking matchups to primetime TV spots, and spend the vast majority of their time spouting about a select few historically good schools which draw a larger TV viewing audience (read: $$$), however all their talking-head rhetoric can't translate to quality performance on the court. I will qualify my frustration by saying that the discrepancies aren't quite as terrible at the top of the rankings, but I think that many of the voters simply get lazy once they get past #15, because there are some blatantly absurd voting patterns. Below are a couple of prime examples:

San Diego State ranked #24, Colorado State not a single vote. I don't disagree that the Aztecs are the better team, but the two teams are adjacent on the RPI list and I personally have them at #26 and #29, respectively, on my bracketology seed list. Their resumes are strikingly similar: Rams have one fewer loss, Aztecs have a slightly stronger schedule and one more quality win. Both teams have one bad loss, and their two meetings were split with the home team prevailing by single digits. The next example will further illustrate the absurdity of Colorado State having zero votes.

Murray State received 42 votes, ranked #28. A total of 16 voters had the Racers in their top-25 teams in the country. Let's take a quick peek at Murray State's resume: 22-4 record, #265 SOS, one top-100 win (December home game against #84 Illinois State...and they haven't played a top-135 team since). They have two losses outside the top-100, including to #268 Houston. I have the Racers at #78 on my bracketology seed list. Now, if one or two ignorant voters decided to slide Murray State a pity #25 vote based on their impressive record and they finished with one or two points, I would quickly scoff and move on. But they have 42 votes, which means that 65 individual "experts" voted them ahead of Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Texas, Oregon, and about 50 other teams they shouldn't be ahead of, including Colorado State. I strongly believe that there needs to be a voter validation system, whereby voters' selections are tested by subsequent game results. Anomoly upsets will surely happen, but over a full season, we'll be able to easily tell who has their head up their ass [Dick Vitale] when they place Murray State #19 on their list. I would love to meet Dick Vitale today and ask him who he thought would win in a neutral-court matchup between Murray State and West Virginia. For christ's sake, the latter just throttled Oklahoma State in Stillwater by double digits and the former gave up 92 points in a 2-point victory over 10-16 #274 Southeast Missouri State.

If anyone is interested, below is the link to a site that shows the full voting results.
College Poll Tracker

...end rant.

1's: Kentucky, Virginia, Villanova, Duke
2's: Kansas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Gonzaga
3's: Maryland, Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia
4's: Oklahoma, Louisville, Notre Dame, Utah
5's: Butler, Northern Iowa, North Carolina, Arkansas
6's: VCU, Indiana, Georgetown, Wichita State
7's: SMU, San Diego State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State
8's: Colorado State, Providence, North Carolina State, Saint John's
9's: Dayton, Tulsa, Oregon, Iowa
10's: Xavier, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss
11's: Illinois, Temple, Texas, Georgia, Cincinnati
12's: Syracuse, Davidson, Wofford, Stephen F. Austin, Old Dominion
13's: Buffalo, Green Bay, Iona, Murray State
14's: Harvard, Eastern Washington, UC Davis, Georgia State
15's: South Dakota State, William & Mary, High Point, Florida Gulf Coast
16's: North Carolina Central, New Mexico State, Stony Brook, Bucknell, Texas Southern, Saint Francis (NY)

FFO: LSU, Pittsburgh, Boise State, Miami (FL)
NFO: Stanford, Massachusetts, UCLA, Purdue

1 comment:

  1. I had an additional thought on what may be ailing the polling process. The AP voters are 65 journalists from across the country. What is a journalist's objective? To get people to read what they write. How do they do that? By writing interesting, and often sensational/controversial/questionable things. Does this mentality translate well to an objective analysis of on-court performance? Resoundingly, no.

    How about instead of 65 journalists, create a diversified group of journalists, college basketball insiders/experts, and statistical analysts. I'll gladly volunteer for that last group.