<
>

In praise of the preseason AP poll

By and large, this blogger is anti-poll. Maybe anti-poll is too strong; something like "meh-poll" might work better. Whatever you want to call it, the point is this: Polls are still a pretty big deal in the day-to-day life of the college basketball season and -- whether it's the Associated Press or the coaches' poll, though the coaches' poll is probably even less relevant than the AP -- that's sort of silly. Weekly polls matter very little in the big picture; they don't matter at all in NCAA tournament selection; they are only coincidentally based on hard data; and everyone gets really angry about them without really knowing why.

Are polls great for fun conversation? Yes. Will I continue to talk about them throughout the season? Of course! Should everyone get as worked up about them as they (we) do? Not so much.

And with those paragraphs out of the way, it's time ... to praise a poll. I have a feeling you saw that coming.

The praise actually comes from Ken Pomeroy, he of the famed KenPom.com, who shares a rather remarkable stat regarding the accuracy of preseason AP polls in comparison to the final AP polls before the NCAA tournament:

Six times the preseason #1 has won the national title compared to three for the top-ranked team at the end of the regular season. The preseason #1 has made it to the title game a total of 10 times compared to just six for the final #1. It’s stunning to me that armed with 25-30 games of additional information, the writers’ ability to identify the nation’s best team gets worse!

That is rather stunning, but as Ken goes on to write, it also makes sense. Voters tend to overexaggerate polling changes based on a road loss or home win, even if the odds of that team winning the next bout is greater than 50-50. Timing also makes the polls go wacky; when an overall No. 1 loses a late-season game, they almost always get bumped even if their résumé is more impressive than the team that supplants them. The preseason polls isn't subject to any of those biases or overreactions.

Still, reasons aside: That is a crazy stat.

In any case, now we know. The preseason AP poll, which was released this week, is a pretty worthwhile exercise. The rest of them? Meh. They're fun, but let's try not to take them too seriously.