The great thing about college basketball is that polls don't matter. They don't matter before the season, because the season is long enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. They don't matter after the season, because everyone knows who just won the title. And they don't matter during the season, because they just don't. Sure, we gripe about them. We point out when certain poll voters do silly things with their votes. But because the selection committee only barely glances at poll positions, midseason polls have very little affect on what actually happens down the stretch. And thank goodness for that.
But, hey, it's almost June, which means the offseason is already in full swing. It's times like these when we need polls desperately. Without them, we'd never get to talk about actual basketball. It'd be all ticket scandals and NBA rumors. Who wants to live like that?
Anyway, plenty of writers have submitted their Top 25s for the 2010-11 season, and hoops enthusiast Vegas Watch compiled those scribes' rankings into one consensus-based list. Handy! The result, as you might expect, has Duke ranked No. 1 overall. Michigan State comes in a close second at No. 2, and Purdue comes in at third, though it's notable that Purdue doesn't notch a single first-place vote among the writers. Then it's Kansas State, Villanova, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Kansas, Baylor, and Gonzaga at Nos. 4-10.
A few things pop to mind when looking at that top 10. One is that Purdue might not be getting enough respect. Sure, Duke is a deserving No. 1, and Michigan State's veteran-heavy squad should be right there (though, knowing coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans, they're likely to suffer a few early-season disappointments before righting the ship in time for Big Ten play). Purdue's top two returners -- Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson -- are arguably the equal of Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, and the Boilermakers have a third option in E'Twaun Moore backing them up. Duke, on the other hand, will rely on highly touted newcomers Seth Curry and Kyrie Irving to fill Jon Scheyer's shoes.
Another quick noodle: There are no dominant teams in 2010-11. Duke lost too much to look like a 2008 North Carolina-vintage returning team. Michigan State is loaded with talent, but that talent isn't domination-level. Purdue lost Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, which, now that I think about it, sounds like a movie star's name. Great name. And sure, Purdue, Michigan State and Duke are the clear top three -- there's a vast drop-off to Kansas State, an unproven Villanova team, Ohio State without Evan Turner, and on down the line. (Really? Gonzaga at No. 10?) But are any of those top three so loaded that they'll sweep the nation with dominating basketball on their way to an easy NCAA title? Not so much.
From the looks of it, the 2010-11 season should be pretty similar to 2009-10. A few really good teams -- maybe even 10 teams you could see winning the NCAA title -- topped by two or three genuine contenders. If I recall, the 2009-10 hoops season was lots of fun. It's only May 26, and it's only an aggregate preseason poll, but, hey, I'm encouraged. And plenty excited.