Back in late October, when the college basketball season was just on the cusp of starting its glorious five-month march, media members across the nation presumably sat down and pored over rosters, schedules and the occasional interview, before submitting their preseason AP Top 25 ballot.
These are writers who have made a living covering these teams. They are granted access to coaches and players that is afforded to few others. Simply put, it is their job to have a better understanding than the average fan.
So while expecting a perfect ballot is completely unreasonable, having sound predictions across the board isn’t asking too much, is it?
If the snarky intro didn’t clue you in already, of course it is.
Looking at the AP Top 25 Poll as it stands now, the national experts missed on 14 of the 25 initial predictions.
Now, those numbers are good if you play baseball or are getting picked out of a lineup for robbing a bank.
But in terms of nailing down the top college hoops teams in the nation, coming in at below 50 percent puts you in the same prognosticating category as the degenerate gambler on the bar stool and Miss Cleo.
Now to be fair, the voters did nail a majority of the top 10. The best team at the beginning of the season is now considered the second strongest squad and six of the preseason top 10 still reside in this holy ground of the rankings.
But still…only 11 of 25 correct? Where did members of the national press go so wrong?
Let’s break it down:
Understandable Misfires — North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Minnesota
Be it injuries, suspensions or just plain inexplicable poor play, the AP voters should get a pass for several misses on the list. Despite having seven McDonald’s All-Americans on its roster, UNC is enduring the worst season in coach Roy Williams’ long history. The voters certainly cannot be blamed for a few key injuries and Williams failing miserably at molding his talent into a winning team. Same goes for Texas, which supplemented a deep roster with a top recruiting class and Oklahoma, which has seen Big XII freshman of the year Willie Warren take several steps back since a superb rookie year. And while Minnesota was a questionable top 25 pick, suspensions to Trevor Mbakwe and Royce White came down after the initial voting.
What were you thinking? — Michigan, Georgia Tech and Connecticut
All three of these teams’ lofty rankings are a simple — though not excusable — case of overestimating several athletic players and glossing over the lack of talent up and down the rest of the roster.
The Wolverines’ Manny Harris is a high volume shooter who puts up 18.1 points per game — but only shoots 41 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range. Averaging 4.1 assists to 2.8 turnovers a game, he does little to make the rest of his team better.
And while DeShawn Sims provides a strong post presence, opponents can focus on shutting down just one of the Big Two, knowing no one else on the team is going to hurt them. Ranked No. 15 before games were played, this weakness should have been apparent to anyone familiar with Big Ten basketball.
Georgia Tech started the year at No. 22 based largely on the fact that they managed to score big time recruit Derrick Favors. An athletic freak, Favors has enjoyed a decent season with his ability to run the floor and crash the glass. Possessing no known post moves, however, Favors lacks any ability to take over a game, and even if he was Lew Alcindor down low, AAU ball forgot to teach the Yellow Jacket guards how to make a simple entry pass. Currently sitting at seventh place in the mediocre ACC, poll voters must have been seeing recruiting stars rather then evaluating the team as it was put together.
UConn lost defensive beast Hasheem Thabeet, star point guard A.J. Price and senior bruiser Jeff Adrien. So of course they started the season at No. 12. Although the top four scorers have been solid for Connecticut, a lack of depth in the beastly Big East leaves them tied for ninth with a 17-12 overall record.
Bulletin Board Material — Syracuse, Wisconsin and Mid-Majors
Every team loves to play the disrespected angle. The primary benefactor this year is current No. 1 Syracuse. Not even receiving votes in the preseason AP poll, the Orange prove with every win just how faulty preseason rankings really are. Balanced and deep, Syracuse will enter the tourney with a No. 1 seed and a giant chip on their shoulder.
While at least one media member predicted a successful year for the Badgers, not one member of the AP poll gave UW a single vote before the season started and Sports Illustrated predicted Wisconsin would even miss the tournament.
Too many words have been used proving just how silly that was.
Currently seven of the top 25 come from non-power conferences. The AP told us it would be two. Billy Packer would be proud.
So why should any of this matter?
Just keep it in mind for this year’s Tournament, when these same experts will be advising you and your gambling dollars on which team is this year’s George Mason and who will be making the miracle six-game run.
Picking out of a hat might be safer.
Michael is a senior majoring in journalism. Wonder what his prediction success rate is? He can be reached at email@example.com.