Preseason College Basketball Polls Are Entertainment, Not Prophecies – Forbes
It happens every single college basketball offseason. An outlet releases a Top 25 poll, power ranking, or some variation of subjective placements, then people react to them as if the world has been set on fire by Hephaestus.
Falling into a trope early, saying what shouldn’t actually need to be said here, but the AP Poll, or any other preseason ranking tool, falls closer to being a guide or a form of entertainment than it does as a literal prophetical scripture.
After all, given the insane roster turnover that happens season after season, plus variables no one can account for, it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to know what the upcoming college basketball season will look like without seeing a second of it.
Yet, fans and media regularly lose their minds over Team-X being placed four spots lower than wherever they feel the program should be slotted, as if the TV producer from Scranton who somehow has an AP vote alters the sport’s landscape for the duration of the season.
It’s easy to rag on the AP Poll, though it’s unfair and delusional to believe beat writers have time to cover 300-plus Division I basketball teams, but it’s not the only imperfect preseason form of rankings.
There’s blogs publishing top five thingamabobs, KenPom attempting to use data to rank teams that lost 80 percent of the previous voyage’s offense, so on and so forth.
All of those are imperfect attempts at providing some information. Few, if not all, will readily admit they’re not claiming what they’re saying on a random day on October will hold up by the time March hits.
Oddly enough, while fans and some media take preseason prognostications far too seriously, it’s players and coaches who often have the best perspective on all the hoopla surrounding each publications attempt to rank whoever and/or whatever.
For example, the TCU Horned Frogs are predicted to finish dead last in the Big 12 conference. People within that bubble could create an argument as to why it’s silly, or you can simply take the approach TCU talent Desmond Bane took, which is to acknowledge the entire point of all offseason rankings.
“Preseason polls are just to get everybody talking,” said Bane, the league’s top returning scorer. “We’re not going to finish 10th, that’s for sure.”
Clearly, some will use preseason “snubs” as a motivational tool, but that’s a different discussion.
What Bane says does work, for what it’s worth. People talk about all the rankings before games even tip. They help to draw conversations out of thin air, even so far as helping college basketball grow its reach beyond its usual months of relevance.
Still, it’s somewhat silly to become flustered over anything so meaningless. If a handsome Internet Scribbler wrote a piece on the top five freshmen entering the 2019-20 college basketball season, and you don’t agree with his subjective opinions, there’s zero reason to panic. Whatever that insanely handsome Internet Scribbler wrote will not alter how well those five freshmen play this season. Moreover, it will not hinder the performance of whoever you believe he snubbed.
More bluntly put: At best, preseason rankings can be used as guides for casual fans and a decent starting point for conversations. After that, treating such trivial words as gospel would be like trying to follow a fortune cookie’s advice to the point you tattoo the lucky numbers on your face.
Sports are a form of entertainment. The AP Poll operates with more deserved deference than any other publication’s power ranking post; though there’s little reason to put an ounce of stock in the preseason version of the famed poll. It’s barely educated guessing, resting closer to hurling darts at a wall in the dark.
However, there’s no need to ignore these rankings. As mentioned a few times, it provides entertainment value before the games are actually played – although, again, that’s where their value ends.
No need to put stock in a subjective piece of work that has zero impact on what happens when the season truly starts.
In the most roundabout way as humanly possible, enjoy the polls as entertainment and not the college basketball version of Merriam-Webster. Random people in the country can’t define a single college basketball team, coach or player in October.
If they could, games wouldn’t need to be played.
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