A few weeks ago, Gary Parrish brought his vicious Poll Attack! guns to bear on The Patriot-News' Dave Jones. Before The Wisconsin Badgers beat then-#1 Ohio State in Madison, Mr. Jones chose Temple and Cincinnati over Wisconsin in his AP Top-25 ballot. Hahaha, scandalous!
In the column defending his ballot, Dave Jones said something I thought was incorrect (emphasis mine):
Anyway, love Sconsin folks. Love your passion for the game. Love Madison. My favorite venue in the Big Ten. Maybe I'll be proven wrong about your team in due time. That's what the games are for. And why polls are just for fun.
Maybe the AP beat writers and national columnists -- and the
coaches assistant coaches equipment managers and secretaries filling out the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches' Poll -- are just having fun. But their fun decisions are fueling ESPN's, ABC's and CBS's decisions to broadcast ranked teams in prime-time or highly-marketable spots.
An ESPN Press Release from Feb. 26th announced proudly'a> that, "six of the top nine teams in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll" will be playing in this week's scheduled broadcasting. CBS just hosted a Saturday & Sunday slate of games that featured nine of the AP Top 25. As of Feburary 27th twenty-five of the 29 games broadcast on CBS featured at least one team that was at that time ranked in the AP Top 25.
The top-25 rankings help draw viewers to the broadcasts. Yet the local beat writers and columnists and the companies that employ them do not directly benefit from helping ESPN, ABC and CBS.
Oh. I guess the polls are just for fun.
The Kansas Jayhawks were rewarded the number #1 ranking in both polls in one of the most contested first-place voting races this season. Then the Jayhawks got Ultra Combo'd by Jacob Pullen and Kansas State. The lamenting of the Jayhawks' somehow-unworthy promotion started last night and continues today. I won't link to it all; It's the same-old stuff that happens every time a team loses their first game ranked #1 in the nation. There's hand-wringing from pollsters who weren't confident in their Kansas-as-a-#1-seed vote. Confident Kansas-as-#1 backers now must defend their decision. And of course those who didn't vote Kansas as the #1 team in the nation bask in the glow of Kansas State's incredible win.
I will link to CBS' Gary Parrish, who has already re-evaluated his poll ballot, keeping the Jayhawks in his top 4. Gary's justification isn't necessarily important; I do like the idea that his poll ballot needed immediate adjustment after Kansas's buttwhooping.
In this day and age of instant electronic communication, why can't we have college basketball polls changing on a day-by-day basis? What makes a week -- essentially two and sometimes just one game -- a better snapshot of the season-to-date than daily snapshots? Journalists and/or basketball experts who are entrusted with providing data with the poll should be watching nearly every team who's contending for Top-25 spots, so they should be able to provide proper rankings via game result.
Of course there would need to be some sort of rules to govern a daily electronic poll:
- Voters will have to be locked out of voting during games. The electronic poll should close at about 2PM to give journalists some time in the afternoon review and write about it. The poll should open immediately after the last poll-influencing West Coast game is over. If Hawaii and Charminade are good teams, they immediately lose their universal love if they schedule late local-time games.
- Only teams that have just immediately played a game can have their poll position updated. A team can be promoted, demoted or left in the same position.
- Dropping a team out of the top-25 means promoting a team into the #25 position.
Tom Izzo's squads get an automatic 2-position bonus to poll rankings.
- When a team becomes eligible to be added/reordered/removed from the poll, voters should have to enter a short text description with their reasoning. If anything, this gives writers nationwide incentive to make daily poll posts on their publications' mandatory blogs.
With an ever-changing electronic poll, teams are now evaluated by the number of days they are ranked. Variance in position will need to be accepted since we all know a bunch of voters will vote Team A over Team B when Team A wins a game, then vote Team B back over Team A when Team B wins a game. Placement in sections of the poll will be valued more than the actual positioning: A team who stays in the Top 10 spots for 40 days will seem obviously better than a team who's in the Top 10 for just 10 days.
During the NCAA Tournament, an constantly-adjusting electronic poll would be an incredible counterpoint to the results of that day. I have some concern that teams that play Thursday/Saturday might get pushed ahead of teams that play Friday/Sunday. Since the tournament is the final stage of the basketball season, I could see the need to lock voters out until all games of a particular round are finished.
I could see the NCAA's broadcast partners being against an always-changing poll, since they use a lot of resources to get you to watch #whatever vs conference-foe-we-projected-to-be-good-but-isn't-ranked on Big Thursday. But the AP/Coaches Poll could co-exist with the electronic poll, providing a good "old school vs. new school" contrast (and column fodder for the slow weeks in December/early January).
Just-defeated yet still #1 Kansas will be playing Colorado on Saturday. It would be pretty interesting to see where Kansas would be ranked after Texas plays this week. But until somebody implements an electronic poll we'll have to wait until Monday.