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The preseason AP Top 25 poll is a surprisingly reliable prognostication tool

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Indiana is the AP Poll's preseason No. 1 team (Getty Images)

If the preseason AP Top 25 poll's history of prognosticating NCAA tournament seeding and success is any indication, top-ranked Indiana could be in line for memorable season this winter.

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A study by college basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy showed that the top team in the AP's preseason poll has made the NCAA tournament every year since 1990, has advanced to the Final Four 13 times and has won seven national titles. The only No. 1 team not to receive a top-three seed during that time period is UConn's 2000 team, which received a No. 5 and lost in the Round of 32.

In case that doesn't seem especially impressive, consider that the AP's preseason No. 1 has done better than the poll's top team entering the NCAA tournament. Pomeroy's study indicates the final No. 1 has reached only 11 Final Fours and has won the national title only four times.

Indiana appears very capable of adding to the success rate of the AP's Preseason No. 1 team thanks to the presence of national player of the year candidate Cody Zeller at center and a strong supporting cast. The Hoosiers return the core of last season's high-scoring Sweet 16 team and add one of the nation's top recruiting classes highlighted by potential starting point guard Yogi Ferrell.

The preseason poll isn't nearly as reliable a projection tool lower in the rankings, but there are still some compelling trends. Here are a few from Pomroy's study that are definitely worth watching:

• Expect to see Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio State and Michigan in the NCAA tournament because preseason top five teams seldom miss the field of 64 or 68. Only four have ever failed to earn a bid: Louisville in 1987 (No. 2 in preseason poll), Indiana in 1985 (No. 4 in preseason poll), Missouri in 2004 (No. 5 in preseason poll) and LSU in 2007 (No. 5 in preseason poll).

• The preseason rankings most likely to miss the NCAA tournament are No. 17 and No. 24, both of which have failed to land a bid eight times since the event expanded to 64 teams in 1986. No. 17 in this year's poll? Memphis. No. 24? Cincinnati.

• To earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, it's imperative to be ranked in the top 12 or so in the preseason poll. Of the 108 No. 1 seeds since 1986, 90 of them were in the top 12 in the preseason poll. Thirteen were ranked somewhere between 13 and 25 and five were unranked entering the season.

• There isn't much discrepancy between how teams ranked No. 15 to 25 fare during the course of the season. They have a slim chance at a top-three seed typically needed to win a national championship and a roughly 20 percent chance of missing the NCAA tournament altogether.

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