January 07, 2009
Unlike the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, the Associated Press college basketball rankings make the ballot of each voter public, in an effort to make the poll as transparent as possible. It makes sense that the AP makes writers do this but USA Today doesn't make coaches, because, why would coaches have anything to hide?
The good people at pollspeak.com compile the AP ballots into an easy-to-use database they call Pollstalker. It allows readers to sift and sort every ballot by week, voter and team to look at trends and similarities. But, better than that, it allows us to mock the voters who rank BYU No. 14. So, buckle up and hop on the Gladwell Train: Today, The Dagger is outing the outliers.
-- Mark Berman (The Roanoke Times) has Maryland ranked No. 10. The Terps may be the tenth-best team ... in the ACC. But in the nation? They were listed on just two other ballots, at No. 20 and No. 23, respectively.
-- At least the Terps were listed on other ballots. BYU appears on only Kevin McNamara's and they're at No. 14.
-- Two voters put North Carolina at No. 1. I'm on record saying the Tar Heels are still the best team in the country, even after the home loss to Boston College. But polls aren't supposed to predict the future, they're supposed to analyze the past. And right now, it's abundantly clear that Pittsburgh has a better body of work than Carolina.
-- Voters don't know what to do with Clemson. As they usually do, Oliver Purnell's Tigers started the year undefeated. In the past four seasons, however, Clemson has collapsed when the ACC season starts. Maybe because they're again concerned about being bitten by an overrated Clemson team, AP pollsters have the squad ranked as high as No. 2 and as low as No. 20. One voter, though, doesn't have Clemson ranked at all. (A reminder: Clemson is undefeated.)
You might think it's because the team hasn't played a tough schedule, but that didn't stop Jon Wilner from ranking Texas A&M at No. 18 even though they lost to Tulsa and haven't played a team with an RPI better than No. 56. Clemson, on the other hand, has three road wins against such teams. And Purdue (No. 11 on Wilner's ballot) has just two wins against the RPI Top 200. Clearly, playing an easy schedule doesn't doom a team on Wilner's ballot ... unless they play in the ACC.
-- Another undefeated ACC squad, Wake Forest, is ranked No. 2 on 15 of the AP's 71 ballots. Sixty voters have the Demon Deacons in their top six. Everyone ranked Wake in the top ten; everyone except Jon Wilner. He put the Deacs at No. 19.
-- So Wilner has an ACC bias, right? That'd be understandable, except that the San Jose Mercury News writer has Florida State at No. 17! Normally I'd say everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but when said opinion is that Florida State (13-2) should be ranked higher than Wake Forest (13-0), I might have to rethink that.
-- If you have a few minutes, do yourself a favor and play around with the data. You'll be amazed at how normal Dickie V's ballot looks.
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