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Rushing the Polls: Preseason Edition

If you read our site last season, you'd know that we have a pretty strong obsession with college rankings and the polls.  Thanks to the great people at PollSpeak, we have a more in depth understanding of the polls than ever before.  This will be especially interesting this season as Gonzaga is in the rare position to actually start the season unranked and climb back up into the national picture.  We all know about the difficulties of the early season schedule for the Zags but it also gives them a great shot to get back in the top 25 right away.  The purpose of this post will be just to give you a little more insight to who voted Gonzaga where and what the trends are.  Last season we were up in arms about being ranked past 10th in the nation to start the year and this season we consider ourselves lucky to even have a few national pundits putting us in there top 25.  There are always some interesting stories when the polls come out and every week, some national writer leaves us scratching our heads...

This time last year

No one probably really needs a refresher on where Gonzaga was in the national eyes a season ago.  Praised as Mark Few's "most talented team" in his long and outstanding tenure, the Zags were one of ten teams ranked by every single AP voter.  The preseason AP poll ruled that the team was the 10th best in the nation and of course, we expected higher.  Gonzaga's highest ranking came from a pollster in California who believed Mark Few had the third best team in the country.  Their lowest ranking came from a writer in Pennsylvania who thought Gonzaga was barely good enough to hang on at #25.  Believe me when I say that we attempted to e-mail the people who ranked Gonzaga at their most extremes but, of course, they were unwilling to comply with our requests.

Moving on to this season

The entire AP poll this season is just a little more hectic in general.  Whereas North Carolina received all 72 first place votes a year ago, they are spread between five teams this season.  Kansas does dominate the field with 55 of the 65 votes this season but it's clear that their rule over college basketball is not unanimous.  With the Zags being ranked #37 in the country, they only received 37 points from the voters.  As we look a bit closer, here is how all the numbers shake out:

#Votes for Gonzaga Highest Rank Lowest Rank Final Rank
7 #16 Unranked #37


Gonzaga's highest ranking (16th) came from a pollster with National Public Radio out in Washington DC.  I'm always intrigued by where voters that vote for Gonzaga are from.  I always had this mental image that it was a bunch of writers from Washington (Eastern, of course), Montana, and Idaho just stuffing the boxes for the Zags.  However, only two regional votes came in for Gonzaga, one from California and one from Montana.  Other than that, we had a few from the Carolinas and in the South.  We haven't yet captured the hearts of the national voters either.  Dick Vitale ranked Duke high but not Gonzaga and Seth Davis (SI) and Jeff Goodman (FoxSports) also don't have the Zags in their top 25's. 

A national look

The main reason why PollSpeak is so fantastic is because you can see inside the minds of the people that are dictating who goes where in college basketball.  Unlike last season, the maximum amount of votes a team can get is 65.  A few voters have been trimmed this season, including our friend Steve Pivovar from Nebraska who held a big grudge against the Zags a year ago.  Of all the teams that at least got one vote this season, only nine of them were on every single voters poll.  Those teams are: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina, Purdue, Texas, Villanova, and West Virginia.  Now, the good thing about this is that Washington was smartly left off someone's ballot but there are three and maybe four teams that I think should easily have made everyone's top 25: Butler, Cal, Tennessee, and maybe Connecticut.  Butler is an absolute no-brainer.  Only one person, Bill Cole of the Winston-Salem Journal left them off.  They return two stars in Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard and basically every piece from a 26 win team last year.  Cal should be on everyone's ballot because they have the Pac-10 player of the year in Jerome Randle, one of the best coaches in the country, and they'll win the down Pac-10.  Tennessee has plenty of veteran leaders and a sophomore looking to breakout in Scotty Hopson.