Whether you love them, hate them, or flat out ignore them, polls in college basketball are a part of life and go a long way in dictating where teams shake out when March rolls around. The Associated Press poll is thought of as the gold standard when it comes to polls because it is these guys' job to sit and watch college basketball to be educated journalists. The beauty of the Internet is that, at the click of a mouse, we can access how each and every AP voter ranked the teams. Through the outstanding website Pollspeak, every voter's "record" is at our fingertips and it really is an outstanding case study of how people vote and how certain biases may or may not enter their voting patterns. Like it or not, these voters control how the nation looks at the college basketball landscape and they deserve as much scrutiny as the teams they rank. Now, most of the voters hover around a general region with individual teams. However, there are always extremes on both sides and that is what makes the polls so fascinating.
This time last year...
Even though it is extremely hard (ok, impossible) to compare this years team to last years, it is always interesting to have a baseline to formulate our views. Even though our memory of Maui is still fresh in our minds, I think I speak for a number of Gonzaga fans because when I hear the month "December", I automatically shudder. A season ago at this time, Gonzaga was coming off a pretty dominant Old Spice Classic championship. They handled Oklahoma State, throttled Maryland, and won relatively easy over Tennessee to win what was labeled the deepest early season tournament in recent memory. For their efforts, Gonzaga vaulted itsef to its second highest ranking of the season, #5.
Moving on to this season...
Here are some general facts about this year's AP Poll and some things that stand out about where Gonzaga is ranked:
--- There are 65 voters in this year's Associated Press Poll
--- Of those 65, 56 voters decided the Zags were worthy to be ranked in their Week 3 Poll.
--- Gonzaga's highest ranking was delivered by my new best friend, Jon Wilner, of San Jose who rank the Bulldogs #6
--- If you couldn't do the math, 9 voters (now my enemies) chose to leave Gonzaga off their ballots. We'll examine those further after the jump to give you a look into the minds of voters.
I typically like to dissect a general trend in the polls but sometimes, one poll comes together so perfectly that it is just hard to click away. This poll is a bit different because I find it quite baffling and it comes from Mr. Cory Curtis of WKRN (TV) in Nashville, Tennessee. I don't mean to go all "Gary Parrish" on you all but this poll just screams homer. And he gives Gonzaga the shaft so, sorry Mr. Curtis, but lets take a look at your work.
As I mentioned, Mr. Curtis calls home the lovely state of Tennesse, but I bet you could have guessed that by looking at his poll. Before we get to that however, lets look at the teams he ranked ahead of Gonzaga. Mr. Curtis decided that Gonzaga was good enough not be ranked this week after winning in Maui. I have no real issue with this until you see #17, #23, and #25. These spots are reserved for Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, and Cincinnati. All three of these schools were in lovely Maui, Hawaii and left with nothing, well I guess Cincinnati probably got some individual trophies or something. However, I don't believe Vanderbilt or Wisconsin got anything. In fact, I'm pretty sure Wisconsin left with a nice Gonzaga-flavored butt whoopin. Cincinnati took Gonzaga to overtime but Gonzaga made shots at the end and Cincy didn't. This however, did not register with Mr. Curtis who obviously missed Maui on the ESPN family of networks. Sports writers don't need to watch ESPN right?
I'm still beyond stunned that he chose Wisconsin not only over Gonzaga but also over Cincinnati but I should get back to Mr. Curtis raving homerism. The cool thing is that Vanderbilt combines Mr. Curtis' homer issues with his non-watching of the Maui Invitational. You see, he decided to rank the three major Tennessee schools (Tennessee, Memphis, and Vanderbilt) all extremely high in comparison with the rest of the voters. He slated Tennessee at #7, Memphis at #12, and Vanderbilt at #17. Might I remind you that Vandy was handily defeated by Cincy and squeaked by St. Mary's.
Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill but inspecting individual polls? Possibly. But I think that when you look around at college basketball and inspect a few polls, you'll understand that some of these people that have a say really don't deserve one. The goal of polls is objectivity and watching the games is paramount in this. You can make arguments for certain teams in certain places but instances like Wisconsin being ahead of Gonzaga at this point is 150% indefensible.