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...
Around this time year ago, it felt like Santa Claus had come a little early in Spokane, Washington. A 6-0 Gonzaga team that had shown little signs of weakness throughout the 2008-2009 season was coming off a nice win over Indiana and were rewarded with the #4 ranking in the country by both polls. In a very similar situation to this year, people had begun to overlook Washington State, Arizona, and Texas Southern and begin speculation about a possible top five match up between the Zags and the Huskies of Connecticut. UConn was #2 a the time and cruising through their schedule just as easily as Gonzaga was. Let's hope our 2009-10 team takes a hint from last year's guys and doesn't overlook the next two games. I'm not sure if Gonzaga fans' hearts are ready for another December letdown.
Moving on to this season...
After the Wake Forest loss, I think that most of us realized that we were obviously going to drop in the rankings but not fall out of them. The Maui victory and other solid showings have given Gonzaga one of the best resumes to date. Here is a general look at some AP Poll stats:
--- There are 65 voters in this year's Associated Press poll
--- Of those 65; 46 decided that the Zags were worth of being in their week four poll
--- Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News once again delivered Gonzaga's highest ranking at #12
--- Last week we had nine voters leave Gonzaga our of their polls, this year we have added ten more to make that total 19. We'll examine some of the oddities of the AP poll after the jump.
To be honest, I don't believe that the Zags are the 12th best team in the country at this point but I really enjoy the fact that Jon Wilner thinks they are. If you are on the fence about giving this man love, there is also another facet of his poll that I think most pure Gonzaga basketball fans will enjoy; he left Washington out of his rankings. That's right, Mr. Wilner was one of the few writers who watched the Huskies go into Lubbock give a horrible, foul-laced performance and basically lose twice to Texas Tech. The rest of the AP Poll obviously disagreed and put the one-loss Huskies ahead of the unbeaten Red Raiders by six spots. Mr. Wilner's poll is "extreme" in the context of the rest of the voters but he's also one of the few guys that has a one-loss Wisconsin team ranked ahead of a one-loss Duke team. Doesn't this make sense considering that Wisconsin beat Duke and showed well in Maui? I understand that it is a pollsters responsibility to look at each team individually but I feel like head-to-head match ups between teams should probably be taken in to account.
I need to have a weekly Cory Curtis poll watch just so I can enjoy homerism at its true finest. If you didn't read last week, Cory Curtis is on some local news station in Nashville, Tennessee. My best guess is that Cory will not be voting in this poll next year after some of these performances. In this week's poll, he lists Tennessee at #7, Memphis at #12, and Vanderbilt at #16. Someone has got to get this man an updated schedule/results page for this man when he is looking at his Tennessee teams. First off, Tennessee has had a nice little start to their year. There only loss has come to a very nice Purdue team but aside from that, there best win is a four point squeaker over DePaul. Cory ranks the Volunteers ahead of an unbeaten teams like West Virginia and Florida. Both have better resumes than Tennessee. Vanderbilt is also an interesting team to pick #16 for Mr. Curtis considering he went ahead and ranked Cincinnati #21. Like Vandy, Cincy still has one loss but what should make this picture much easier is that the two schools played in Maui and Cincy dominated the game from the opening tip. Yet, Vandy sits five spots higher. Stunning.
As I close I feel I should once again publicize the website that makes this all possible, Pollspeak. There are 19 voters that left Gonzaga off their ballots so I'm sure there are plenty like Cory Curtis that just seem to be watching Jersey Shore instead of college basketball. Happy hunting and be kind if you choose to send some e-mails to silly voters!