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Poll Sham-pionsip Series

I know, I know, more sports? But it is basketball season now, you know.

One of the headlines this week is how the ACC has-wow!-seven teams ranked in the top 25. Umm, yeah. I may be an Iowa homer, but I'd like one of the "coaches" who voted to explain how Virginia, whose 2 victories came over traditional basketball powers Appalachian State and Richmond, deserves to be ranked ahead of Iowa, who beat top-15 teams Louisville and Texas (on a neutral court) and lost to a top-10 team (North Carolina) in the Maui Classic. For that matter, how is Wisconsin--also a 1-loss team whose loss was to unranked Pepperdine--ahead of the Hawks? Or Cincinnati?

The answer, of course, is that (a) the coaches have their assistants vote, assistants whose jobs require roughly 95% of their attention to be paid to their own team, (b) even those coaches who do fill out their own ballots pay roughly 95% of their attention to their own teams, (c) it's far easier to simply assume that ACC teams are "great" than to do a little research, particularly early in the season, and (d) early-season polls are worse than inaccurate, because most of the folk who vote aren't actually qualified to do so, period. For the first two months, the majority of voters are just guessing, based in part on mainstream buzz. How else to explain the five people who gave first-place votes to a Kansas team that struggled to beat Vermont on its home court. Puh-lease.

But that's not as bad as the football polls which, thanks to the BCS, has become a system that is so utterly gamed as to be invalid by now. Almost every analysis I've seen or heard has discussed the voting process in such detail as to make it impossible to vote honestly. And I can guarantee that people will vote for Pitt so that the BCS doesn't suffer the embarrassment of a 6-5 Syracuse squad (who lost 51-0 to Purdue, for goodness' sake) appearing in a BCS bowl. The only reason SU isn't the Big East champion? Instead of tie-breaking by head-to-head (which SU would get, having beaten Pitt), they go by rankings, and this means that even if they lose to South Florida, Pitt will get the Big East bid. And by this time next year, I'm guessing that the Big East will learn what it feels like to be on the wrong side of the electric fence that protects the major conferences from teams like Utah, Boise State, and Louisville.

Okay, I'm done with the sports for a bit. And back to the blogging.


Gosh, Syracuse lost to Temple, for cryin' out loud! Considering the owls were kicked out of the conference a few years back, it'd be shameful for them to be the conference champs. The Big East will keep their BCS bowl slot on account of this rule:

"The conferences whose champions have a guaranteed annual berth in one of the BCS bowls are subject to review and possible loss of that guaranteed annual berth should the conference champion not have an average ranking of 12 of higher over a four-year period."

Since Miami did a good job of staying in the polls the past three years, it will take time for the Big East conference to get nudged out of the BCS. Maybe Louisville will raise the stature of the conference or maybe not. Back in 2000, with a snide creep of a Syracuse alum who teased me for suggesting Oklahoma had a good football team, so I love to see those brats go down...

Ahh, I didn't know about the 4-year rule, but that makes sense. Of course, that only forestalls the inevitable--I've heard Petrino's name mentioned in connection with some big-time jobs, so we'll see if Louisville will be more than a flash...

c) Hawaii!?!