At Opposite Polls: College Basketball, Football Polls Decide Nothing Much in Basketball

By Jim Thomas Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 6, 1994 | Go to article overview

At Opposite Polls: College Basketball, Football Polls Decide Nothing Much in Basketball


Jim Thomas Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


There's no truth to the rumor that Tony Barone puts a blindfold on every Sunday when he selects his Top 25. But he could.

"You could pick next year's top 25 right now," said Barone, basketball coach at Texas A&M.

So could Nolan Richardson of Arkansas.

"You take a North Carolina and a Duke," said Richardson, a former voter. "I remember back then, you just put them in automatically, because they were going to be there anyway."

Duke. North Carolina. Kansas. Indiana. Michigan. Kentucky.

"See, you're going to get up to about 15 or 18 pretty quick," Barone said.

Get the feeling basketball polls aren't an exact science?

"I don't think anybody should take a poll terribly seriously," said poll voter Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

The selection committee certainly doesn't.

"I have not put a lot of faith in them," said Duke athletic director Tom Butters, who chairs the committee which helps select, seed and bracket the 64-team NCAA Tournament field.

On selection Sunday, Butters says, "Polls, RPIs and Sagarin ratings - all of that is available in the room. But it is not handed out to each of the committee members. It simply is on a table. If we care to use it, fine, but we certainly don't use the polls to select the teams nor seed them nor bracket them."

Unlike its football counterpart, the basketball poll remains what it's always been - a conversation piece, an opinion poll. Not a life-or-death proposition that helps decide national championships.

The AP basketball poll began in the 1948-49 season - 12 years after its football poll started.

"The sports editor at the time just decided that people were getting so interested in basketball, that we should put out some form of rankings," said Jim O'Connell, college basketball editor for AP.

The AP decided to use voters from throughout the country, and uses the same basic system today.

"With the 301 Division I schools, you basically get a vote for every (five) Division I schools in the state," O'Connell said.

Which explains why Missouri has one vote, held this season by Lyndal Scranton of the Springfield News Leader, and why California has four votes.

All told there are 65 voters, all from AP-member radio stations, television stations or newspapers.

"The only rule we have is that it's somebody who covers college basketball on a regular basis," O'Connell said.

There's no pay or compensation, but O'Connell never is at a loss for pollsters.

"Even though in the basketball poll we don't decide the championship like football does, it's still considered a prestige thing to be a voter," O'Connell said. "So we try to pass it around."

So how much time does it take to prepare a new poll and phone it in every Sunday?

"Not a whole lot," Feigen said. "I keep each poll every week, and keep track of how everybody does each week, and then kind of adjust them up or down based upon that. …

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