Why Does College Basketball Bother Having a Coaches' Poll?

Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IJanuary 5, 2009

During what so far has been a hectic college basketball season, it’s hard to tell where any team stands. The only true measure for ranking teams early in the year, the polls, is extremely volatile, as coaches and media members alike struggle to figure out how they really feel about most clubs.

They certainly have no idea how they feel about the Tennessee Volunteers.

This week’s polls show a 10-spot—yes, 10—gap between the Vols’ No. 15 ranking in the Associated Press Poll and their No. 25 ranking in the Coaches’ Poll.

There is usually some difference between the two polls—it’s only natural. But 10 spots? Such a large discrepancy makes it clear that the polls are relatively pointless. In this case, it is particularly clear that the coaches don’t really know what they are doing.

In a week where more than half of the Top 25 lost at least one game, Tennessee fell seven spots in the Coaches’ Poll due to its Saturday loss against Kansas. That is, due to its Saturday loss at Kansas, a team that has won 33 straight home games.

That doesn’t seem like such a bad loss, does it? Depends who you ask. Georgetown, who fell two spots this week for losing to No. 1 Pittsburgh, might disagree with you. By the way, Georgetown also beat then-No. 2 UConn last week.

Not that the coaches are really to blame. They are in the middle of hectic seasons and have much more important things to do than devote hours each week to filling out a poll. So they sift through results as quickly as they can, often unduly penalizing teams for losses, because it’s the easiest way to fill something out in under an hour without it being total rubbish.

But if that’s all we can expect them to do, what’s the point of having a Coaches’ Poll at all?