College Basketball: Don't Be Fooled by the Preseason Rankings
The 2012-13 college basketball season is almost here.
In a little more than three weeks, teams will begin their official preparations for what promises to be an electrifying season.
Like a lot of fans, I anxiously look forward to seeing the various preseason rankings.
But after reading Scott Polacek's Bleacher Report article on 5 Teams That Will Outplay Their Preseason Ranking, I became curious about how accurate these polls have been in predicting the eventual Final Four participants and national champion.
Without intending to be a "Dougie Downer," I found that these rankings usually don't help us a great deal on a year-to-year basis.
The following is a quick look at the last 10 Final Fours and where those teams started in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.
2003: New Orleans
Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh sat on top of the 2002-2003 preseason rankings.
As it turned out, Kansas (No. 2) was the only one of these teams to make it to the 2003 Final Four in the Big Easy.
Instead, Texas (No. 5), Marquette (No. 19) and Syracuse (unranked) filled out the national tournament field.
Kansas and Syracuse squared off in the championship game, and Syracuse won as Carmelo Anthony (pictured) cemented his place in Orange hoops history by scoring 20 points on his way to being named the Most Outstanding Player.
2004: San Antonio
UConn, Duke, Michigan State and Arizona were the top four teams in 2003-04.
The Huskies (No. 1) and Blue Devils (No. 2) followed through and squared off in the national semifinals.
Oklahoma State (preseason No. 24) and Georgia Tech (preseason unranked) battled it out in the other Final Four matchup.
The dominating inside play of Emeka Okafor (pictured) was too much for Tech's Yellow Jackets as the Huskies won their second NCAA title.
2005: St. Louis
When the 2004-05 preseason polls came out, Kansas, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Georgia Tech sat atop the rankings.
However only North Carolina (preseason No. 3) made it through to St. Louis.
Illinois (No. 5), Michigan State (No. 10) and Louisville (No. 13) joined the Tar Heels in the national semifinal games.
UNC's Sean May (pictured) wore out Illinois in the championship game, scoring 26 points on 10–11 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds in a Tar Heel victory.
Duke, UConn, Texas and Villanova were atop the 2005-06 preseason poll.
But someone must have forgotten to give these teams directions to Indy. None made it to the 2006 Final Four.
Instead, UCLA (Preseason No. 13) and three teams that were not in the preseason Top 25 (LSU, Florida and George Mason) were competing for the chance to cut down the nets in the RCA Dome.
Joakim Noah (pictured) led a group of young Gators to the championship (over UCLA), scoring 16 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking a championship-game record six shots.
Florida, Kansas, North Carolina and Ohio State were the top four teams in the 2006-07 preseason polls.
The Gators (Preseason No. 1) and the Buckeye (No. 4) navigated the regular season, their respective conference tournaments and March Madness to get to the ATL to play for it all.
UCLA (No. 5) and Georgetown (No. 8) joined them in the Final Four.
Florida's Corey Brewer (pictured) had it going on. He, along with the same starting five from the '06 championship team, led Billy Donovan's squad over Ohio State to make Florida the first team to repeat since the '91-92 Duke Blue Devils.
2008: San Antonio
The 2007-08 season is an ultra-rare exception.
The four teams that started the year on top of the polls advanced to the Final Four.
North Carolina (Preseason No. 1), UCLA (No. 2), Memphis (No. 3) and Kansas (No. 4) all came together for a superpower summit in San Antonio.
Memphis squared off against KU in the final game.
Mario Chalmers, who was the Most Outstanding Player, hit an incredible three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in regulation to send the nail-biter into overtime, where the Jayhawks prevailed 75-68.
North Carolina, UConn, Louisville and UCLA topped the polls to start the 2008-09 season.
The Tar Heels (Preseason No. 1) and Huskies (No. 2) made it through to the Motor City.
Michigan State (No. 7) and Villanova (unranked) filled out the Ford Field Final Four.
Wayne Ellington, who was the Most Outstanding Player, shined as North Carolina dominated MSU, leading by 19 at half and cruising to an 89-72 victory.
Kansas, Michigan State, Texas and North Carolina had their engines racing, ready to get to Indy.
The Spartans (Preseason No. 2), however, were the only one to get to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Joining Sparty was Duke (Preseason No. 8), West Virginia (No. 9) and hometown favorite Butler (No. 10).
Note: I didn't remember that the Bulldogs were ranked that high to start the season.
In what ended up being a much tighter game than expected, Kyle Singler (MOP, pictured) and the Blue Devils held on for dear life to beat Butler 61-59.
Singler averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Final Four.
Duke, Michigan State, Kansas State and Pittsburgh were poised for greatness in the 2010-11 season.
But performance, not just poise, gets it done in March Madness.
None of these teams made it to Reliant Stadium.
Instead, Kentucky (Preseason No. 13) and three teams that were not ranked in the Top 25 (UConn, VCU and Butler) arrived in H-Town with title dreams.
UConn and Butler squared off in what was one of the ugliest championship games in recent history, with the Huskies, behind Kemba Walker's (MOP, pictured) gritty performance, coming out on top.
2012: New Orleans
Last year, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State and UConn were ready to blow everyone in college basketball off the map.
Kentucky (Preseason No. 2) and Ohio State (No. 3) followed through and made it to the national semifinals.
Louisville (Preseason No. 8) and Kansas (No. 13) joined the fun in New Orleans.
Anthony Davis (MOP, pictured) led Kentucky to its eighth title in school history with a 67-59 win over Kansas.