Grading the Polls: How Do Early Predictions Stack Up to Reality?

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 5, 2010

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 29:  Sherron Collins #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts after scoring during the game against the Belmont Bruins on December 29, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It is very easy to be critical of the early season college basketball polls and for good reason.

Most of the time they are wrong.

So how did this season's early prognostications rate now that we are almost two months into the college basketball season?

I'd have to say they did OK and give them a grade of C, but there are plenty of reasons it could be worse. Here is how things are currently shaking out with the top 10.

Kansas - Preseason No. 1 and currently No. 1 at 13-0. The Jayhawks are not a bad pick at all, but I don't think they will go all season unblemished. So far they haven't really been challenged, except for an early season game against Memphis, who is not ranked.

Michigan State- Preseason No. 2 and currently No. 10 at 11-3. How they are still ranked that high is beyond me, especially with three losses, when teams like Georgetown only have one loss. The crystal ball got a little foggy on that one. It was probably blinded by that trip to the NCAA finals last season. It forgot they got shellacked.

Texas - Preseason No. 3 and currently No. 2 at 13-0. The polls got this one right, but similar to Kansas, I don't see the Longhorns pulling off an undefeated season. After all, they play in the same conference as, well No. 1 Kansas.

Kentucky - Preseason No. 4 and currently No. 3 at 15-0. The Wildcats certainly look like the real deal so far. It will be interesting to see how all those freshman play late in the season. If they continue playing lights-out, they should go far unless one of the hot-tempered froshs decides to punch someone's lights out.

Villanova - Preseason No. 5 and currently No. 6 at 12-1. Again, the preseason experts got pretty close on this one. The Wildcats are just as good if not better than last year and we saw how far that got them: the Final Four. A repeat trip may not be out of the question.

North Carolina - Preseason No. 6 and currently No. 9 for now at 11-4. The Tar Heels may be the most overrated of the preseason top 10 teams. Following Monday night's loss to the College of Charleston, the Tar Heels will surely fall in the polls. Perhaps as low as 11th. It has been hard for the pollsters to wash off the residue of Tyler Hansbrough and the 2009 National Championship. It appears that time at least this season may have come.

Purdue - Preseason No. 7 and currently No. 4 at 13-0. The Boilermakers have been a big surprise at least to me. I'm not sure how long they can keep it up but in a relatively weak big ten I expect them to be in or near the top 10 maybe even five all season long. How far they go in the tournament will be up to them.

West Virginia - Preseason No. 8 and currently No. 8 at 11-1. The Mountaineers are a good team and it appears early season predictions for success are right on the money. It will be interesting to see if they are at the top of Mount Big East come season's end.

Duke - Preseason No. 9 and currently No. 5 at 12-1. It is easy to say that the Blue Devils were overlooked but I think they were ranked appropriately to begin the season. They are currently playing good basketball, but we've seen that before. No need to get too excited about this incarnation of Duke Basketball until they can translate the early season success to late and postseason success.

Tennessee - Preseason No. 10 and currently No. 15. Is it me or are the Volunteers regularly overrated. It seems every year they are preseason SEC darlings only to fall of the map. They are a good team and program just not elite until they prove they can do something late in the year. But at the current rate, Vols players appear to be more interested in meeting law enforcement than early season expectations.

Syracuse - Preseason unranked and currently No. 7 at 13-1. The Orange were easily the most overlooked and underrated team heading into the season. That loss to Lemoyne seems like a lifetime ago and the way this teams is built it certainly capable of making some noise come March.

Clearly early season prognostication is not an exact science. There are too many factors that can come into play before who the best teams are becomes apparent.

For that reason it would be hard for any early season poll to get a grade much higher than a C and for that reason it might be best to do away with preseason polls altogether.

After all, it is currently the ninth week of the season and there are still many unanswered questions about teams in the top 10 which won't be answered until much later in the season.