Even when something appears to be so blatantly cut-and-dry in sports, it still isn't. Human voters, capable of harboring biases both big and small against players, coaches, and rival programs, aren't always going to make the most rational decisions about where to rank the nation's 25 best squads. And especially not every single week.
College basketball's AP Top 25 Poll touches virtually every corner of the country, and is in place to give the sports writers, the purported guys 'in the know' about the game, a vote to determine hoops supremacy. One would think that the Associated Press' version of the two polls would have considerable merit when you consider how these writers *theoretically* have more national access/knowledge than a coach with his own team to manage.
But that hasn't been the case.
It feels like every single week we have a new lost soul to point our fingers at on the AP side. A guy who so brazenly went against the grain either because he could or because he didn't know any better. Spikey-haired Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has been pumping out a weekly column (The Poll Attacks) where he calls out any voter for a ridiculous ballot that week, and wouldn't you know, the guy is literally overflowing with material. They're all bad.
Of course, if there was ever a perfect time to make a case for a computer ranking system in college hoops, it's right now after this latest batch of ballots. Voter Ron Morris, who writes for The State in South Carolina, decided to put the undefeated, we-thought-they-were-unanimous Syracuse Orange at No. 4 in his rankings. To justify, Morris went on the radio with ESPN CNY. Nunes Magician has the transcript:
"I kinda decided back in early December after getting a pretty good look at Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State and having watched Syracuse once on TV against Florida that, and I don't think I'm alone in...believing Ohio State, Kentucky and North Carolina...are the three best teams in the country by a longshot. Then I think there's a big group of 15-20 after those three, led by Syracuse, that could possibly win the National Championship, but I think there's a big gap between the first three and the rest."
Morris has already made his mind up about the best teams in the sport, and therefore won't deviate from his thinking for any, you know, basketball that gets played in the way of that. Wonderful. Aren't we supposed to be getting a weekly reflection of the best teams in America with this poll? This isn't a bracket pool. If you're wasting a weekly ballot by picking out the favorites to win it all in April, why not spare everyone the lunacy and just vote at the end of the regular season in March?
After pointing out his biases, Morris continued on by punching college basketball fans in the groin:
"Let me preface it by saying this is a basketball poll. This isn't a football poll. It doesn't really matter. In the big picture, it doesn't matter. My guess might not be as good as yours...and probably isn't, so there's no sense in getting real upset about it. I've gotten quite a few emails from Syracuse fans and I've tried to kinda calm them, saying, you know, it's just not that big a deal. What does it matter whether you're a unanimous No. 1 in late December or early January? There's a tournament at the end of the season, I don't know if the Syracuse fans have heard that or not."
These are the comments that should annoy people even more than his voting tendencies. Morris paints it as clear as day: He doesn't think basketball polls matter. At all. This man helps decide where teams are ranked and is proactively telling people that it doesn't matter one iota how he votes and where teams are slotted.
So how does he come up with his rankings? A detailed points system, of course:
"At the beginning of the year, I take one the preseason magazines...they rank the Top 25 players at each position in the country. And then they have a Top 25 freshmen recruiting class list. And I assign a point value to all of those and I come up with the teams that have the most talent, basically, I rank one through 25 in my preseason poll...People just blast me for it, but I think I was the only one that even voted for Connecticut in the preseason poll. And they ended up winning the National Championship. Because talent wins."
The polls, and rankings of his peers, apparently don't matter, and yet Morris has devised a talent-based point system based on preseason lists to rank college basketball teams. Let's bask in that concept for a moment....
When it came to his bullishness on Syracuse, Ron's final words sum up his case quite well:
"I'll admit, I only saw them play against Florida and frankly, I thought Florida was just as good, if not better than Syracuse."
Ron Morris - A vote you can believe in