Not Voting

Mike and I were recently invited to participate in the CBS Blogpoll, allegedly coming soon. The idea is that a few dozen blogs or so submit a top 25 ballot ranking all of the teams. The votes would be tallied, and based on that, a new top 25 ranking would emerge. There would even be roundtable discussions to talk about individual teams. On its face, it sounds like fun, it sounds like interesting discussion, and it sounds like it would surely drive a lot of traffic this way.

We're not going to do it. And we've got a few reasons why not. Because we're flattered by the invitation, we feel the need to explain ourselves:

What's the point?
No, we don't mean "what's the point of submitting a list of the top 25 teams because it's not going to solve world hunger" -- much of what we do here is pretty pointless in the "organic matter floating on a rock" grand scheme of things. I mean, what's the poll supposed to tell us? Is it supposed to mean that if No. 1 played No. 2 on a neutral court, that No. 1 will win most of the time? Is it supposed to mean that No. 1 has played the best basketball of late? Is it supposed to mean that No. 1 hasn't lost in the longest time? Likely every blogger will have their own view on what the point is, and that will only guarantee that this poll will have no point.

There are already some good rankings out there
And no, we don't mean the AP or the Coaches version. Or even the RPI. I mean Pomeroy, Sagarin, and Basketball State's rankings. All of these ranking systems have very specific purposes, and very complex algorithms that we couldn't hope to compete with. If you want accuracy in your poll, your best bet is to take a look at one of those.

No really, what's the point?
We're somewhat blessed in college basketball to have indisputability. Unlike the other major college sport, in about two months, all of the best teams in the nation will participate in a tournament, the winner of which will be the unquestioned champion. In two months, it won't matter what the pollsters said all season. And that isn't for just No. 1 either - the results of this tournament will largely drive the rankings of the teams that came up short as well. And that won't just be the case in the AP or Coaches Poll, but all of the other polls out there as well. Why participate in a weekly voting exercise that will be rendered moot in the face of the Tournament trump card?

Teams are more than a number
That might sound weird for guys who blog about numbers so much, but that's just it, we like numbers. Plural. It's been said here before that we don't love the Offensive Rating number, ease of use and accuracy be damned, because we don't like summing up a player by just one number. Well, the same is true for teams. Yes, Purdue is a good team. But telling you that "Purdue = 11" and that "UCLA = 8" fails miserably in describing those teams. And that's what we're interested in doing here.

I admit, polls and rankings provide comfort in the chaotic morass of sports. Despite all of their rules, referees, sidelines, and booth reviews, sports are not immune from the ending where so much is determined by so little. Sports are necessarily bright line, but this need for line-drawing has invaded the province of description. It's no longer enough to say that the team won 25 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 last year. A number must be assigned. And that number becomes the story. If you were asked how, let's say, Butler was doing this season, you might mention that the Bulldogs are having the rarest of seasons. That they stand at 19-2 this year, despite the fact they returned less than 30% of the minutes from last season. You might say that for the first time in a long time, the Bulldogs are turning it over more than once in a blue moon. You might say that although this team usually wins in spite of its defense, that this year they are winning because of it.

You might say all those things, but you probably won't. You'll probably just say they must be pretty good, because they're ranked 11th in the country. Would fans have encyclopedic knowledge of all college basketball teams if rankings didn't exist? Probably not. But so long as the shorthand exists, people will use it.

This isn't to say we criticize and scorn all those participating in the Blogpoll. Indeed, a great many bloggers we admire and respect appear to be in this group - it truly was flattering, guys. The promise of holding roundtable discussions with these insightful thinkers was enough for us to think twice about passing. But the ultimate purpose of this thing was to submit a ballot to come up with a poll, and our hearts just wouldn't be into it.

So instead we'll continue to traverse college basketball's turbulent terrain, pausing throughout to offer our ramblings. And we will resist the temptation to provide you with a numbered list that fails wofeully to capture those thoughts.