There couple topics I want to explore:
1) What's the value of being the No. 1 ranked team in the preseason?
In all seriousness, however, I ask this question because in the wake of the voting in the Golf World/Nike Golf men's poll, I received a handful of curious (read: upset) texts/emails about the outcome, where defending NCAA champion Alabama earned the top ranking over California, a squad coming off a 11-win season in 2012-13. Long story short, there is a healthy debate/disagreement among some on who should have earned the No. 1 spot. Thankfully in this instance I'm just the person that publishes the coaches' results—you'll have to wait for my opinion when I post my first "The Syllabus" weekly column shortly.
For disappointed Golden Bear supporters, I offer you some solace about not getting the No. 1 spot: only three times since we restarted it in 2001-02 has the men's preseason top team also won the NCAA championship.
The hitch? One of those three times happened last year when Alabama was also preseason No. 1 and went on to take the title over Illinois at Capital City Club.
Here is a look at how the preseason rankings have ultimately shaken out:
Preseason No. 1 NCAA champion
MEN (NCAA finish) (preseason rank)
2001-02 Florida, T-11 Minnesota, 16
2002-03 Clemson, Win Clemson, 1
2003-04 Clemson, MC California, NR
2004-05 Georgia, Win Georgia, 1
2005-06 Georgia, 6 Oklahoma State, 2
2006-07 Oklahoma State, 15 Stanford, NR
2007-08 Stanford, 2 UCLA, 5
2008-09 UCLA, T-23 Texas A&M, 9
2009-10 Oklahoma State, Runner-up Augusta State, NR
2010-11 Oklahoma State, Final 4 Augusta State, 3
2011-12 UCLA, Elite 8 Texas, 5
2012-13 Alabama, Win Alabama, 1
2013-14 Alabama ??
2) Well what about the women's poll?
Considering parity didn't seem to hit the women's game quite as quickly as the men, it would seem that the preseason poll might be a more reliable predictor since the number of viable contenders for the NCAA title would seem to be fewer. Yet only twice has the preseason No. 1 actually gone on to win the NCAA crown, perhaps an omen for this year's top squad entering the fall, USC.
Here's the breakdown by year:
Preseason No. 1 NCAA champion
WOMEN (NCAA finish) (preseason rank)
2001-02 Duke, 1 Duke, 1
2002-03 Duke, 10 USC, 8
2003-04 Duke, 3 UCLA, 3
2004-05 UCLA, 2 Duke, 2
2005-06 UCLA, 11 Duke, 2
2006-07 Duke, 1 Duke, 1
2007-08 Duke, 3 USC, 4
2008-09 USC, 3 Arizona State, 4
2009-10 Arizona State, 4 Purdue, 12
2010-11 USC,T-5 UCLA, 2
2011-12 UCLA, 8 Alabama, 3
2012-13 Alabama, 7 USC, 3
2013-14 USC, ?? ??
3) Are there schools that "traditionally" rank highly in the preseason?
I got curious what the trend might be in the last 13 years we've been conducting the poll and, after a little digging, uncovered what I think is some interesting data. Below are charts for all the schools that have been in the top 25 of at least one of our preseason polls. You'll see who the regulars are—four men's schools (Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech and USC) have been in all 13 and six women's schools (Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Georgia, UCLA and USC). You'll also see how the parity I mentioned has occurred on a more large-scale basis in the men's game than the women's. Only 48 schools have been in the top 25 preseason polls on the women's side compared to 62 on the men's side.