BRAD LOCKE: Preseason polls are pretty much worthless

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Once again, ’tis the season for tiresome preseason chatter, which includes polls and All-SEC teams.
Yours truly politely declined the offer to vote on the All-SEC preseason basketball teams. That might make you scratch your head, but I have a good reason for it. Several good reasons, in fact, and some data to back up my position.
Preseason teams and polls are manufactured news. There is no actual news value. Their only purpose is to keep the PR machine churning.
Hey, Vanderbilt is No. 7 in Thursday’s USA Today preseason poll! Great! Get back to me after the season, so we can see if Kevin Stallings actually didn’t choke away a golden opportunity for once.
Remember where Auburn’s football team was ranked entering the 2010 season? No. 22. Yeah.
Most teams that are No. 1 in the preseason will finish in the top 10, but only three times in the past 25 years has the preseason AP No. 1 football team finished the season in the same spot.
The No. 1 team has finished outside the top 10 just twice since 1997 in the Associated Press poll, but predicting the No. 1 team isn’t as difficult as predicting, say, No. 15 or 20. It quickly becomes a crap shoot.
Not much better
Postseason polls can be worthless, too. The AP’s final basketball poll every season isn’t after the NCAA tournament, but before. So Kansas is on the record as the No. 1 team for the 2010-11 season, instead of national champion Connecticut.
A lot of postseason accolades are worthless, like the Heisman Trophy. The award is a total joke, has been for years, and if someone ever tried to give me a vote on it, I’d have to refuse.
That position would upset some of the older hacks, I’m sure, and probably a few closer to my age. I learned a long time ago not to sweat what others think about me, inside or outside my profession.
I’ve also learned that logic and reason won’t get in the way of long-held journalistic traditions, which are usually borne of little more than egos and groupthink. Even very smart, very insightful journalists – and there are many – participate in such inane exercises.
I’ve got a dirty little secret for you, though: Most of us journalists aren’t any smarter or more knowledgeable than you.
I have no idea who Kentucky’s basketball team has coming back. Doron Lamb, maybe? I have enough trouble keeping up with Mississippi State, so I’m not going to pretend to be some sort of SEC expert when I’m not. That’s just dishonest.
Now, I will report on all this preseason stuff, because readers and bosses demand it. Doesn’t mean I have to feel good about it.
Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.