Duke Blue Devils Loss Shows How Meaningless Polls Are

By Bryan Zarpentine
Mitch Stringer – USATODAY Sports

Anyone who watched the Duke Blue Devils 62-61 win over the Boston College Eagles a week ago, shouldn’t have been surprised that the Blue Devils lost yesterday to the Maryland Terrapins 83-81.  Although it was a road game, and the Blue Devils had a less than ideal trip up to Boston because of inclement weather, Duke struggled against a Boston College team that has just three conference wins this season.  Duke could have, in all honesty, should have lost that game.  Yet, despite this poor performance the Blue Devils found themselves ranked at No. 2 when the new AP Poll came out the next morning, while moving up to No. 1 in the Coaches Poll.

So why had Duke moved up in the polls after a poor performance and a narrow win against a weak team?  Because they won, and other teams lost.  No other reason.  That’s all polls in college basketball do: move teams up and down based on who won and who lost in their most recent games.

Polls take no consideration into the fact that Duke is not nearly as good without Ryan Kelly in the lineup.  They take no consideration into the fact that the Blue Devils suffered a humiliating 27-point defeat to the Miami Hurricanes team that was still ranked below them.  They took no consideration into the fact that the loss the Michigan Wolverines suffered that dropped them below Duke was in overtime and in a hostile road environment against a quality Wisconsin Badgers team, and that Michigan had a win earlier in the week against a quality Ohio State Buckeyes team.

They took no consideration into how good Michigan has looked on the court for a majority of the year.  The polls gave no consideration to the fact that the loss the Florida Gators suffered that moved them below Duke was on the road to an Arkansas Razorbacks team that has just one home loss all season, and even that loss was to a Syracuse Orange team that has been in the top 10 of those same polls all season.  They gave no consideration to Florida’s 23-point average margin of victory in SEC games this season, and how dominant the Gators have looked on the court all season.

Absolutely none of that was considered by pollsters.  How a team played, the competition they played and that team’s level of consistency over the course of the season were all thrown out the window.  All that mattered was a win or a loss.  The rankings may now that Maryland over Duke was a major upset, but those that have actually been watching Duke play, wouldn’t see it as that much of a surprise.  Just like no one should be surprised that Michigan got back in the win column this weekend and Florida is back to blowing out SEC teams.

If common sense, reasoning and actually watching teams play were considered in polls, Duke would have slipped well outside the top five a while ago and teams like Florida, Michigan, Miami, and the Indiana Hoosiers would hold firm to the top spots, even when their won-loss record suffers a blemish here and there.  Instead, polls are nothing more than a running count of which teams have won and which teams have lost in the past week, and it’s turned college basketball polls into one of the biggest farces in all of sports.

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