Polls were a big topic of MCLA discussion in 2011. Preseason polls, “good” losses, and the polls’ affect on at-large consideration were all hotly debated on the LaxAllStars network and the Collegelax.us forums. We’re going to take a look back at the week 1 Prodigy MCLA Coaches Poll and compare it to the end of the season to see just how close the coaches were (or weren’t) to the end reality.
Prodigy MCLA Coaches Poll – February 22, 2011
2. Arizona State
3. Colorado State
7. Michigan State
8. Minnesota – Duluth
9. Cal Poly
10. Simon Fraser
11. UC Santa Barbara
13. Boston College
14. Florida State
15. Virginia Tech
17. Texas State
18. Sonoma State
19. Santa Clara
24. New Hampshire
What’s the first thing that’s noticeable? How about the fact that the coaches NAILED the Final Four from 3 months out!
Why do we even need to play the games you wonder? Well it gets a little murkier after that, despite the fact the coaches ALSO got 14 out of 16 tournament teams in the initial top 25.
Simon Fraser gets the dubious honor of being the highest ranked team to not make the tournament. With a short roster of 17 guys, the Clan couldn’t get any big OOC wins other than Cal Poly. Ranked #10 to start the season, the MCLA Canucks didn’t get any real at-large considerations after falling to Oregon in the PNCLL finals.
Illinois and Virginia Tech also missed the national tournament while being in the first top 16. The Hokies had a respectable regular season, going 11-4, but lost early in the SELC tournament semifinals to Clemson, a non-tournament team. Illinois had middle of the road OOC wins against Cal and Loyola Marymount, and a good OOC win against Minnesota Duluth, but couldn’t get past Lindenwood in the GRLC finals.
And what about those Ducks from Oregon? Where were they in this poll? Well you may remember some hand-wringing on the other end of the LaxAllStars blogosphere on this very topic. The poll you see above is the first poll of the season, which followed the Oregon Ducks’ two shocking opening losses to the Cal Bears and Santa Clara Broncos, both on the road. Despite those two losses, the Ducks were able to battle back, post OOC wins against Sonoma State, Minnesota Duluth, and Cal Poly, and eventually earn the 8 seed in the national tournament. In the end, the Ducks absence in the first poll is not blasphemy. The season allowed the cream to rise to the top and the Ducks punched their ticket to Denver.
The other team to make the tournament after missing out on the first poll: the SUNY Buffalo Bulls. Another team that was not a stranger to LAS coverage and controversy, the Bulls started the season 1-2 overall, with road losses to Clemson and Florida State. In the conference that may have been the most competitive top-to-bottom this side of the RMLC, Buffalo was able to score the 5-3 win over Boston College in the PCLL finals to earn the AQ to Denver. Maybe if the team website sported information fresher than 2007, the Bulls would’ve gotten some more votes in that first poll.
Reflections for Future Polls
So what is wrong with this first poll in hindsight? Shockingly, not much. For all the gesticulation and quarreling over the significance and ramifications of early season polls, no one can argue that this poll unfairly affected the postseason fate of ANY team in the MCLA.
If anything can be argued to be at fault in the MCLA polling process, it’s the inbred nature of voters. The coaches that are active on the forums, active in league meetings, active in ANYTHING that has to do with the MCLA, are the same coaches that become voters for these polls. Is there a good-ole boys feel to this poll and the eventual tournament teams? Potentially, but there is a 1-to-1 ratio of committed coaches and successful teams in the MCLA.
As with most elements of the MCLA, we are dependent on volunteer hours. Selection committees, poll voting, league administration, all of it hinges on committed individuals giving their time and effort to keep the wheels of the MCLA greased and moving. If you see a human element manifested in bias in these polls, that’s a good thing because it’s absolutely there.
Pragmatically, it worked this season. Can anyone argue the top 4 teams in the MCLA were NOT in the Final Four? Doubtful. Moving forward, an attempt to involve more poll voters and communicate the selection committee criteria will have a trickle down effect that provides better OOC matchups, leading to easier postseason selection.