It is that time of the year again as the preseason basketball publications are popping up in your neighborhood supermarket and according to these magazines, it is a great time to be a fan of the Kentucky Wildcats, Indiana Hoosiers, or Louisville Cardinals. Recently Athlon Sports came out with their preseason picks and said that Kentucky and Louisville would face off in the Final Four, that Louisville would win, and that Indiana would beat Louisville for the National Title.
Aside from a terribly depressing Final Four for Wildcat fans (probably a worse case scenario), Athlon’s picks are probably going to mirror most of what we see the next few weeks. Pretty much every preseason poll will have Kentucky-Louisville-Indiana atop their polls in some rankings. Granted, being tabbed as a Final Four pick is a great thing and builds a lot of excitement and speculation, but in the end, does not account for much when all is said and done in April.
Looking back over the past 10 seasons of preseason polls, only 38% of the preseason top four teams have advanced to the Final Four. 28% of teams ranked 5-10 in the preseason advanced to the promised land and 17% of teams ranked 11-25 went that far. !7% of the Final Four teams were actually unranked in the preseason. Granted, it’s better to be ranked in the top four in the preseason than not, but it’s not a lead pipe cinch to make it that far. Neither is being ranked a preseason number one. 40% of preseason number ones have made it to the Final Four, as compared to 60% of #2 ranked teams, 30% of #3 teams and 20% of #4 teams.
Even going into the season with the number one preseason ranking seems to have a target on the back effect as only 30% of the teams (2004 UConn, 2007 Florida, and 2009 North Carolina) have been able to live up to those expectations and win the title. The same percentage won the title despite not being ranked in the preseason Top 25: 2003 – Syracuse, 2006- Florida, and 2011 – UConn. The fact that 60% of preseason number ones did not make the Final Four seem to indicate that. But being ranked in the preseason is not an altogether terrible thing. 60% of the eventual National Champs were preseason Final Four.
I’m not saying that being in the top three preseason is a bad thing. There is just a lot of work to do. There is a good sign for Kentucky fans and Calipari however. Calipari is usually the once coach that delivers on his preseason rankings. He has been to three Final Fours in the past five years and his teams have been ranked #3, #10, and #2. It bodes well for this years top three ranking.