Guru's Musings: Preseason Poll Reflects Topsy Turvy Road Ahead

(Guru's Note: Your Guru just spent two weeks recovering from a technological nightmare of nuclear proportions - like having windows on a laptop containing the data that includes all things historical going into deep freeze wiuthin 24 hours of the usb port die on a blackberry. Put the Guru has managed to shift through the debris and will file a report on the experience later this weekend. For now, on with the musings.

 Also, for those who think the Guru never takes a hiatus he has been up at Lake George, N.Y. on a working vacation the last week restoring most of the damage while enjoy a few meals and sights.)

By Mel Greenberg

   Things the Guru thought he would never see in his lifetime -- How about the Associated Press preseason poll being trotted out before Halloween and the end of baseball's World Series, a title bout that would have the storied New York Yankees against the defending champion, which would happen to be no less than the Philadelphia Phillies.

    That said, the Guru will say that even for himself having to scramble earlier than ever to get a vote into AP headquarters, this ballot is an all-time dart toss.

     Chalk it up to parity after the 1-2 punch of Connecticut and Stanford. Depending on who is playing who through Jan. 1, anyone taking the rankings seriously in the interim simply needs to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

     Teams high will plunge and others below will soar. 

      Those who are looking at the preseason poll through a conference viewer should understand that league picks were made with far more time by those voters, most of whom were coaches who at this juncture are much closer to the scene in their own locales. People voting in the AP poll in most cases did not have the benefit of knowing the conference picks and for the most part had to look at a consensus of what the magazines were saying and who knows what the percentage of accuracy was in many of those publications.

     But Friday's release offer a multitude of tidbits.

     Youth is showing itself. Freshman Skylar Diggins helped Notre Dame catapult from a final poll ranking of 23 to No. 4. Baylor has been a top 10 resident but having a dunking sensation added to the lineup certainly helped keep the Bears in place. On the other hand, South Carolina didn't draw a single point despite the Gamecocks' addition of Kelsey Bone.

      Experience and a WNIT runnerup slot got Kansas back into the poll for the first time since February 2000 and enabled Jayhawks coach Bonnie Henrickson join the two-timers club in now adding a second ranked team to her resume to go along with her past success at Virginia Tech.

    Lousville, the NCAA runnerup plunges from 7th in the final poll (ballots conclude BEFORE the NCAA tournament) to No. 23 yet the Cardinal were tied for third in the Big East preseason coaches poll.

    Despite that high vote, Louisville didn';t place anyone on the all-Big East preseason team.

     Delaware got one vote and point, a reflection of the arrival of redshirt-freshman Elena Delle Donne. Temple also got a similar nod but neither was on the Guru's ballot, for now.

    Incidentally, the ongoing layoffs at newspapers in part helped reduce the size of the voting board from 45 to 40, which over a two-year period is now a reduction of 10 panel members. However, the Guru believes quality of knowledge is better than quantity of ballots and considering some media victims found ways to stay eligible does provide some stability.

    It was interesting to see Michigan State pop into No. 10 from nowhere at the end of last season.

    Doug Feinberg gave you the teams that went from nowhere in March to the preseason list.

    Here is the list of eight teams who went from a final poll appearance to the others pille at best.

   The octet, with final ranking in parenthesis, include Maryland (3), Auburn (8), Texas A&M (9) -- three top 10s bounced out altogether might be a first -- Pittsburgh (15), South Dakota State (16), Iowa State (17), Kansas State (21) and Florida (22).

      Maryland ended a run of 76 straight weeks, beginning with the preseason poll of 2005-06 which ended with an NCAA title while Texas A&M ended a run of 64 weeks stemming from the same season.

      The Guru will be trotting out lists from the rescued data files over the next few weeks since the next vote that begins the succession through the end of the conference tournaments won't occur until Nov. 15.

                     Regionals Return to Philly

       On Thursday, the NCAA announced that Temple will host a regional in 2011 at the Liacouras Center, a reward for the job the Owls did in 2005.

       At this point in time it is hard to say what the situation will be in terms of host city media considering current ongoing events. But the city is strategically located to draw coverage from the seaboard although the nature of that coverage will continue to evolve.

      Unless the NCAA committee changes its principles and procedures, which can occur between now and next season, here are things to keep in mind.

      Rutgers is the closest team in terms of mileage among the recent traditional powers but needs to be better than Connecticut, if both are on the same line. Maryland is also in proximity. If these schools are on different lines, much will depend on the geographical proximity of other teams to the other regionals.

    For example, Rutgers might not be the best team on a seed line but if the other three are closer to the other regionals, the Scarlet Knights get Philly by default.

    For now, the situation resembles the Trenton model of last season. Then, perhaps some move could be made to avoid Connecticut and Rutgers projected into the same site especially of the principles and procedures change.

    Remember, Penn State might be back to its olden days by next season and with the Nittany Lions serving as a host school they could get on a path to Philly because of their proximity.

    And what if Delaware becomes a force a year from now.

    But that will be then and this is now.

    The Guru will return with more upon his return to the home city later this weekend.

    -- Mel

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