Sunday, September 2, 2007

Are Polls useless?

Pre-season polls, actually almost any polls, are only as good as the knowledge of those voting in the polls. As I have said before, polls are weak in sports that don't have a LOT of people studying every team, every day. Soccer, men's or women's, don't.

So now, 2007. Univ. of North Carolina is AGAIN the number 1 team in all pre-season polls. Across the border in the University of South Carolina, and their Gamecocks Women's Soccer team. The first game for both this season. You know what happened, or this wouldn't be the point of a post - The unranked Gamecocks beat UNC 1-0, AT UNC's home field. You can read a summary from the losers here, and the winners here.

So, does one loss prove polls are useless? No. I don't think that any team in the country would look forward to playing a UNC women's soccer team after their first home opener loss ever. UNC is very good. But U. of South Carolina wasn't even on the top 25 list. Why? Too few "experts" to make the poll meaningful. NCAA div. 1 football has (literally) tens of thousands of people, (o.k., almost all are guys) that study every small detail of any team that is anything. They can actually be trusted, more or less, to make reasonably accurate general predictions about teams' probable success.

In contrast very few people study all 300+ NCAA div. 1 womens soccer teams. Too little knowledge, and the poll is going to be prone to much greater amount of "surprise" endings.

Better soccer players know this in their heads, and can now use this USC win to remind themselves that any team can win, regardless of the rumors to the contrary that they may hear or read.

Don't fear the loss, just play the game.
(Note: photo is Fetzer field : UNC's home soccer complex main field.)

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