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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Exploring the preseason polls narrative

Shortly after the Kentucky loss to North Carolina, the media seemed upset that the Wildcats did not live up to their preseason predictions. A closer examination of these picks show that Kentucky is doing pretty well in meeting the expectations. But that is not a narrative that you hear about.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Kentucky vs North Carolina Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Within minutes of Luke Maye's soul crushing shot, America's sportswriters were out on Twitter with a set of not so fresh narratives.

You would think they had these tweets pre-planned for the moment that Kentucky went down. For some of the reporters, I don't think; I am pretty sure of it. So it was no shock when Gary Parrish was one of the first to fire off his 140 character missile.

For those that are unfamiliar with Parrish, he is a special kind of Kentucky troll. For years, Parrish has had a daily radio show in Memphis with Geoff Calkins of the Commercial Appeal. If you are not familiar with Calkins during Calipari's time in Memphis, he was the local reporter that was the thorn in Calipari's side. Think Jerry Tipton x 1000.

To be fair, Parrish is not the only sportswriter that pushes this "preseason polls" narrative, but he was the first one that I saw immediately after the game and no matter who pushes it, it is a garbage narrative, simply for the fact that preseason polls mean absolutely nothing for college basketball.

Also, consider the fact that the preseason poll are created solely by the media, and it is based on their opinions, and they are the ones that place the teams on these pedestals before a game is even played.

So to go bash the teams for not living up to their preconceived notions is kind of silly, to begin with, much less make it the subject of their immediate thoughts after the game.

So let's take a look at the preseason polls since John Calipari came to Kentucky. There have been eight preseason polls, and the media has selected Kentucky among the top four teams seven times.

Think about that for a second. The media always talks about how unrealistic Kentucky fans are, yet they have picked Kentucky as a Final Four team just one less time that the most ardent, crazed, Kentucky supporter that they like to mock for having unrealistic expectations.

It's hard to believe that Kentucky making the Final Four three times in seven seasons is a bad thing or something to be made into a negative, yet Parrish went there. Lost in the tweet was the fact that Calipari took his 2011 team to the Final Four as the #11 preseason team in the nation.

So Calipari has had eight seasons at Kentucky and has taken his teams to the Elite Eight 75% of the time. I don't see how the guy's legacy can be mocked, yet here we were.

32 teams have been selected as preseason top four teams since John Calipari arrived at Kentucky. Of those 32 picks, only 9 have gone to the Final Four giving the media a 28.1% success rate. Kentucky has made 42.8% of Final Fours in years they were a top pick, so they are actually a better pick than the average Final Four pick.

Here is a look at all of the teams that were ranked in the preseason top four and their success rate in making the Final Four.

  • Wisconsin 1-1
  • UNC 1-2
  • UL 1-2
  • UK 3-7
  • Michigan State 1-3
  • Ohio State 1-3
  • Duke 1-4
  • Kansas 0-3
  • Villanova 0-1
  • Kansas State 0-1
  • UConn 0-1
  • Indiana 0-1
  • Maryland 0-1
  • Arizona 0-1
  • Texas 0-1

There are a lot of coaches to call out for failing to meet the preseason expectations. We are looking at you Bill Self and Coach K, who are a combined 1-7 in living up to the media expectations. It gets a little worse for them and the media when you look to see if the number five team in the preseason media polls made the Final Four.

  • Oregon 1-1
  • Villanova 0-1
  • Pitt 0-1
  • Syracuse 0-1
  • Michigan 0-1
  • Duke 0-1
  • Kansas 0-2

As you can see, the #5 ranked team is just 1-8 in making the Final Four with Oregon being the first team to break through. When you add the success of the top five preseason teams, it is a combined 25% chance that a team in the media top five makes the Final Four. Which makes Kentucky’s 43.7% look pretty sterling.

To give him credit, Parrish later sort of walked back his initial tweet about Calipari and finally gave him credit for the amazing job that he has done at Kentucky. It’s good to see that when looking at how most of the other big name coaches have failed to live up to the media expectations.

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