by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
Nothing winds up the MCLA chattering class quite like the weekly Under Armour Coaches Poll.
Every slight is diagnosed. Every first place vote is judged. And if the poll doesn’t line up in a perfectly linear fashion based on the results of the week? Hoo, boy, the hot takes are coming.
Most of the poll pearl-clutching comes via Twitter these days, but it’s not a new phenomenon. From the advent of the forums through the present, the polls have always been a focus of player, coach and fan ire.
This is not surprising.
In the NCAA, weekly polls are simply a PR tool. They have absolutely no bearing on any part of the season other than the bemusement of all involved. In the MCLA, however, the poll is still a criterion in the national tournament selection process. It has meaning.
Granted, it is less of a driver these days than it once was, but even if it is used solely as a last ditch tie-breaker, it’s worth putting it under the microscope.
With that said, the poll is never going to perfectly fit a particular world view. Why? Because of the geographical breadth of the MCLA, which is naturally going to warp the perception of the voters.
It’s not anything malicious; it’s just that the view for the coach in Florida is going to be a lot different than a coach in Washington. Same for Michigan and Arizona. Or Massachusetts to Colorado.
Subjectivity is an important concept to understand, but for many, a poll is as black and white as anything else in life.
And you know what? That’s awesome.
I salute the guardians of the Truth. While some of us grow complacent, accepting the poll like sheep, the poll protectors are on the front lines. They will not sit idly when one team doesn’t drop as far as they should after a midweek loss.
To those heroes, I say don’t ever stop fighting for the perfect poll, because the struggle is real.
No. 16 Michigan State (1-2) at No. 11 Virginia Tech (2-2) – 1 p.m., Friday
Both of these teams could use a win in this Friday matinee. The Spartans dipped below the .500 mark with a loss to Liberty on Wednesday while the Hokies are still stinging from a stunning, 8-5 setback at the hands of then-unranked UConn. Any MSU trip to Orange County will come through the CCLA auto-bid, so this isn’t a must win, but with Virginia Tech having to deal with the Georgia Tech colossus in the SELC, a win would sure help the at-large charge. Count on a grinder.
No. 10 Arizona State (2-2) at No. 4 Brigham Young (5-1) – 4 p.m., Saturday
The Sun Devils have never ducked anyone. They always play a premium schedule, and this year is no different. The only problem for ASU at this point is they are a .500 squad after losing to Boston College, and now have to run the gauntlet of BYU, Colorado, Colorado State and Grand Canyon over the next 20 days. And the first three occur on the road. Yikes. The Sun Devils will try to turn this into a slug fest, but they need the offense to find a rhythm.
No. 3 Colorado (3-1) at No. 1 Chapman (6-0) – 1 p.m. Sunday
This is a fantastic game to end the weekend, and one that will make the Panthers once again earn that top ranking. Last year, Chapman went to Boulder and handed the Buffs a loss, helped by a 6-1 first quarter. A slow start against Grand Canyon cost CU that game, so one would think John Galvin's outfit be ready at the drop. Gus Gradinger outplayed Jensen Markarov in net last spring. That matchup will determine who takes this one again.
No. 15 Missouri Valley (0-2) vs. No. 11 Reinhardt (5-1) – 2 p.m., Friday
MVC isn’t off to the start that it wanted, especially after Thursday’s setback to Kennesaw State, but the Vikings certainly aren’t in any mortal peril, especially with the GRLC automatic qualifier well within reach (although perhaps not as certain as last year). A win over the Eagles on the road would be a nice reset to the early part of the schedule. Both teams have rugged defensive units, so expect this one to stay well within the single digits.
No. 3 North Dakota State (4-0) at No. 4 St. Thomas (1-0) – 4 p.m., Saturday
If NDSU takes this one down, they will have a pretty strong case for being the top team in the country regardless of how Dayton fares this weekend. It would be three Top 10 wins before we’re even halfway through March. That’s probably music to the Tommies’ ears, as they would love to regain their hegemony over the UMLC and the country. St. Thomas is at a logistical disadvantage having only played – and routed – North Dakota so far, while the Bison have been in the crucible. The hosts will have to be ready for that initial surge.
No. 18 Indiana Tech (0-0) vs. No. 1 Dayton (4-0) – 3 p.m., Sunday
The champs have opened with four straight ranked teams and Tech will make a fifth. The Flyers aren’t picking up a ton of style points with one- and two-goal victories against Lawrence Tech and Reinhardt, respectively, but that’s not really their style. The Flyers bring the lunch pail and pound out the victories. The recipe will be the same against the Warriors, who will open their season on Friday night against UM-Dearborn. This is the last home game before a month on the road for the Flyers, so they’d do well to take advantage.
(Photo by Sarah Miller)