Low ranking helps team fly under the radar

By and

I’ve always thought preseason rankings were overrated. Let me rephrase that. Rankings in general are overrated.

But for now, I’ll focus on preseason rankings: the worst and most inaccurate polls there are (in my opinion, of course).

Coaches and the media speculate on who might finish where based mostly on the players lost and those returning.

No one has seen the teams play. No one has seen the new players or how the older players have adjusted to new roles. These are important things when it comes to how successful a team is.

In the recently released Mountain West Conference men’s and women’s basketball polls, the Utes were picked to finish fourth and third, respectively. Earlier this year, the football team was picked to finish third in the conference. All three teams are defending conference champions.

Some people might say that Utah got shafted and deserves more recognition, but in my opinion, the rankings actually work in Utah’s favor.

In this case and the case of all preseason polls, being ranked lower is almost always better than being ranked at the top.

When a team has a lower ranking, it can fly under the radar.

Take last year’s men’s basketball team as an example. The team received the exact same ranking in the preseason polls as this season8212;fourth8212;and last season finished 12-4 in the conference and surprised everyone by winning the conference tournament. I think if the players had been picked to win the conference, they might not have done as well.

Let me explain my reasoning.

When a team is picked as No. 1 in any poll, it’s like putting a giant target on its back. It automatically makes it the team to beat and makes any losses seem that much worse (do we remember what happened to Oklahoma’s ranking after it got beat by BYU?)

Although coaches and players might not admit it, as a former athlete, I know there is extra motivation to beat a top-ranked team. You look forward to those games all season and are extra-focused when preparing to face them.

Maybe there are some teams that thrive on the pressure and hype that comes with being ranked high. Maybe they get an extra confidence boost that carries them through the season. Nevertheless, I think having to perform under constant pressure has to be hard.

Of course, the luxury of being ranked lower in the preseason polls can’t last forever. If lower-ranked teams are going to make a run for the championship or be in contention at the end of the season, they are going to have to win some big games and eventually it will get noticed.

The men’s basketball team didn’t spend all of last season lying low. The members beat big teams and gained respect as the season went on, putting more and more pressure on them to perform.

But in the beginning, when teams are still trying to figure out who they are and adjusting to new players, new leaders and new systems, the last thing they need is the pressure of being ranked No. 1. It’s much easier to climb up in the rankings and standings after the season takes off.

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