HILLARY SMITH: A peek behind the Top 10 curtain

2014-01-05T18:30:00Z HILLARY SMITH: A peek behind the Top 10 curtainHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 05, 2014 6:30 pm  • 

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: sports writers aren't perfect.

We try to be, we hope to be, but we aren't.

So here's secret No. 2: how we pick our Top 10 polls.

This is letting you in on some pretty intense internal communications, so be prepared for this column — or your newspaper — to self destruct in 10, 9, 8.

Since you're still here, this is how it works:

Discussion. A lot of discussion.

The great thing about The Times Top 10s is that they aren't (for the most part) unilateral.

We talk. We talk to coaches, we talk to each other, we make decisions, then we talk to each other again.

Once the Top 10 appears in the newspaper, that's when we start to make enemies.

Let's say Team A beats Team B in the first game of the season.

Now Team A is 13-2 and No. 2 in our poll and Team B is 5-5 and somewhere on the bubble or not even ranked at all. Oh my the rankled calls that come from fans who are upset that their Team B isn't ranked ahead of Team A, because of the win in that first game of the season.

Here's another secret: when we discuss wins and losses, we don't consider all wins equal.

It's true. Beating a mediocre team is not equal to beating a previously unbeaten team. Losing to a mediocre team is not equal to losing to a state-ranked team. Winning by two points to a previously unbeaten team does not equal beating a winless team by 25 points.

Wins and losses are not the same.

The voters in the AP Top 25 will spill the same secret, as will the coaches who vote in the official Coaches Poll.

Wins at the beginning of the year do not equal wins at the end of the year.

At the beginning of the girls basketball season, some teams have lost players to volleyball; or at the beginning of the baseball season, some players are still warming up to their first 50 at-bats.

Sure there are times we've gotten the predictions wrong.

Before the start of the 2009-10 season, we predicted that the Merrillville girls basketball team would finish sixth in the Duneland Athletic Conference. The Pirates won the conference and went to the Class 4A state championship game.

This year, the Bishop Noll volleyball team was "on the bubble" when the regular-season ended. The Warriors were another team that finished in the state championship game.

No, we're not perfect. And the Top 10 is designed for fun.

Our Top 10 doesn't match the Top 10s of other region media.

Much like the state AP poll or ICGSA and IBCA coaches polls, there's no exact science. Maybe we've decided that one team's wins are not equal to the wins of another team. Maybe we've talked to coaches who aren't voting in the coaches polls, and we think that some teams aren't living up to their expectations.

As many fans who decry their teams' spot in The Times' Top 10, just as many coaches use the positioning — wherever it may be — as fuel for a team's season ("Look at how much they don't respect us!" or "Prove you can be this good!").

To sum up: we're not perfect, teams aren't perfect, coaches aren't perfect and Top 10s are fun.

Are you having fun, yet?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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