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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Big Shakeup in ITA Team Rankings Results in UCLA Claiming Top Spot; What are College Coaches Looking for in Recruits?

The season's first computerized rankings were announced today by the ITA, and UCLA, which was third in last week's poll results, has ascended to the top spot in the women's rankings. USC is now No. 2, followed by Duke, Georgia and Tennessee. Where are Stanford and Florida, voted No. 1 and 2 last week, this week? At 11 and 15 respectively.

Last year, it was obvious the computer rankings didn't work when Stanford, coming off the ITA Team Indoor title earned by beating Florida in the final, was ranked second and Florida first. This year, it's still obvious the computer rankings don't work, because if you think there are ten teams better than Florida and Stanford, you are wrong. The huge disparity between last week's final poll and this week's computer rankings (see below) provides all the evidence necessary for either a) fixing the computer ranking system or b) scrapping it. I know the rankings will get increasingly more accurate as the season continues, but they don't provide the "snapshot" they should regarding the relative strength of teams right now. Ask No. 4 Georgia if they think Memphis, whom they beat at home 4-3 last week in the last match on at No. 6, belongs outside the Top 75.

The men's side is less controversial, with USC and Ohio State, the ITA Team Indoor finalists, at 1 and 2. But UCLA at 3? Over Virginia, Duke and Georgia? That doesn't add up. It does however, make for a little extra buzz when USC and UCLA play tomorrow in Westwood. And just like the Stanford-Florida dual match two weeks ago, we have another No. 1 vs. No. 2 on the women's side, with UCLA traveling to USC on Thursday for a rematch of their recent Indoor semifinal, which the Bruins won 4-0, although it was much closer than that score would indicate.

The top players in the individual rankings didn't change, with Florida's Allie Will and Virginia's Mitchell Frank staying No. 1. Texas A&M's Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar jumped from 14 to 4 in the women's rankings, while on the men's side, USC's Steve Johnson is up to No. 5, after being unranked to start the dual season.

The No. 1 spots in doubles remain in the possession of Ohio State's Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola and Stanford's Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs.

For complete rankings, see the ITA website.

The Parenting Aces blog is featuring a two-part look at what college coaches are looking for in a recruit. Lisa has spoken with Patrick McEnroe, Manny Diaz and other administrators and coaches about the process and the issues associated with finding a spot on a team. She also provides a list of links to other resources for those wanting to delve deeper into the topic.


John said...

WOW......UCLA #3 and Texas #8
I think the ITA needs to adjust the computer. I would think UCLA should be around 8-10 and Texas in the range of 13-15.
I'm sure tomorrow when UCLA has a 7-0 or 6-1 loss to USC,We didn't have a true #3 vs #1 match up !!

crazytennismom said...

Why are tennis rankings so confusing and frustrating. This reminds me of how accurate the USTA rankings are. USTA doesn't put enough consideration into the strength of the schedule so it so easy for people to pad their rankings by playing the "right" tournaments.
If a human did the college rankings rather than a computer they could look at a few more extranious factors, to say nothing about using plain old common sense.
Thanks for the insight. I will think twice next time I look at the college rankings list and not accept it as the gospel.

The Dude said...

Interesting that the Ivys have 3 teams in the top 75, the highest ranked being Harvard at 27th.

Austin said...

Tell Florida and Stanford to play the Indoors then.

Athens said...

I agree with Austin. Stanford & Florida shouldn't be ranked at the top if they are going to undermine the 2nd biggest event. If they can avoid the event without repercussions, then why would any warm weather team even go. The event would lose its significance. And, what would you do rankings wise in those years where the top team(s) are not so clear cut? Both teams have all season to move up by winning on the court, which they will do.

Every year, people get bent out of shape during the early computer rankings.
Even last year to say the system didn't work because Florida was #1 after losing to Stanford is extreme. In pro tennis, Serena has won majors yet not been ranked #1, because she hadn't played enough matches at that point. Smyczek just beat Melzer, who won Memphis. Do you rank them on head to head or body of work?

Obviously, it's a shorter season in college & not a rolling 12, so there are variations. Last year, Florida won more early season matches against a tougher Jan./Feb. schedule than Stanford. But, that sorted itself out over the entire season.

All that matters is that the best teams qualify for the NCAAs. Any system will have flaws. I'd rather go with an objective one than a subjective one

Colette Lewis said...

I will always vote for objective over subjective, but that's not really the problem here. After all, the "ranked wins" that determine the initial computer rankings are based on teams' rankings in the subjective polls. I would prefer the computerized rankings system be improved, and I think that is possible. I agree that what matters is the rankings come NCAA selection time, but putting rankings like this out there does undermine the credibility of the subsequent results, whether that is warranted or not.

BEAR10S said...

The current Campbell's/ITA rankings are done by a committee at the start of the year (basically starting with last year's rankings), and then tinkering with them for the first third of the season based on the small number of results that occur. As we get into the heart of the season, the computer takes over because the number of results has increased to a level that gives a reasonable sample for the computer to calculate.

Given that every ranking system is imperfect, I like and understand the fact that the computer rankings show no mercy or bias for teams who don't have results.

On the women's side, the perceived imbalance is mostly because Stanford and Florida elected not to play the National Team Indoors. The rankings reflect the lack of quality and quantity in their results. If they are indeed the top two teams in the country, they will prove it through their body of work over the course of the season - and the computer rankings will reflect that over time.

I'm not saying the computer rankings are perfect, but I am far more comfortable (and confident) with the rankings at the end of the year being determined by the computer (and a formula I understand), than by a committee room full of people.

The NCAA folks will make the appropriate corrections for the NCAA tournament - this means there is much less politicking at the end of the year. I also like the fact that the NCAA committee uses the computer rankings as a guide for seeding and selection - not phone calls from coaches trying to plead their cases.

I love your blog, and the dialogue is so important. In this case, however, your notion that the rankings should be dumped or radically changed is not a good one. Quite the contrary, they are an accurate reflection of the impact of Stanford and Florida not playing the Indoors.

Bottom Line: In the current ranking system, teams are rewarded for playing, not for sitting on the sidelines. At the end of the year, the best teams will earn their position at the top of the rankings.

Colette Lewis said...

It may in fact be true that Stanford and Florida not playing Indoors affected their rankings. But I can't write off the UCLA men being ranked above Duke and Virginia quite so easily. And I'm not sure I've advocated for radical change. But I am convinced the rankings can and should be improved, and until someone explains to me why they can't be improved upon, I will continue to take that position.

wotten wun said...

If today's women's tennis match at Stanford isn't rained out, one fears for San Francisco when it takes the courts against a team the ITA ranked #1 in the nation last week then dropped through its ranking trap door to #11 today.
Of course, it's possible the Cardinal women won't explode in outraged clock cleansing against an outclassed team but instead,in irritated amusement, use this match for overall growth.
It'll be useful to assess progress of Kristie Ahn's rehab from injury, enable freshman star Ellen Tsay to spread her tennis wings, keep Stacy Tan re-inventing herself from conservative player to all-day blaster and promote team unity.
Rain, rain please stay away.

Clark Coleman said...

There is a simple fix for the ITA computer rankings: run them, get new ranking numbers, then run them again. The reason is simple. Say the poll voters have a team ranked way too high, based on past reputation. Team A beats the overrated team. When the computer rankings first come out, it looks like Team A beat the #9 team in the nation, so Team A gets a high ranking. But, in that same ranking, the #9 team drops to #28 because they lost all their matches recently. A week later, Team A will only get credit for having beaten the #28 team. For one week, Team A gets too much credit and gets overrated.

So, the first week the computer rankings come out, the ITA computer should run all results and get new rankings. Then, just re-run the results with the new rankings to get still newer rankings, and publish those. This accelerates the settling down process of the rankings. Otherwise, we have to wait a week to see that Team A did not really beat the #9 team, they beat the #28 team.