The following is this weeks column for The Washington Post on the start of the college basketball season -----
Gary Williams has been around the college basketball block long enough to know that preseason polls are about as valuable as Confederate war bonds. Yet when his Maryland team didn't receive a single vote last month, he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"Let's see, we tied for first in the ACC last season with the team that won the national championship," he said. "I know we lost three seniors and one of them was a first-round draft pick. But not a single vote? I look at some of the other teams that are ranked, and I honestly wonder if the guys voting even know who's on their teams."
The way college basketball is these days, it's entirely possible they don't. At least one panel of experts picked North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes as a first-team all-American before he has played a college game. Of course, some folks who follow prep basketball nationally are asserting that the five best players in the country this season might be freshmen.
That's what one-and-done has done to the college game. Great players flash through college gyms so fast that if you blink you miss them. Hey, Kentucky fans, did you enjoy John Wall? Does anyone realize that, in a different era, Derrick Rose would be a Memphis senior this season?
Williams's disgust with the preseason polls makes absolute sense. People aren't voting anymore on what they know or what they've seen; they're voting on what they've heard. John Calipari, the same coach who recruited Rose to Memphis and Wall to Kentucky, has another freshman class full of guys who likely will be in the NBA at this time next year. How good are they? Who knows?
In the meantime, the college hoops season begins Monday night. Maryland is one of four teams hosting games in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. This event has become part of a disturbing trend in early-season hoops in which four teams are actually designated to play in the so-called "semifinals" even if they lose. Why? TV, of course. These events are much more marketable when the big-name teams are playing. The only way to guarantee that: Win and you advance; lose and you still advance (just as Texas will do, even if it falls to Navy on Monday night).
Click here for the rest of the column: College basketball is far from perfect, but still worth following