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What can we learn from the preseason poll?

The preseason top 10 can say a lot about which teams succeed in March.

Notre Dame v Mississippi State
After coming in at No. 6 in the 2017-18 preseason poll, Notre Dame ended the season by cutting down the nets after winning the national championship.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The preseason poll is an interesting device designed to convey information about the upcoming season of college basketball. Fans love the polls, and we know this because directly following the NCAA Tournament, we are inundated with “way too early” articles that try to project what the following season’s preseason poll will look like.

As we all know, the preseason poll is compilation of what a given team is projected to do in the upcoming season. It may not be designed to predict a future team’s success, but I believe that in women’s college basketball, it is actually a very good indicator of who is likely to end up as the national champion.

Here are the top 10 teams in the 2018-19 AP preseason poll:

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Connecticut
  3. Oregon
  4. Baylor
  5. Louisville
  6. Mississippi State
  7. Stanford
  8. Oregon State
  9. Maryland
  10. South Carolina

Why focus on the top 10? Going through the preseason polls since the 2008-09 season, something interesting stood out. There has not been a national champion outside the preseason top 10 in that time, with the lowest-ranked team to win the national championship coming in at No. 8. In fact, there has not been a national champion outside the preseason top 10 since the 2005-06 season, when Maryland won it all after being ranked No. 14.

Here are the national champions for the past ten seasons along with their preseason rankings:

  • 2008-09: Connecticut (No. 1)
  • 2009-10: Connecticut (No. 1)
  • 2010-11: Texas A&M (No. 8)
  • 2011-12: Baylor (No. 1)
  • 2012-13: Connecticut (No. 2)
  • 2013-14: Connecticut (No. 1)
  • 2014-15: Connecticut (No. 1)
  • 2015-16: Connecticut (No. 1)
  • 2016-17: South Carolina (No. 4)
  • 2017-18: Notre Dame (No. 6)

And this is how the national runners-up fared in the preseason poll in those years:

  • 2008-09: Louisville (No. 10)
  • 2009-10: Stanford (No. 2)
  • 2010-11: Notre Dame (No. 12)
  • 2011-12: Notre Dame (No. 2)
  • 2012-13: Louisville (No. 9)
  • 2013-14: Notre Dame (No. 6)
  • 2014-15: Notre Dame (No. 3)
  • 2015-16: Syracuse (No. 23)
  • 2016-17: Mississippi State (No. 10)
  • 2017-18: Mississippi State (No. 7)

The evidence is in: the national championship matchup is likely somewhere in the top 10 of the 2018-19 preseason poll, as just two of the losing teams in the past ten years fell outside the top 10. I do not want to discourage any fans of No. 11 Tennessee, No. 17 NC State or No. 24 California. Their respective seasons will be strong, but the history suggests that they are not going to be national championship contenders.

The women’s college basketball season is sure to be great and the tournament will be exciting to watch. However, when making your brackets in March, be sure to refer back to the 2018-19 preseason poll to make an educated guess about who will be cutting down the nets.