The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 9, 2021
How powerful are power rankings? — Layshia Clarendon speaks — Must-click women's basketball links
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Forgive me for this process conversation, but I need to ask something: are power rankings anything? Why are we doing them?
I’ve seen them everywhere. Established outlets. Newer outlets. Writers I enjoy. Everyone is doing them.
What am I missing?
In Major League Baseball, there are 30 teams, six divisions. The playoff structure is separate from a 1-30 understanding of how the teams stack up against one another. The schedules are uneven, both by league and by division within league. A careful study of which teams are truly elite in, say, May can help illuminate what is likely to happen over the final four months of the season.
The WNBA has 12 teams, and the top eight make the playoffs. There are conferences, but these are largely superficial (if less so now due to Commissioner’s Cup, but still). Schedule is pretty balanced.
Why in God’s name should a fan care whether a favorite team is eighth in the standings, but secretly sixth in… power? What purpose does any of this serve?
My wonderful Atlanta Dream writer Spencer Nusbaum captured the absurdity of this in a pair of tweets this week.
By contrast: over at The Next, we run regular bracketology updates during the college season. And with good reason! It’s a measure of how teams are stacking up in what will ultimately be a determined system that creates a championship pathway. And there’s no official NCAA real-time brackets. If there were, the value of projecting our own would drop pretty dramatically!
But I checked, and it is pretty easy to get the WNBA standings anytime you like by Googling “WNBA standings”. I even tried late at night, it still worked!
Or, I am here for something utterly inconsequential but fun to debate, like this from Matt Ellentuck, ranking the buzzer-beaters.
But what is someone getting out of the chance to argue the Dallas Wings are really seventh, not ninth?
Power rankings don’t even attempt to tell us how the standings will shake out. They attempt to tell us something almost unquantifiable that doesn’t serve any purpose I can see whatsoever.
So this is my plea to all of us in this space. We see there need to be more stories written on the league, especially on Black women. Women’s coverage doesn’t have to be merely an echo of men’s coverage, especially where the echo doesn’t serve anybody. There’s a limited amount of time in our days. We’re working extremely hard.
Let’s ditch the power rankings.
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