No matter how much merit one puts into rankings, it’s safe betting that when the preseason rankings are announced before each CIS season kicks off, the average fan will take a look. Which teams can we expect to stand out? Which new teams have appeared in the top 10? Which teams are notably absent? It’s the first glimpse of the season that fans get before the action gets underway, briefly tiding them over after a long summer.
But do the rankings actually reflect what will happen during the season? Does the first-ranked team in the preseason usually come out on top come the postseason? After looking at rankings and results from the past five seasons, I’ve hopefully provided a few answers.
Below is a table that shows two things: 1) who was ranked first in the CIS preseason poll, and 2) the CIS champion that year. If the team ranked first didn’t win it all, their finishing position is noted, as well as the preseason rank of the champ. (Note: the CIS sports evaluated are the ones in which UBC has a team).
Exactly 50 per cent of the time (24 out of 48), the team ranked first in the preseason win CIS gold. The only sport that was a perfect four-for-four over the past four seasons is men’s basketball, where Carleton has won four straight titles.
Every sport has had at least one preseason No. 1 become a postseason champ in the past four years.
Only two teams were CIS champs after not appearing in the preseason top 10 rankings: UBC women’s swimming in 2013, who were not ranked despite being CIS champs the year before and jumped up to No. 4 in the week two rankings; and Victoria men’s soccer in 2011, who didn’t appear in the rankings until week seven.
The worst finish from a preseason No. 1 looks to be Victoria men’s soccer in 2012, as they were eliminated in the Canada West quarterfinal and did not make the CIS championship. Only two other preseason No. 1s didn’t make their championship tournament: Trinity Western women’s soccer in 2010 and York men’s soccer in 2011.
68.8 per cent of the time, the preseason No. 1 makes the final of the CIS championship — or in the case of swimming, finishes in the top two.
The most variety comes from men’s soccer, where before last season when No. 1 UBC took home the title, the past three champs were UBC (T10), Victoria (NR) and York (10).
Carleton men’s basketball has been ranked No. 1 in 55 of the past 56 CIS Top 10s. The only other team to hold that spot was UBC in week three of the 2012-13 rankings, when Carleton was No. 2.
The average ranking of teams who win CIS championships in these sports: 2.8 (NR is taken into consideration as being No. 11).
So yes, it does appear that teams ranked at the top of the preseason rankings usually are among the top teams in the country come the end of the year. Every rule has it’s exception, and this is the case here as well, but when fans want to get a sense of who they might see in the championship, it’s not a terrible idea to check out the top of the preseason rankings.