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BUBBA’S PRESEASON POLL PROUDLY CLAIMS 3 CORRECT PICKS OUT OF 27

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Areader/Bubba Smith Poll fan named "Jim" writes:

"Unless I missed it, it's time to ante up on your preseason NBA Poll-less Poll. For those of us who couldn't keep track of win/show/place in each division, give us a rundown. And before it's all decided, what will your Bubba Smith Poll predict for the playoffs?"Another letter, this one from "Jeff":

"How about a follow-up on your prediction of the Kareemless Lakers to finish fourth in the Pacific Division?"

George Gallup didn't write but no doubt is curious about the outcome of a poll - published last November by this newspaper, perhaps you'll recall - that didn't poll anybody. If it's a new trend, he could cut out most of his staff and all of his telephones.

Actually, Bubba Smith had nothing to do with the poll other than inspiring its inception with his work ethic of "tackling everybody and throwing them out until you find the one with the ball."

For that, and for his dramatic performances in the Police Academy series, the poll took his name and hoped he wouldn't mind.

Certainly there are polls that have had better opening years. But why dwell on the negative?

The first Bubba Smith Poll successfully predicted that the Orlando Magic would finish last in the Central Division. It also was successful in predicting that the Washington Bullets and Houston Rockets would finish fifth and fourth in their divisions.

Besides Orlando, Washington, and Houston, the other 24 teams in the league finished where they weren't supposed to.

Going three for 27 isn't considered great in some circles, like for instance the American League, but it is in others, like for instance leaving on time from the Denver airport.

A lot of teams came close. The Celtics were supposed to win the Atlantic Division and finished second, just a game behind the 76ers, who were supposed to finish third behind the Knicks, who in fact finished third. (Then came the Bullets, exactly as advertised).

Chicago was supposed to win the Central Division. The Bulls finished second behind the Pistons, who were supposed to finish second.

It was in the Pacific Division that the Bubba Smith Poll had a hard time finding the one with the ball. Phoenix was supposed to finish first and finished third. Golden State, the team the Jazz made look at least as good as the Russians in last year's playoffs, was supposed to finish second and finished fifth. Portland was supposed to finish third and finished second and the Lakers, without Kareem, were supposed to slide, as "Jeff" mentioned, to fourth but then who knew that the Lakers, who wound up first, were going to get that much mileage out of a used Yugo?

The Midwest Division - appropriately enough, since it's in a Midwest city that the poll keeps its headquarters and extensive files - came closest to playing to form.

Utah was supposed to win and finished a close second, behind the Spurs. Denver and Dallas were supposed to finish third and fourth and finished fourth and third. Houston finished where it was supposed to, fifth, while Charlotte and Minnesota, picked 6-7, finished 7-6. (And Charlotte should be ashamed of itself, finishing lower than a rookie).

The poll did successfully pick 13 of the 16 teams now involved in the playoffs. The only teams that made it that weren't supposed to are Indiana, Houston and Denver, while the teams that didn't make it that were supposed to are Atlanta, Seattle and of course Golden State.

Although it might be considered gauche to predict the playoffs after they've already begun, the poll feels strongly that:

Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago will advance past the first round in the East while San Antonio, Portland, the Lakers and - wait for it - the Jazz will advance in the West.

Boston beats Detroit and Chicago beats Philadelphia in the East to set up a Boston-Chicago final which the Bulls win.

San Antonio beats Portland and the Jazz beat the Lakers in the West to set up a Jazz-San Antonio final which the - wait for it - Jazz win.

In the NBA Finals, the Jazz hope Michael Jordan comes down with the same virus as Kevin Johnson but he doesn't, and the Bulls prevail.

Maybe. Maybe not. At least the Bubba Smith/Poll-less Poll is consistent. It gave the Bulls 5-1 odds to win the NBA title before the season began (the Jazz, 9-1). The poll has been polled again and said the same thing. And there were still no undecideds.