Can you name the top team in college basketball right now?
If you asked this question to someone a few years ago it would have been a far easier question to answer. Kentucky maybe. Duke was always in the mix. The Big East had all the big names. Today is a lot different.
#24 Duke lost its 4th straight and is in danger of dropping out of the top 25 for the first time since 2007. Kentucky is #20 and four losses is a lot different from there NCAA Semifinal season from last year. And the Big East Conference was demolished when football schools ran for more money. The once power hungry Big East looks nothing like it did when it got a record 9 teams to the NCAA Tournament. So where does that leave the state of college basketball?
For many the issue is lack of a horse to follow. Imagine being a television executive trying to pick the best match ups weeks in advance only to have teams slide hopelessly into a hole at the time the TV truck pulls into the arena. The producers really have to work to define who the team to beat really is. There are also fewer names that everyday sports fan knows. Last year, Karl-Anthony Townes was leading the fab freshmen of Kentucky trying to go undefeated. Frank Kaminsky was making noise for the Wisconsin Badgers. These were the faces everyone wanted to see. It was easy money. Now, try making it through the state of Iowa without a loss and you are a big deal.
The Midwest has come out stronger as basketball seems to come home to its Hoosier roots. Oklahoma is the #1 team in the country and Buddy Hield might be the player of the year when its all said and done. Kansas is near the top and UNC is the tobacco road representative at #2. UNC could finally be back in form after having a yo-yo style season last year. These all seem like great stories, yet I seem to be missing something. The Iowa Hawkeyes and the Indiana Hoosiers are #3 and #19 respectively and undefeated in a conference that used to belong to the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans.
The question is, why haven’t we all been talking about the upsets? The state of Iowa has taken on three #1 teams and all three of them have lost. Why not the upstarts? Texas A&M and Providence are programs that have been on the rise and have found enough success to reach the top 10 in the country. The slide of Duke has to be a bigger story. Coach Krzyzewski has said the team needs to play better and this on the cusp of bringing in the top 2 high school players in the country for the 2016-2017 season. The Spartans slide and then rise again as Tom Izzo works his magic. People these days do not have the same attachment to the long game. They want to hear about all of this when their brackets come off the printer. The world wants the sexy pick for the tournament and they are not as worried about what happens in December.
Anybody can beat anybody these days. Teams are deeper. The Cinderella’s have seen the shoe fit and are not afraid of Duke, UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, and the other blue bloods of the NCAA world.
This seems to be the landscape of college basketball for years to come. Every now and then, we will find a power team that runs through a season. However, gone are the days of no one caring about the bottom of your conference. Every game is important. Every possession can define a season. It can be a ton of fun too. Seeing how 18 year old freshmen take on the spotlight from schools in Northern Iowa.
This is what makes college basketball one of the best things to follow on a year to year basis, and it can all be summed up in one word: chaos.
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