Ohio State would beg to differ, but there’s a growing sentiment among college hoops observers that it’s a down year for the sport.
I first heard Jay Bilas articulate that point on the radio, but it’s also the focus of Seth Davis’ latest Hoop Thoughts coluymn over at SI.com. Guessing it’s going to gain even more traction now.
Maybe he has a point. When 13 Top 25 teams and half of the Top 10 loses in a 48-hour window, there’s plenty of room for criticism. Duke lost. UConn lost. Same with ‘Nova, BYU and Syracuse. Ouch.
Then there’s the would-be contenders – Michigan State, Kansas State, Gonzaga, Illinois, Butler, Baylor, Memphis, Temple, Va Tech and Tennessee – who started the year in the Top 25 but aren’t even sniffing the rankings anymore.
And there’s more. From Davis’s column:
This season, we’re also witnessing an unusual circumstance in which three power conferences are in the throes of major down cycles. The Pac-10 sent two teams to the NCAA tournament last year, and the league is only marginally better now. The SEC West is so bad that not a single team is currently ranked in the top 80 of the RPI. And as I’ve said before, in two-plus decades of covering this sport I have never seen the ACC this lousy. North Carolina re-appeared in this week’s poll, but Florida State dropped out — so the conference still hasn’t had more than two teams ranked since the preseason poll. Most of the time Duke has been the only ranked team from the ACC. (Then again, maybe we should stop looking at the polls to figure out who’s good.)
As a result, the transitive property no longer applies. Texas can lose at USC and then win at Kansas. Tennessee, which should be this movie’s poster child, can win at Villanova and Pitt (at the Consol Energy Center) and lose to College of Charleston and Charlotte. Louisville loses at home to Drexel but beats UConn on the road. Providence loses to LaSalle but beats Louisville and Villanova. Auburn loses to Samford, Campbell and Presbyterian, but it beats Florida State, which later beats Duke. What, you didn’t know Presbyterian was better than Duke? And on Sunday, St. John’s (which lost to Fordham) blew out Duke.
Seth is right! This game’s terrible! Everyone sucks! Let’s burn this motha down!
There’s a flip side to this. Last season when everyone and their mother was picking Kansas to win it all (some tabbed Kentucky) and the Jayhawks lost in the second round, it was hailed – properly – as a great thing for the tournament because it opened everything up.
You know the rest: Cornell shot its way into the books, Murray State delighted, St. Mary’s was a media delight and Butler reached the title game, charming America along the way.
(And I should note at least one person said it was impossible for Duke to win.)
This is still possible. Yes, there’s some bad basketball going on. No arguing that. But there’s also a chance the Big Dance is a wonderfully wide-open event, filled with entertaining games, upsets, uplifting storylines and teams who can steal our hearts.
Or maybe Ohio State will just win it all.
Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.