The last two weeks of college basketball have been fantastic. Top 10 teams have been dropping with such consistency, it’s pretty clear there’s no consensus No. 1 team in the country. Last year, Kentucky was, from start-to-finish, the best team in college hoops. By a fairly wide margin. That’s certainly not the case this year.
Whether it’s No. 1 Duke getting rocked in Miami, or Villanova upsetting Syracuse and Louisville when both were in the Top 5, Kansas losing at home to Oklahoma State at home, or any other upset that has taken place in the last few weeks, parity reigns. Which is great for the sport, since it means March Madness will be, well, mad.
The on-court product remains excellent – well, if you can stomach the the ugly 59-58 game – but behind-the-scenes, things are less rosy, according to Texas AD DeLoss Dodds.
Count Plonsky and myself among those who earnestly wish the start of the college basketball season would be pushed back until early December to give that sport a more fair shake in exposure as it tries in vain to compete with college football and the NFL for the public’s consciousness. “We have to start sliding the season back until football calms down,” Plonsky said. Added Dodds, concerning the one-and-done superstars, “The sport of basketball is in shambles.”
For some reason, this year, there seem to be more gripes with college basketball than usual. Is the product down? Well, the first three picks in the 2012 draft were freshman (and five of the top 10), so a lot of the best young talent left for the NBA.
Is change inevitable? In our interview with ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell last week, he didn’t even mention college basketball as one of the five most “popular” sports in the country (though for me, it’s definitely in the top 3). Would shifting the schedule to make the sport’s season Jan-May (May Madness!) instead of Nov-March more palatable?
Maybe, but you’ve still got to deal with the impending BCS Playoff, and then the NFL playoffs in January. So you run into the same problem you did in November – football. Is there data that shows mid-week college basketball games get higher ratings in February vs. Nov/Dec? I haven’t seen any.
At some point, folks are going to have to realize the NFL plays 16 games, college football 12, and college basketball around 30. There’s just no way the games in college hoops can mean as much (same goes for the NBA season and the MLB season). College basketball has one thing no other sport does: the best postseason in sports.
Perhaps DeLoss can expand on what he means by “shambles.” Financially? Does he know something we don’t?
Anyway, so the best team right now? Shucks … Indiana? Miami? Michigan? Florida’s been incredible – stats say they’re the best college basketball defensive team in a decade – but is just 1-2 against the RPI Top 50, and my eyes tell me the Gators are still far too reliant on 3-pointers falling.
I’m still thinking Butler, Indiana and Louisville are three of my Final Four picks, and I’m up-in-the-air about the other one. If I had to take another team outside of the Ken Pom Top 10 (Butler is 46), I guess give me Oklahoma State? I’m sure this means the Cowboys will lose to Baylor at home Wednesday. [Statesman]