We are five weeks from selection Sunday, and while we have to wait to find out who’s in and who’s out in the tournament this year, the madness isn’t waiting until March.
Just look at this past Saturday. Duke lost. Kentucky lost. Kansas lost. On the same day. That’s only happened once in the history of the AP Poll. Even a casual fan realizes how crazy a day like that is.
That doesn’t even mention the fact Trae Young and his Oklahoma squad lost to an unranked team as well. Every game is truly a toss up this year in the NCAA, with more upsets than any season in recent memory.
The country also currently has no frontrunning team. If you were to ask ten experts who the best team in the country was, they would each give you a different answer. You’d hear some arguments for Villanova, Virginia, Xavier or Purdue. Meanwhile, someone else would say Duke, but only because it’s in the agreement between Coach K and the media to be nice to Duke.
But what do you notice about those four teams? If you ask me, I notice that none of the four are traditional blue bloods. Yes, Duke is good. But there’s no Kentucky. No North Carolina. No Kansas.
This is reflected if you look at the polls as a whole. Just in the top 15 you see programs like Texas Tech, Auburn, St. Mary’s and Cincinnati. You go a little further and you see Rhode Island and Arizona State.
While Kansas and Duke remain near the top of the polls, there won’t be many arguments about them being the best in the country.
They’re obviously scary and will be a tough out in March, but the likes of Villanova, UVA and Purdue lead the polls and represent this season. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen. Nobody.
Want a stat that represents this season? Try to guess the top six teams in the ESPN RPI (a metric that the selection committee uses to demonstrate how good a win is and how bad a loss is) rankings. I’ll bet you can’t.
Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Clemson, Auburn and Rhode Island. Guess how many National Championships these six schools have combined.
Two. Both from Villanova. One in 1985. And one in the best NCAA basketball game ever played: the 2016 National Championship.
The other five schools however have never made a National Championship game, and among those five, only Virginia has made a Final Four. It’s a weird year. I’ll tell you that.
With that being said, it’s good for the college game to have new faces every year. In the one-and-done era, the college game gets a lot of flak for having the same contenders every year. However, I don’t think that notion is correct.
Look at last year’s Final Four. Ignoring that, North Carolina was not only there and also won, think about the other three teams.
The runner-up, Gonzaga, was making their first ever Final Four run. While they’ve been good and relevant since Mark Few took over in 1999, last year was the first year he was able to get his squad over the hump and into that game.
Oregon was in their second ever Final Four, but their first since 1939. South Carolina made their first ever Final Four run as a seven seed, upsetting blue blood Duke along the way.
This year, it looks like we are headed in a similar direction. North Carolina and Kentucky are down. Virginia and Xavier are up.
It’s going to be a fun five weeks.