Can you name these stars on Top Ten teams?
No. 1 Florida loses to Vanderbilt!!!
No. 2 Wisconsin loses to Michigan State!!
No. 3 UCLA loses to West Virginia!!!
Did I mention, Who cares?
None of this is meant to disparage college hoops. It’s a great game with great fans, and, no matter what Bobby Knight says, its ills have nothing to with whether a few young men decide to spend only one year on a college campus before taking their game to the NBA.
The game’s troubles are somewhat more ironic. In essence, college basketball is a victim of its own success. More specifically, the success of its post-season tournament – known to all but aliens and the Geico cavemen as March Madness. The tournament is so successful, so all-encompassing, such an event(!) it has rendered the regular season irrelevant.
Who’s No. 1? Does it matter? Not one iota. The NCAA Tournament is all that matters in college basketball and for most teams qualifying for the tournament is a fait acompli. My nine-year-old daughter could have penciled in about 40 of the 65 teams that will be invited to The Dance. For those teams, the regular season is essentially one long “pre-season” in which they hone themselves for the month-long run for the national title. For the others, the season is a long qualifying tournament.
(College basketball stands in sharp contrast to college football, which isn’t perfect either. In that sport, the regular season matters TOO much. Lose a game in September and you’ve essentially lost your chance at a national title – unless you’re USC or some other team that is perennially voted into the top ten.)
The season only matters to those fans with a specific rooting interest. And even then the only thing that matters is whether your team is doing well enough to qualify for the NCAAs. My Stanford crew, for instance, only looks at each Cardinal win (or loss) as how it relates to “the bubble.” Those in hoop hot beds are reveling in their rivalries as always. But national fans no longer care whether Duke beats North Carolina, or what not. It just ain’t on the radar.
Even the best teams in the nation are anonymous. Texas’ Kevin Durrant and Greg Oden of Ohio State are college basketball’s transcendent stars. Turn to your neighbor and ask them to name more than one player from No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 4 UCLA, No 7 Memphis, No. 8 Texas A&M or No. 9 Washington State. Go ahead and let me know how they fared.
Who’s to blame? No one in particular. Blame the NBA. Blame the almighty dollar. Blame the media, for all I care. No matter. The bottom line is that the college basketball seasons starts in March, and not a moment sooner.