There are many great things about college basketball. From the roaring student sections, to the conference rivalries and, of course, March Madness. There are few climaxes in sports that can reach the heights that college basketball does. Another factor that any true sports fan can appreciate about this season is the parity that surrounds the NCAA. I understand that many people don’t see the point and effort put into rankings in college hoops, but if rankings can do just one thing, it is to illustrate a parity-ridden season when there is one.
The past four weeks in college basketball have featured four different number ones. Each one of those number one teams has lost in the following week. This was shown most recently on Saturday when third-ranked Indiana dethroned top-ranked Michigan at Assembly Hall. In fact, the Kansas Jayhawks, who entered Saturday ranked number one in the Coach’s Poll also lost. Their loss hurt even more as they forfeited not only their 18-game winning streak, but also their 33 home game winning streak. The one thing this does tell us of rankings is that it will be all sorts of messy come Monday morning.
More importantly, as the season embarks on yet another home stretch in conference play we can conclude that the window is open for anyone. In contrast, the last few seasons have featured a small number of power conference schools that could predictably make a Final Four run. This season is different. I am not inferring on any level that the big schools aren’t as good this year or that the power conferences are down in talent. However, I am thinking that the invite list for March may look a little more diverse. After all, there are six teams in the AP Top 25 and even more teams who have proven they are capable of playing at a number one level.
Like most years, teams like Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State will all be there. The mid major will get a little hazy past Gonzaga, Butler and San Diego State with another six weeks left to go to Selection Sunday, but after that, the sky is the limit. I wouldn’t put it out of question for the Big East and the Big Ten to lose spots in the tournament because of an unspoken mid major that will rise come conference tournament time.
It is all still a guessing game at this point with lots of basketball left to be played, but it goes to show that rankings are never as concrete as they may seem.
They’re what keeps us guessing.