College basketball fans around the country are all wondering the same thing, what happened to the teams that have been atop the totem pole for the last 15-20 years? More specifically: Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Kentucky, and Kansas are all having less than stellar seasons. Only one of those five teams are currently in the AP Top 25 this week, and last week all five were out of the rankings. So what’s the deal? Can this really be chalked up to COVID-19 when countless other teams are having amazing seasons? Well the answer is yes, but also no.
According to 247 Sports, the last time Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky were all simultaneously unranked was 1961. Additionally, this year marks only the 14th time historically in which those three teams were unranked when an AP Top 25 poll was released. Furthermore Duke fell below .500 for the first time since 1999; a statistic that illustrates the abnormal state of the team.
This season has been a tough one for every college basketball program. COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult enough, and the teams that thrive on one-and-done talent face even more difficulties. Coincidentally, many of the teams mentioned prior feature rosters heavily composed of those kinds of players.
What these young athletes are going through is almost equivalent to starting a new job with little to no training. Restrictions on time, practice, coaching, and more must make it troublesome for young teams to build chemistry as well as improve their skills. ESPN’s prediction towards the beginning of the season got it right, as they said this season would be pure chalk. Others got it wrong hoping this would be another great year for the college basketball blue bloods.
Yes, this is year is pretty much pure chalk. However think about the impact having little to no fans in attendance has. Teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky are accustomed to the fans supporting them in droves. On the contrary, playing in an empty gym must be awfully eerie.
There are many questions that could stem from these programs’ awful seasons. Questions ranging anywhere from how good the coaches truly are, to whether or not fans are witnessing the an end of an era.
Nonetheless, coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, and John Calipari will definitely make the Hall of Fame. Similarly, it’s unlikely this modern era of basketball is coming to a close. It may be the first time in a long time where any team can compete with Duke or Kentucky, but these programs will be back and ready dominate again (whenever more than five people are allowed in the dollar store).