We are halfway through the college basketball season and it should be quite apparent to anyone watching that the parity everyone has been seeking in DI NCAA mens basketball is alive and well.
Every team on the highest level of college basketball has at least one loss. The number one team in the country has lost to unranked teams two times this season and three times overall.
In the past week eight of the top 10 teams in the AP poll lost. This has been a common theme for several seasons in NCAA basketball. The top teams in the country find it tougher and tougher to win games that they traditionally dominate.
A big reason for the parity that we are seeing in the college ranks is the overall talent level at the DI level is greater than it has ever been. The NBA rule that requires basketball players to attend one year of college or be one year removed from high school graduation has contributed to the increased talent level.
Now, I know there are people who think the NBA age limit has allowed major conference teams to horde all of the best talent in the country. This is a valid argument and one that I considered before writing this article.
But, the same rule that has allowed top teams like Duke and Kentucky to be successful is also contributing to the parity in the sport. Many of the players that are recruited by the top tier teams in the country are only in the program for one year, fulfilling the age requirement for entering the NBA draft, before they leave to pursue multi-million dollar basketball careers. This mass exodus following the NCAA Tournament has become an annual event. The result is that the top programs in the country are in a constant state of rebuilding.
The same dynamic affects mid-major and low-major college basketball teams as well. The players who the Butlers and Wichita States recruit are still talented but, not as talented as their counterparts that play at larger schools. There are only 60 spots in the NBA draft in any given year and mid-major and low-major players, regardless of talent level, realize that if they leave school to enter the draft there is a real possibility of not getting drafted.
The results are plain to see; mid-major, low-major and non-traditional power high-major teams are performing better than ever before against the traditional powers in NCAA basketball.
The question to be answered is, “Why are these teams performing so well?” The answer to me, and to many college basketball fans, is that these teams spend longer periods of time together. In many cases these players are together on the same team, running the same system and playing under the same coach for three or four years. The result is teams that are more mature, poised and polished than their freshmen laden counter parts at the more traditional college basketball powerhouses across the country.
I know that many people across the country, including yours truly, believe that if a player has the talent to enter the NBA out of high school they should be allowed to do so. However, I would caution those people to consider what the change would do to the NCAA basketball landscape.
The parity that we have all been asking for is here thanks to the NBA age rule. If that rule is not in place the talent that has flooded the mid-major, low-major and non-traditional power high-major programs will again be taken by traditional high-major programs and parity will be no more in DI NCAA basketball.
Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.