Take a look at the college basketball rankings. There is no Goliath. In fact, No. 1 and No. 10 are almost interchangeable.
That is the beauty of the 2016-17 college basketball season.
“More than usual,” CBS Sports college basketball writer Gary Parrish said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney, when asked about the amount of parity this season. “There’s a lot of really good teams and great resumes in college basketball. Gonzaga is worthy of the attention and the ranking it has. Villanova, Kansas, Baylor, so on and so forth. But I don’t think any of those teams are special (or) so much better than the next 12 or 14 in the rankings.”
Imagine a Sweet 16 matchup between, say, No. 1 Villanova and No. 4 UCLA. Villanova may have a better resume, but for one game on a neutral floor, anything could happen.
“They got the best player, they might have the two most talented players, and they might have three first-round draft picks,” Parrish said of the Bruins. “Villanova might have none. You look around at all of those hypothetical match-ups – 1 versus 4, 2 versus 3 – they’re all coin-flip games, and you might take the lower-seeded team. In 2012, there was a special team, that Kentucky team. In 2009, North Carolina (was) a special team. I don’t know that this season has a special team.”
Some of this, Parrish said, has to do with one-and-done.
“Some of it is undeniably that,” he said. “The truth is, if you build something special in college football, you probably got it for another year. You build something in college basketball, it almost never comes back to you the next year.”
Villanova returned three starters from last year’s national championship team. That’s the most any defending champion has returned since Florida went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007.
“It had been a decade,” Parrish said. “If you’re good enough to win a national championship, you’ve either got seniors who have exhausted their eligibility or, more likely, you’ve got pros, underclassmen, who are going to bounce as soon as you do it. It’s hard to build a dynasty in this sport because of your roster. We have more turnover in this sport than any other mainstream sport in America.”
If you’re looking for a “dark horse” to win the national championship, how about No. 12 Duke? No, the Blue Devils won’t sneak up on anyone in March, but for all the sky-is-falling hullabaloo in Durham over the last month or so, Duke is 20-5 and in contention for an ACC championship.
“They absolutely could (win the national title),” Parrish said. “They’re like 16-2 or 17-2 with Mike Krzyzewski on the sideline. As we speak right now, they’re only one game back of first place in the ACC standings – despite everything they’ve been through. Make sure you understand everything they’ve been through. The top three freshmen (were) all in street clothes when the season starts, Harry Giles still looking like a shell of his former self, Grayson Allen tripping everybody, getting suspended, being distracted, Mike Krzyzewski misses seven game because of back surgery – and they’re still sitting right here, a legitimate top-15 team with an opportunity, I think, to go to a Final Four and win a national championship. And here’s why: No matter what happened in November, December, January or February, they were always going to open the NCAA Tournament with nine McDonald’s All-Americans and the winningest coach in the history of college basketball. That’s a pretty good combination. I’m not saying I predict it. I’m just saying if you’re ruling it out, you’re insane.”