The argument about which team is the best in college basketball is starting to take more definitive shape.
From a list of at least 10 teams who appeared to be legitimate contenders to win the NCAA tournament a few weeks ago, we are probably down to half that right now.
With arguments for Indiana and Duke, as well as Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Gonzaga leading the way as the most likely survivors in the final weekend of the season.
But no one really knows who will emerge in early April, including the people directly involved.
Over the past few years, few teams have been as consistently good as Duke, which has played 199 consecutive games as a Top 10 team in the Associated Press poll, compiling a 167-32 record.
The Blue Devils latest triumph came on Sunday night at Boston College in a 62-61 victory which was not decided until BC missed a final game-winning effort at the buzzer.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski walked away from Conte Forum on Sunday night with a sense of relief and satisfaction dominated by the reality of the world of college basketball that currently exists..
“Nothing about tonight was easy,” said Coach K. “These are games you could lose and throughout the country teams (good) are losing.”
Krzyzewski sees parity as part of the college basketball landscape.
“There are a lot of good teams, but no great teams,” he said. “You see different levels of incentives. People are fighting to get into the tournament. They are fighting to build a program.”
For teams such as BC, which is very much in a rebuilding mode, beating ranked teams, such as Duke, are milestone events.
“Teams that have “made it already ”(such as Duke) or are ranked become great opportunities (for the BC’s of the world),” said Coach K.
Krzyzewski says the differences between good and great and good and average are narrowing,
“The level of coaching is not any different and there’s not that much difference in talent,”‘ he said. “There aren’t the power houses.
“To me, the best team in our conference is Miami. Their average age is about 23. They don’t play anybody who is young. They are healthy, well coached and they can score from any position.”
Coach K should know since the No. 3 ranked Hurricanes crushed Duke 90-63 last month in Miami. Yet, the same Miami team barely escaped from Conte Forum a month ago with a 60-59 victory.
What it all means is that the next six weeks should provide plenty of good story lines.
Sometimes spring comes early in college basketball season in New England, sometimes it lingers. This year looks promising.
Consider the following.
In the Colonial Athletic Conference, Coach Bill Coen’s Northeastern team can clinch a tie for the CAA regular season title by beating Delaware on Wednesday night. That is a big deal since the regular season champion of each conference is guaranteed a spot in the NIT, no matter what happens in the conference tournament.
In the Northeast Conference, Bryant University remains in first place. Bryant Coach Tim O’Shea right now should be the runaway winner for Coach of the Year honors in the NEC. A year ago, Bryant was 2-28 overall and 1-17 in the NEC. This season? 9-2 in the NEC and 16-6 overall.
In the Ivy League, Coach Tommy Amaker’s Harvard Crimson are in first place with a 5-1 record and 13-7 overall. It is not as dazzling as a year ago when the Crimson were clearly the best team in the conference and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 66 years.
When an academic scandal claimed forward Kyle Casey and guard Brandyn Curry, the Crimson was thrown back into the Ivy League pack. But Amaker, who could be a candidate for the USC job, has kept this team together and focused and in the mix for another NCAA bid.
In the Atlantic 10, Coach Derek Kellog’s UMass team remains very much in the hunt for the regular season title, but for an at-large bid in an NCAA tournament that will have lots of soft teams fighting for the final spots in the 68-team field.
It is not that much of a stretch to project, Northeastern, Bryant, Harvard and UMass as NCAA tournament teams from New England.
If UConn and Boston University were eligible, they would be in contention for NCAA tournament spots as well.
Which wouldn’t be a bad haul from a region which has generally had quality over the years, but not very much depth.© Copyright 2013 Mark, All rights Reserved. Written For: A Jersey Guy