Friday, February 22, 2013

College Basketball a Season to Celebrate

The 2012-2013 college basketball season has been one of entertainment and joy for fans. Generally, I am largely resigned to catching a few games and waiting until, well, about now to start paying attention. This season has done a much better job of not only catching, but keeping my attention. Lo and behold March is right around  the corner for those who may have missed it, here are a few highlights to catch you up.

The Fall of Traditional Teams
Kentucky, North Carolina, and Duke are traditional powers and if the field of 68 was set today only one of them, Duke, would be in the NCAA tournament. Growing up a Utah Ute fan in the mid-90's it was gut-wrenching to see the Utes face Kentucky in the tournament. Three times they faced each other and three times Kentucky won. Most notably the 1998 National Championship game. Watching Kentucky fill up the loss column always bring me joy. This is allowing other teams a chance to shine, even if it is just for a year. Notably among these are Miami Hurricanes, Florida Gators and the reestablishment of Indiana Hoosiers as a top team. Temporary or a trend, I enjoy watching traditional powerhouses getting beat up and solid teams being showcased. 

Who is #1
A national champion is not crowned in November, or even in February, but the number one team in the country can be crowned each week. This season, that crown has been more of a curse than a blessing. Five different teams have held the (AP) ranking and in January the title changed hands each week. Indiana started the year ranked number one and is currently back on top. Seeing the top teams struggle and fall is fun from afar and clearly fans enjoy storming the court. Hopefully we will see the top team fall a few more times, if only to tune in later that week to watch them fall. 

College Athletes Succeeding
Stay with me on this one. Ever since the NBA put in place the 1-year rule the college game has focused heavily on the top freshmen in the game. That culminated last year with the all-freshmen starting five of Kentucky not only won the national title, but all five went pro and were drafted. This trend is not going away, but there is something refreshing about looking at the current top teams. Indiana is led by Cody Zeller (Sophomore), Miami is as high as it has ever been and are doing it under former George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, and Gonzaga Bulldogs being led by red-shirt junior Kelly Olynyk. Players on these teams have at least gone to a few college classes and learned to play a team game as none of them are 1-and-done schools. Olynyk has gone from being a fringe college player to a fringe lottery pick by sitting out a year and dedicated himself to the game Mark Few's system. No doubt teams are trying to identify players willing to red-shirt a season, really learn a system and maximize their college experience.

March is nearly upon us and all the joy to date could be squashed by traditional powerhouses. However, it is nice here in late February to sit back, enjoying what the season and has given us and dream a short dream that it will continue to inspire and surprise.

What has been your favorite moment of the college basketball season so far? Let me know in the comments.