NCAA Basketball: Why Lack of a Dominant Team Spells Big Trouble

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NCAA Basketball: Why Lack of a Dominant Team Spells Big Trouble
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This college basketball season has been a roller coaster ride of constant upsets and change atop the polls.

Around this time of year, the season usually unfolds in a fashion similar to an epic novel. The storylines become defined and every team knows their place within the college basketball hierarchy.

There’s the powerful villain that everyone hopes will meet its demise. There’s a supporting cast that seems to have the potential to take down the villain. And of course, there’s the plucky underdog that defeats the villain and shocks the world.

However, this college basketball season is no epic novel. It’s not even a regular novel. Compared to past seasons, this year is a children’s book. The storylines are dry, contrived and not very interesting.  

What makes this season’s storyline stale is that there’s no major villain to root against. The usual villain, Duke, suffered an embarrassing blowout to Miami and lost big man Ryan Kelly to injury.

Kentucky’s massive turnover rate has finally caught up with them, and it seems like this class of Wildcats have not been able to carry on the dominance of past teams. Indiana has been the most consistent of any team, but their storyline has mainly been focused on the program’s resurrection.

Although Duke and Kentucky are still hated, this year they are no longer bullies and are trying to find their identities.

There is no dominant team this year, and because of that, this season will ultimately be a forgettable one.

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This is most likely due to the large turnover rates at the top programs. Elite players will commit to programs like Duke, Kentucky or Syracuse only to stay for a year and then make the leap to the NBA.

College has become pretty much the equivalent of a hotel for these players. They stay for a little while, then move on with their lives.

The consequence of this has been an extremely watered down college basketball season.

The top programs are struggling to adjust, and the middle-tier programs have taken full advantage of this rare opportunity. Gonzaga is ranked No. 2 for the first time in school history while Miami has taken charge of the ACC.

This season has seen four different teams ranked No. 1.

Some believe parity is good for college basketball. But this year it’s hurting the game.

The ranking system this year is almost irrelevant, because there is little difference between any of the teams in the top 10.

Although fans tend to hate dominant teams, those teams bring in the ratings. Duke and Kentucky are arguably two of the most hated teams in college basketball, that didn’t stop them from raking in an impressive 3 million viewers during their week two matchup.

Many teams don't like Kentucky, usually because of their success or they view head coach John Calipari to be a cheater.

Duke is disliked because of their perennial success, smug attitudes, arrogant fans and allegations of not recruiting players because of their background.

Despite the dislike people harbor for the dominant teams, they will watch them.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

For comparisons sake, the Butler vs. Xavier game—which was aired earlier in the same day as Duke vs. Kentucky—only received 485,000 viewers.

Butler was once considered to be the ultimate underdog, garnering the love and adoration of sports fans worldwide. The numbers show that people would rather see top teams on display, even if it is just to root against them.

This year the tournament will be extremely unpredictable. This year almost anyone can win the championship. This is the year a Cinderella can finally take home the ultimate prize.

However, that’s what makes the lack of a dominant team trouble for college basketball. It takes the surprise out of whatever upsets may happen. Although we expect upsets every year, this year they will be less shocking. Without the drama, the end result is a boring season.

What makes college basketball thrive is the fact that the underdog can overcome all the doubters and shock the world.

But how can we have a true underdog if there are no clear favorites?

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