The blue bloods of college basketball – Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina. Year in and year out, these programs are national title contenders without a doubt, but 2021 is different.
2021 is different because three of the four Blue Bloods of College Basketball are unranked, those three being Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky. You may be wondering what the big deal is.
This hasn’t happened in some 59 years, dating back to 1961.
The last-standing, 15th-ranked Kansas is on a dramatic decline, having lost three of their last four games with Tennessee on deck.
But why this year? Why are the perennial blue bloods all struggling in 2021?
#1 – Parity in College Basketball
New faces are staking their claim in the Top 10. Programs like Alabama, Iowa, Texas, Houston, and Baylor – all of which have never won a national championship – are currently in the AP Top 10.
And not just the Top 10. New faces are present throughout the Top 25, such as Creighton, Saint Louis, and Minnesota, to name a few. In fact, 17 teams currently in the mix have never won a national title.
Michigan, Virginia and Alabama take big leaps in this week’s AP top-25 poll 📈
10. Texas Tech
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 25, 2021
#2 – Youth and Inexperience
Especially for Kentucky, youth and inexperience have finally caught up to the Wildcats. Calipari’s classic approach of recruiting five-star athletes, starting five freshmen, losing them all to the draft, and then doing it all again next year is showing in their play.
Though it looks good on paper to have multiple first-round draft picks every year, it does not translate to championships. The same can be said for Duke, who, like Kentucky, starts multiple freshmen.
Looking at the top teams in the country, one thing many of them have in common is experience. Alternatively, this is what traditional powerhouses have come to lack, and that very inexperience has been made starkly apparent this season.
Alabama is a F̶o̶o̶t̶b̶a̶l̶l̶ Basketball School 😏@AlabamaMBB completes their first season sweep of Kentucky since the 1988-89 season 👏🐘 pic.twitter.com/smgB7NFqNL
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) January 27, 2021
In all but one of the last 29 years of the NCAA tournament, either Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, or North Carolina have earned a #1 seed. So far in 2021, none of these teams are earning that spot.
Kentucky, North Carolina, and Duke are all at risk of not making the tournament at all. Kansas, on the other hand, is predicted to be the four seed, according to ESPN. Duke is currently second, only behind Kansas when it comes to NCAA tournaments made in a row with 24.
And the last time neither Duke nor North Carolina made the big dance? 1974.
It is a year like none other. We haven’t seen these programs this bad since at least the ‘80s, and maybe even further back than that. People have been asking for parity in college sports. Well, here it is.