Last weekend the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament launched and something interesting happened, for the second time since 2021, at least one of the Blue Bloods (North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke) will not be in the Sweet 16.
Number of Sweet 16's WITHOUT:
North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas
2021-2023 2 pic.twitter.com/Hch9sTWTtn
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 19, 2023
This raises the question, have the other programs caught up with the Blue Bloods? Is parity in college basketball and the NCAA Tournament as close as it has ever been?
It is important to know that the transfer portal went into effect by the NCAA in October 2018. Given the time for teams and programs to find the correct players, I think that is important to realize.
Prior to that date, the Blue Bloods would rule recruiting and the top prospects. They are still — but what has shifted is if those players (and others) remain in the program that they committed to. Now that they can announce, and then commit to another program, the landscape is changing.
Players are moving to programs that will guarantee them playing time, and in some cases, offer NIL deals that will provide financial benefits to the player and their families. We also still have the “COVID Year” rules in place that allow fifth-year players to pick and choose which university might have the best change to win it all if they join the team. It’s like LeBron James taking his talents to Miami, but now on the college landscape.
All four of the Blue Blood programs are going to be just fine. They will continue to get the top talent year in and year out. They will get players that simply want to wear the jersey of these giant programs. But the thing that should scare those Blue Bloods is that programs across the country are adding the pieces it takes to win a national championship and not a recruiting or pre-season ranking.
It will be interesting to see how this landscape continues to evolve and change over the next few years. Pandora’s box is opened now and I am not sure they can put it all back or change it. It’s not all bad, though. Last years Final Four included UNC, Duke, and Kansas — three of the four Blue Bloods.
The Final Four this year will not have a single one.
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