Blog Entry

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

Posted on: February 22, 2012 1:40 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 1:50 pm
Players of Bill Walton's caliber wouldn't stay in school for more than one year in the modern era. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

In doing research for the top 16 college basketball teams of all time, a common thread developed for me – and it wasn’t surprising. The biggest difference in comparing teams from the 1950s, 60s and 70s to teams from the 2000s was obvious: early-entry.

The juggernaut UCLA teams of the John Wooden era got to have Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton for three years, and the Bruins clearly reaped the benefits of those careers. The same goes for Bill Russell and San Francisco, or the undefeated Indiana team that featured Scott May and Kent Benson.

What if the 2004 Connecticut team featuring Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor had returned its key pieces in 2005? That team lost six games during Gordon and Okafor’s junior season, but they would have been dominant the next year. And the 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels that steamrolled through the NCAA tournament? What if Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Ed Davis had all returned in 2010? 

Because players leave early more often during the last decade, we don’t get to see players reach their full potential in college. As a result, the talent gap diminishes between the haves and have-nots and we don’t see the dominance we saw from champions 40 and 50 years ago.

Imagine this year’s Kentucky team – with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, etc. – returned nearly all of its key parts next season. And added Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and either Shabazz Muhammad or Nerlens Noel. That team wouldn’t stand a good chance of going undefeated? But there’s zero chance we see anything like that; it just doesn’t happen.

The 1972 UCLA team won games by an average of 30.3 points. 1968 UCLA hammered teams by an average of 26.0 points. The 1996 Kentucky team had nine future NBA players on its team. 1991 UNLV failed to win a regular-season game by at least 10 points just one time.

We don’t see teams like that anymore, because the early-entry rule has essentially decreased the number of stars one team can have at a specific time. We’ll see the George Masons and the VCUs and the Butlers make Final Four runs, because parity is far more prevalent in college basketball than it was a half-century ago. You didn’t see Cinderella runs every season in the NCAA tournament, because the top teams in the country were head and shoulders above everyone else -- and there was no "great equalizer," like the 3-point shot. 

Upsets are a normal occurrence nowadays. That wasn’t the case with some of the other great teams. San Francisco won 55 games in a row; Indiana went undefeated; UCLA won 10 championships and made 12 Final Fours during a stretch. No one was picking against the 1969 Bruins, a season that was essentially a victory lap for Lew Alcindor’s career.

The most dominant teams of the past decade – 2004 Connecticut, 2009 North Carolina, 2007 Florida, 2005 North Carolina – were all vulnerable. Those four teams lost a combined 19 games.

Teams from “back in the day” just didn’t lose. From 1964 to 1976, the 13 national champions lost a combined 12 games. That’s it, 12 games in 13 seasons.

From a personal perspective, I’ve rarely said over the past decade: “Wow, I can’t see this team losing to anyone the rest of the season. And they’re going to dominate next year too.”

That’s just how it is these days: upsets happen, parity happens, early-entry happens.

In the 1960s and 1970s, that simply didn’t happen.

And that’s why there’s a clear difference between modern-era champions and the champions generally considered “the greatest of all time.” 

CBS Sports Network will be celebrating the 16 greatest college basketball teams of all time in the upcoming, four-part series, "16." Our CBS Sports panel of experts has voted, and on March 19 and 20, you'll be able to see which teams make up our list. You can help us celebrate your favorite team by sending us your tweets -- use the hashtag #CBS16 -- or leave your comments below. Then, look for your content as we'll work to incorporate the best submissions into the series.

You can also chime in on Facebook: Eye on College Basketball or

Category: NCAAB

Since: Jan 13, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:50 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

You go to college tobetter yourself soyou canmake a good living,if someone offers you a job making big money(millions) you had better jump on that chace and take,you can always return to school and get your degree.these kids would be foolish not to turn pro and leave early when they think they are ready.....go for the gold,stay and you may be injured and make peanuts compared to a NBA jobs in this economy anyways.

Since: Jan 25, 2012
Posted on: February 23, 2012 11:09 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

Another quick comment to why there are less dynasties is the ubiquitous nature of TV (and the internet). Back in the 70's, Swen Nater was content to be Bill Walton's backup (even though he was considered one of the top centers in the country) because UCLA and a handful of other teams were getting all the limited TV time (maybe 2 games on a Saturday).

Now, the majority of teams get TV time so if a team like Kentucky is loaded up, a 2nd tier player can always go to a Seton Hall or Texas A&M and still get plenty of media attention if he can play. Wichita State has more games televised this season than UCLA, Kentucky and North Carolina combined back in the 70's.

Since: May 28, 2011
Posted on: February 23, 2012 6:53 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is actually better today that it was years ago. I mean, I am a huge KY fan but I wouldn't want them to steamroll teams every year. It would be fun for the first couple of years, but then it would get old. Where would the excitement be. And Im sure the other great teams in the U.S. really feel the same if they would admit it. I mean, if Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse or perhaps Kansas won the championship every year, wouldn't it get boring after a while. I think so, you wouldnt really want to watch a game if you already knew what the outcome would be. So for me, I think not having dynasties is a good thing. Because without dynasties, you have to wonder who the next VCU will be, or the next George Mason. This definitely makes for an exciting year not knowing what overhyped team will come in and wipe out a higher ranked oponent. Okay, I'm out just giving you something to think about.

Since: Mar 16, 2008
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:17 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

A big thing Borzello screws up in his logic is how the dynastys of the past just didn't lose and their combined losses are so much more amazing then the great teams of the last ten years. It's called a 3 point line and allows lesser skilled teams to pull off upsets against better teams. When UNC loses games they are not supposed to it generally is due to teams killing them behind the 3 point line. Perfect example was UNC losing to Duke a few weeks ago. Without that 3 point line Duke loses by 20+. 

Also, there wasn't a shot clock for many years and good teams could get an okay lead and run out the clock. Teams with amazing big men in the 50's probably would have lost more games if they were forced to release the basketball every possesion.  

Since: Mar 16, 2008
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:10 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

Shoot forget the 2009 Tar Heels. Imagine if the NCAA Champion 2005 Tar Heels kept Sean May, Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton for their senior season and Marvin Williams for his sophmore season. Then adding All Americans Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, and Bobby Frasor. Also still having David Noel and Reyshawn Terry coming off of the bench. Mother of God undefeated season for sure.

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:56 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

"Imagine this year’s Kentucky team – with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, etc. – returned nearly all of its key parts next season. And added Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and either Shabazz Muhammad or Nerlens Noel. That team wouldn’t stand a good chance of going undefeated? But there’s zero chance we see anything like that; it just doesn’t happen."

NEWS FLASH - Kentucky wouldn't BE adding all of those new players if their old players didn't leave. These guys aren't going to a school to be the sixth best player on the team. Do you think Muhammed goes to Kentucky to sit on the BENCH behind their current players? Heck no.

Once again, Borzello fails Logic 101.

Obviously I would LOVE if the NBA or NCAA had a rule forcing players to stay through at least three college seasons if they go to school, similar to the one in place for college baseball. It would help recruiting TREMENDOUSLY, removing a lot of the uncertianty about who will stay and who will go.

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2012 2:30 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

IU Spector makes some very good points.
I might add that the college AND the pro games are marked by a lot of immaturity now.
The fans weary of that eventually, at least the people who can afford to buy the tickets.

But the college coaches don't seem to do any coaching anyway. They just wear expensive suits and look good on the sidelines for national TV, while pretending to coach the players.

Since: Oct 29, 2006
Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:41 pm

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

I must say that college basketball would be more interesting and exciting if one and dones, or the two and dones were somehow eliminated.  But who can blame the players for jumping at the opportunity to leave early if the NBA comes calling, especially the projected lottery picks.  (I'm not talking about the marginal player that take a chance and then don't get drafted) First and foremost for the player, the money involved, and second, the fullfillment of a dream of making it to the NBA.  It is an almost impossible situation for the player to turn down the opportunity to become an instant millionaire, and if he's smart with the money, be set for life.  He if doesn't make it in the NBA, he can always go back to school with the cash to pay for the tuition himself.  But it's the NBA's decision to solve this college basketball situation.  Unless the NBA adopts a privilege policy tied to minimum age or three years of college before you can enter like the NFL, then the one and dones are here to stay.  Without such a policy, the legal stance regarding the right to make a living will hold up.  Frankly, I don't know why the NBA hasn't done this yet.  It takes less of the guess work out of drafting some of these players on potential.

Since: Jan 9, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:59 am

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

The NCAA needs to hand out 4 year scholarship contracts. If a player leaves early they would be contractually obligated to pay 75% or more of their earnings to the school. This would discourage the "one and done" mentatlity. If you have the ability to go straight from high school to the NBA then do it. If you want to go from high school to European pro ball, thats fine too. However, if you want to go to college you owe it to yourself and the school to go the whole 4 years and get your degree.

Since: Nov 19, 2011
Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:38 am

CBS 16: The case against modern-era teams

One thing I don't hear mentioned either in the article or the comments is the fact that "rule" allowing underclassmen to play pro ball in the NBA has been gone a long time. Remember Moses Malone? It is only the rule enforcing at least one year of college ball that is "new." Greed and stupidity are the real ingredients that have been added over the last decade and a half. More than a few players left early or didn't go to college at all over three decades but the "smart" ones stayed in school until they were really ready. And the NBA (and the teams in it) seemed to have had more brains then than now. Anyone remember Larry Bird? After getting noticed he could have left early and not only didn't he, he played an additional year having sat out one between transferring from Indiana to Indiana State. Jordan could have come out early but waited until after his junior year. It is the astronomical sums of money that started being offered to players that changed everything. Now of course teams are scrimping to stay afloat financially. Teams are betting on "potential" rather than actual proof of ability over the long haul. That is why Jeremy Lin seems like this "amazing discovery." Last time I looked, he finished school and actually knows how to play "basketball!" He isn't doing anything so amazing (other than playing very well of course) than playing great fundamental basketball. The NBA hasn't helped the situation by "dumbing down" the game so as to try to creat showcase players and situations. Real fundamental basketball which is still learned best at the college level is de-emphasized while slam dunks and high flying spectaculars are accentuated! The NBA missed an opportunity return their game to some semblance of sanity during this last lock-out but relented in the end. Even though paying out less money, teams are still paying players well above their sports market values. Players leaving early for the NBA has not only hurt college basketball but has hurt the NBA too. So if people would like to see more truly great college teams be developed and the level of NBA competance return, they need not worry about "Lin-sanity", it will take care of itself and we will all benefit from this kids remarkable talent. What we need is the NBA to return from INSANITY so that basketball quality improves for everyone.

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