It's hard not to notice some similarities between the rosters of the teams operating at the top of the sport these days. For the most part, they're all teams that A) were good last season, and B) are now mostly relying on non-freshmen who were in the program pre-pandemic.
Just look at the top five of the Top 25 And 1.
Six of the top seven scorers for No. 1 Gonzaga are non-freshmen, four of whom were in the program pre-pandemic. The top seven scorers for No. 2 Baylor are all non-freshmen who were in the program pre-pandemic. Seven of the top eight scorers for No. 3 Michigan are non-freshmen, five of whom were in the program pre-pandemic. The top seven scorers for No. 4 Ohio State are all non-freshmen who were in the program pre-pandemic. And six of the top eight scorers for No. 5 Illinois are non-freshmen who were in the program pre-pandemic.
Do you think this is a coincidence?
We always knew COVID-19 would impact this season by causing pauses within programs and the constant postponement of games. What we now also know is that the virus is quite literally responsible, in some ways, for which teams are good and which teams are not. As I explained in another column Friday, it cannot be a coincidence that the best teams — like Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Villanova, etc. — are teams that were good last season and are now dominated by non-freshmen who were in the program pre-pandemic, and that the most disappointing teams — like Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina — are teams that are heavily reliant on freshmen who did not get the kind of offseason or preseason that they'd get in advance of a normal season, which robbed them of the necessary time to properly develop.
Are there other factors? Sure.
But the only rational explanation for why the teams that are flourishing are flourishing, and why the blue bloods that are struggling are struggling, is because the teams that are flourishing are all being led by older players who were in their respective programs pre-pandemic, and the blue bloods that are struggling are not.
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Friday's Top 25 And 1 rankings
|Gonzaga's perfect record includes double-digit victories over Iowa, Virginia and Kansas. The Zags have won their eight West Coast Conference games by an average of 24.6 points.||--||31-1|
|Baylor's perfect record is highlighted by victories over Texas, Illinois, Texas Tech and Kansas. The Bears have won 15 of their 17 games by double-digits.||--||28-2|
|Michigan is 8-1 in the first two quadrants with double-digit wins over Minnesota, Wisconsin and Purdue. The Wolverines' lone loss came at Minnesota.||--||23-5|
|Ohio State is 7-1 in its past eight games with wins over Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes lead the nation with seven Quadrant 1 ones.||--||21-10|
|Illinois is 9-5 in the first two quadrants after Tuesday's win at Indiana. The Illini will take a three-game winning streak into Saturday's game with Wisconsin.||--||24-7|
|Villanova's nine-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday at St. John's. The Wildcats are 5-2 in the first two quadrants with both losses coming in Quadrant 1.||--||18-7|
|Texas is 1-3 in its past four games after Tuesday's loss to Baylor. All four of the Longhorns' losses qualify as Quadrant 1 defeats.||--||19-8|
|Alabama is 10-1 in its past 11 games with victories over Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas. The Crimson Tide is 10-3 in the first two quadrants with one additional loss to Western Kentucky.||1||26-7|
|Houston's eight-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday at East Carolina. The Cougars are tied for first in the loss column of the AAC standings with a 10-2 league mark.||1||28-4|
|Iowa is 1-3 in its past four games with losses to Ohio State, Illinois and Indiana. The Hawkeyes are 6-5 in the first two quadrants with four of their losses coming in the first quadrant.||2||22-9|
|West Virginia is 5-3 in the Big 12 and tied for second with Texas in the league standings. The Mountaineers are 6-5 in the first two quadrants with all five losses qualifying as Quadrant 1 defeats.||--||19-10|
|Texas Tech's two-game winning streak features wins over Oklahoma and LSU. The Red Raiders are 5-2 in their past seven games with the only losses in that stretch coming to Baylor and West Virginia.||--||18-11|
|Oklahoma's five-game winning streak was snapped Monday by Texas Tech. The Sooners are 5-5 in the first two quadrants with all five losses qualifying as Quadrant 1 defeats.||--||16-11|
|Missouri is 5-3 in the first two quadrants with zero additional losses. The Tigers will take a two-game winning streak into Saturday's game with Alabama.||--||16-10|
|Virginia is 8-1 with victories over Syracuse and Clemson since losing to Gonzaga. The Cavaliers are 8-3 in the first two quadrants with zero additional losses.||--||18-7|
|Wisconsin is 8-5 in the first two quadrants with zero additional losses. The Badgers are 8-4 in the Big Ten heading into Saturday's game at Illinois.||--||18-13|
|Florida State's five-game winning streak was snapped Saturday at Georgia Tech. The Seminoles are 6-2 in the first two quadrants with one additional loss to UCF.||--||18-7|
|Virginia Tech suffered its second Quadrant 2 loss Wednesday at Pitt. The Hokies are 7-4 in the first two quadrants with zero additional losses.||--||15-7|
|Tennessee is 2-3 in its past five games after Tuesday's loss at Ole Miss. The Vols are 5-4 in the first two quadrants with all four losses coming in Quadrant 1.||--||18-9|
|UCLA is alone atop the Pac-12 standings with a 9-1 league record. The Bruins have two Quadrant 1 wins and zero losses outside of the first quadrant.||--||22-10|
|Kansas is 6-6 in the first two quadrants with all six losses qualifying as Quadrant 1 defeats. The Jayhawks are tied for fourth in the Big 12 standings behind Baylor, Texas and West Virginia.||--||21-9|
|Louisville's 8-3 record in the first two quadrants includes victories over Duke, Virginia Tech, Pitt and Georgia Tech. Three of the Cardinals' four losses have come inside the first quadrant.||--||13-7|
|Drake is the only team besides Gonzaga and Baylor that still has a zero in the loss column. The Bulldogs have won 13 of their 17 games by double-digits.||--||26-5|
|USC's three-game winning streak is highlighted by Tuesday's Quadrant 1 win at Stanford. The Trojans are 3-2 in the first quadrant with only one loss coming outside of the first quadrant.||--||25-8|
|Creighton suffered its third Quadrant 3 loss Wednesday at home to Georgetown. The Bluejays are just 3-3 in their past six games.||--||22-9|
|Loyola Chicago's eight-game winning streak includes seven double-digit victories. The Ramblers have zero losses outside of the first two quadrants.||--||26-5|