There's been a lot of discourse about college basketball's revolving door at No. 1.
The no-great-teams argument has been the biggest story of college basketball's first two months of the season. Not a good thing. Michigan State in the preseason, then Kentucky, Duke, Louisville, Kansas.
And now Gonzaga, which due to its inferior conference is positioned to hold the No. 1 ranking for weeks. But we'll see. Regardless, the turnover at No. 1 has been what so many have pointed to when critiquing the sport this season. But it's not just No. 1s losing that's an indicator of parity and depressed team quality. How about this: prior to Monday's update, we didn't have an undefeated team in the top 10 of the AP Top 25. What's more, only three undefeated teams remain, with just one of them from a power conference (Auburn).
It's Auburn, a Final Four team from last season, that is finally into the top 10 this week, making it to No. 8 with an 11-0 mark. But for any AP Top 25 to be a week out from Christmas without an undefeated team in the top 10? That hasn't happened in the past 40 years, and considering the dominance of programs in college hoops from 1949 (when the AP poll began) up until the end of the 1970s -- in addition to the season not starting until the end of November and a lower inventory of games on schedules -- the probability is high it's never happened.
Never before has a December AP Top 25 featured all 10 teams in the top 10 with at least one loss. The closest we came was nearly two years ago, when the Jan. 1, 2018, poll had no unbeatens. In 22 of the last 40 seasons, there was at least one unbeaten in the top 10 into at least the start of February. Thanks to the clutch research from my CBS colleague Andy Tulin, who ran the numbers below.
|Season||First AP poll without unbeaten team in top 10|
(UK entered NCAAT as unbeaten No. 1)
(Wichita State entered NCAAT as unbeaten No. 2)
|2011-12|| Jan. 23|
(unbeaten Murray State was No. 11)
|2003-04|| March 15|
(final poll before NCAA Tournament; St. Joe's took first loss in A-10 tourney)
(UNLV entered NCAA Tournament as unbeaten No. 1)
|1980-81|| March 9|
(final poll before NCAA Tournament ; Oregon State took first loss in regular season finale)
That right there is as strong a reason as any to conclude college basketball's in a recession of individual talent and team durability.
11-1 Indiana is strangely deep and amazingly still unranked
One of the least believable coaching clichés comes every preseason and November, when college basketball coaches talk optimistically about their bench depth. But, especially at the high-major level, where coaches might hope to use nine or even 10 guys, that rotation almost always shrinks to seven or eight -- and sometimes even six.
Indiana's Archie Miller vows his team will be an exception, provided injuries don't play a role. The Hoosiers, 11-1 and off to their best start in seven years, have a rotation of 11. No one is averaging more than 30 minutes, and only De'Ron Davis is under 10.
"We will have 11 and I don't have any question," Miller told CBS Sports. "Our plan is to go into [every game] and play every single guy on this team, and then as the game shakes, figure out how it's working."
That's been the method with Indiana's close wins, particularly the last three: 57-54 vs. UConn at MSG; 96-90 at home in OT vs. Nebraska; 62-60 vs. Notre Dame on Saturday at the Crossroads Classic. The margins aren't great, and Indiana's definitely got some mystery to it, but the Hoosiers are ranked ... wait! The Hoosiers aren't even ranked?
Seems wild that a powerhouse program could win 11 of its first 12 and not be in the polls. IU lacking a star obviously plays into this, but Miller told me he's fully on board with the approach.
"It's huge for this team because they don't really know how to win (yet)," Miller said. "It's not like you have five or six guys that have been in the wars, that have come out on top. This team has to learn how to win in a unique way with a lot of different people. … Over the course of time, if we hang tough and we don't fracture, and we don't get depressed because 'I didn't get this done,' these type of nights can happen with a lot of different types of people."
That's going to be imperative going forward; remember, Indiana started 12-2 last season before its floor collapsed. The Hoosiers were 17-15 on Selection Sunday and stood no chance of getting an at-large. But that hasn't affected this season's squad.
"You can't have a group of guys that are depressed around one another," Miller said. "Losing can do that to you. It snowballed [last year] to the point where guys were like, 'This is just too hard.'"
Big two weeks ahead, when we'll get a much clearer picture of how good, or not, Indiana is.
Normally I reserve this spot for notes, nuggets and miscellany on what's zipping in and out of college basketball's orbit. But with 2019 just about to wrap, for this week I'm going to share the 19 items I found most outstanding this year in college hoops. Honorable mention to Dayton's Obi Toppin for doing this, which just missed the cut.
19. CAMPBELL'S CHRIS CLEMONS BECOMES NINTH PLAYER TO REACH 3,000 (Feb. 16) -- Clemons' career is destined to be undervalued, in no small part because he never made the NCAA Tournament. But the fearless 5-8 scoring sensation was a joy to watch fill it up for the Fighting Camels. He finished with 3,225 points -- No. 3 in men's D-I history.
18. NCAA GIVES KANSAS' SILVIO DE SOUSA TWO-YEAR BAN (Feb. 1) -- There's plenty more Kansas to get to on this list, but the De Sousa punishment . In a rare quasi reverse-course, the NCAA later walked back some of the adjudication on appeal, lessening De Sousa's ban to one season.
17.EMONI BATES, 15, EMERGES AS BEST HIGH SCHOOL PROSPECT, BUT BRONNY JAMES OVERTAKES PEACH JAM (July 11) -- The Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta, South Carolina, underwent renovations and expansion in recent years, but 2019 proved that it is entirely too small and practically unsound (and unsafe, from a fire-code perspective) for LeBron James' first-born son, who seems on track to become a five-star prospect in his class (2023). , it was the Bronny show at Peach Jam that gave a heavy dose of reality into the insanity that he'll bring with him for the next three years on the grassroots circuit.
16. BILL SELF ADIDAS VIDEO PROLOGUES CONTROVERSIAL SNOOP DOGG PERFORMANCE AT LATE NIGHT IN THE PHOG (Sept. 27/Oct. 4) -- I could have lumped this in with the Kansas notice of allegations piece further down, but it was too funny and sort of surreal not to have it be standalone. Kansas puts out a video of Self donning a shirt with the biggest Adidas logo possible -- money-sign chain and all! --. And fake money tossed!
"When you pay for Snoop Dogg, you gonna get Snoop Dogg,".
God bless college basketball.
15. LSU COACH WILL WADE REPORTEDLY CAUGHT ON WIRETAP DISCUSSING "STRONG-ASS OFFER." (March 7) -- Wade was suspended for the remainder of the season, but wouldn't you know it, he and the player in question, Javonte Smart, are both back in the Bayou this season.
14. EVANSVILLE DEFEATS NO. 1 KENTUCKY (Nov. 12) -- Coached by none other than . Kentucky was a 24.5-point favorite. We thought it would be the biggest upset of 2019-20's regular season. We were wrong.
13. JA MORANT BECOMES THE STORY OF THE OPENING DAY OF THE NCAA TOURNAMENT (March 21) -- The Morant dunk that really kicked his profile into gear came on Jan. 10 vs. UT Martin. Remember this nonsense?
But it was Morant's triple-double for 12th-seeded Murray State that made him go truly national and solidified his status right behind Zion Williamson in the 2019 draft. His 17-point, 16-assist, 11-rebound game vs. Marquette in an 83-64 trouncing upset .
12. NCAA GIVES FIRST SIGN OF FBI CASES TO BE JUDGED BY HITTING KANSAS WITH NOTICE OF ALLEGATIONS (Sept. 23) --, including a head-coach responsibility charge against Bill Self. Punishments won't be known until mid-2020, and the rest of college athletics is watching closely to see how Kansas (and eventually many others) are treated by the Committee on Infractions for transgressions alleged and/or proved in federal court in the FBI sting.
11. NEWS BREAKS THAT UCONN WILL GO TO THE BIG EAST IN 2020 (June 22) -- Within four days of the news breaking, UConn's official approval to join the Big East was done. It amounts to the most significant inter-conference movement by a school in six years. Ultimately, UConn and the Big East.
10. ARGUABLY THE STRONGEST ELITE EIGHT IN NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY (March 30-31) -- After the "strongest" Sweet 16 ever in terms of highest seeds (No. 12 Oregon was the only double-digit seed to make the second weekend), we were handed four regional finals decided by an average of 4.5 points and required two overtimes. No. 5 Auburn won 77-71 over No. 2 Kentucky, surprising many. A year after losing in the Elite Eight to Villanova, No. 3 Texas Tech took out top seed Gonzaga 75-69. After three compelling games and two close calls, No. 1 overall seed Duke fell to No. 2 Michigan State 68-67 in the most hyped matchup of the weekend. And of course, No. 1 Virginia beating No. 3 Purdue 80-75 in overtime sent Tony Bennett to his first Final Four -- and it was made possible thanks to one of the 10 best plays in tournament history.
9. THE JAMES WISEMAN ERA THAT NEVER WAS (Nov-Dec) -- James Wiseman's commitment to Memphis in 2018 gave Penny Hardaway the No. 1-ranked class in college basketball. If you're reading this far, you already know the details. And no matter what happens the rest of this season, in modern college basketball history.
8. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN STUNS THE SPORTS WORLD BY BEATING NO. 1 DUKE (Nov. 26) -- Duke was a 28-point favorite. The No. 1 team. One hundred and fifty straight home wins vs. nonconference opponents. And it was all vanquished in a dizzying ending, a run to history.
7. JOHN BEILEIN STUNS BASKETBALL, LEAVES MICHIGAN FOR CLEVELAND (May 13) -- A stunner. Beilein, 66, a college lifer gives a go in the pros. That brought about the reuniting of Michigan and Fab Five alumnus Juwan Howard, who's off to a nice start in his first season.
6. KANSAS' 14-YEAR BIG 12 STREAK MATHEMATICALLY COMES TO AN END (March 5) -- The 13-point loss at Oklahoma meant one of the most impressive streaks in American sports history was over. That's why this afterthought of a game still ranks so high on this list. A promise: in our lifetime, a power-conference team will not even get to 10 straight regular season titles again -- maybe not even eight -- let alone 14.
5. IN BEATING MICHIGAN STATE, CHRIS BEARD TAKES TEXAS TECH TO THE NATIONAL TITLE GAME (April 6) -- I mean, what else can you say? Chris Beard took Texas freaking Tech to overtime of the national title game. The notion this was possible even two years ago was fantasy.
4. SECOND FEDERAL TRIAL BRINGS JAIL TIME FOR COACHES AND BIG PROBLEMS FOR BIG SCHOOLS (April 22-June 7) -- Sworn testimony, compelling wiretaps and surreptitious video, it made for big drama and some uncertain times for a lot of big names and programs. It brought guilty pleas or verdicts to everyone initially arrested in the FBI's sting. Former Arizona assistant Book Richardson and former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans both spent time behind bars. Serious allegations were laid on the doorstep of Arizona, Kansas, LSU, USC and more. We await the NCAA fallout. Unprecedented saga in college sports history.
3. CALIFORNIA GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM SIGNS SENATE BILL 206 (Sept. 30) -- Eventually, the expectation now, is congress will work with the NCAA to create national legislation that permits college athletes to benefit off their name, image and likeness. It was California, and its state senator, Nancy Skinner, who truly started this movement and altered the future of the amateurism model and the billions of dollars that built the NCAA's empire into what it is. Gigantic story.
2. ZION WILLIAMSON INJURES HIMSELF AS HIS SHOE EXPLODES VS. NORTH CAROLINA (Feb. 20) -- This could of course be No. 1. Williamson was the biggest entity in basketball until the fall. But in college, he became the most prominent single-season athlete in the sport in decades -- and maybe ever. The confluence of coverage, hysteria, debate, you name it, that came about when his Nike shoe bust open, leading to him sitting out for five games, there was enough take fuel to send 500 people to Jupiter.
1. VIRGINIA WINS NATIONAL TITLE, COMPLETES ONE OF THE ALL-TIME SPORTS REDEMPTION STORIES (April 8) -- The nature of competition, brackets, sports, all of it, it allows for circumstances and stories to play out in ways that have no analogue or parallel anywhere else in life. UVA, without a national title to its name and without a Final Four trip in 35 years, goes from being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 -- and then has this dramatic run with two or three lucky escapes, and comes out on top. College basketball isn't the most popular or even fourth most popular sport in America these days, but there is no better championship story in 2019 than what the Wahoos pulled off in Minneapolis that Monday night.