The biannual regular-season showdown between Duke and North Carolina is typically appointment television for men’s college basketball fans. Not so much this year, with the bitter rivals meeting unranked for the first time since 1960. The Feb. 6 matchup posted the lowest TV rating and audience for the series in at least 14 years.
Unexpected power outages for college basketball royalty are neither exclusive to Tobacco Road nor to this season. But 2020-21 is shaping up to be a bizarre banner year for blue bloods.
“We’re not accustomed to losing, but we are,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski — and that was before his team lost freshman star Jalen Johnson, who announced Monday that he was opting out of the rest of the season to focus on the NBA draft.
Krzyzewski unintentionally described the experience of many of the sport’s eminent powers. Staples of the Top 25 like Kentucky and Notre Dame rank near the bottom of their respective conference standings, with the former experiencing its lowest season win percentage since 1926-27. Duke and Michigan State will likely need to win conference championships to earn NCAA Tournament bids; it’s been almost 40 years since both failed to qualify. Indiana, one of five schools to win at least five national championships, is in jeopardy of missing its fourth consecutive tournament and has continued its seemingly annual tradition of considering firing its head coach. Even Kansas, a juggernaut with three No. 1 seeds in the past four tournaments, is looking at a potential 5-seed, which would be its lowest since 2000.
Of the top 20 teams ranked in the AP preseason poll, four are projected by ESPN’s Bracketology to miss out on the NCAA Tournament. Last week’s AP poll featured precisely none of the 10 teams with the most all-time AP poll appearances. If the season ended today, six of the top 10 teams with the most all-time wins as of the end of last season would watch the action in Indianapolis from their homes.
Sports have repeatedly proven that even the greats eventually fall, but this has been a uniquely strange season for college basketball institutions. Read from source….