Are there any good teams left in college basketball?

I’ve been watching college basketball since this was the most fire game out there:

I’ve never seen a time when there was more parity, more unpredictability, and (maybe) worse basketball. It’s not a knock on the game today, it’s just the way it is.

It’s not that there’s no talent out there–LSU’s Ben Simmons is a future NBA star, and Providence’s Kris Dunn, and Kentucky’s Skal Labissière and Jamal Murray might be, too.

It’s just–much of the talent is young, inexperienced, and poisoned by the AAU, and YouTube highlight-culture. The focus is on one-on-one offense, highlight-reel dunks and stop-and-pop threes.

There aren’t many teams that share the ball like they did back in the early 2000’s, when the talent level was arguably worse than it is now. T.J. Ford, Josh Howard and Nick Collison were first-team All-Americans in 2003. Wayne Simien, Hakim Warrick and Dee Brown were All-Americans in 2005. But those teams played better basketball, and it was more fun to watch because everyone knew they weren’t going straight to the NBA.

Today’s game is more like an NBA tryout, with coaches like John Calipari comparing watching his guys getting drafted in the first round to winning a national title.

Fundamentals like defense and making the right play have been lost a little bit.

There aren’t many lock-down defensive teams like the ones that won championships back in the day. 1999 UConn, the champ when that fire video game came out, shut you down behind tough-minded point guard Ricky Moore, bruising forward Kevin Freeman and scrappy defenders like Rashamel Jones. This was that team’s theme song:

If you took that Huskies squad and teleported them into the 2016 college basketball season, they’d probably go undefeated. Same thing with 2004 UConn, ’07 Florida, ’08 Kansas, and ’12 Kentucky. Those teams locked you down defensively, and played with a togetherness and tenacity that no one seems to have this season.

Some of it is about talent. Look at the 1999 All-American team:

Elton Brand, C, Sophomore, Duke
Mateen Cleaves, G, Junior, Michigan State
Richard Hamilton, F-G, Junior, Connecticut
Andre Miller, G, Senior, Utah
Jason Terry, G, Senior, Arizona

Four of those guys went on to do big things in the NBA. The only one who didn’t, Cleaves, won a national championship at Michigan State in 2000.

Compare that to the 2013 All-American team:

Trey Burke, PG, Sophomore, Michigan
Doug McDermott, SF, Junior, Creighton
Victor Oladipo, SG, Junior, Indiana
Kelly Olynyk, PF-C, Junior, Gonzaga
Otto Porter, G-F, Sophomore, Georgetown

Three seasons later, none of those guys have had a major impact in the NBA. Oladipo has a chance to do so, but he may be the only one in the group who could become an All-Star.

This season’s might be even worse.

Maybe it’s not a fair comparison. Yes, we’ve had some years recently when there was a lot of future NBA talent (2012, 2015). But there’s no doubt that the talent pool in college hoops has been declining for years.

It hasn’t gotten much better since the NBA implemented the one-and-done rule, as top programs are younger than ever, and recruiting classes are unpredictable. Even if the best players do have to suit up in college for a season, they’re spending the entire year with one eye on the door.

Teams that have experience, if not a plethora of talent, have thrived in recent years. Look at mid-major programs like Butler and VCU, which have gone further in the NCAA Tournament than anyone associated with those schools ever dreamed possible back in the day.

Look at Providence this season. The Friars have the best senior in the country in Dunn, who’s averaging 17 points, 7 assists, 6.4 boards and 3 steals per game. The rest of his team is OK, but without him, they’d be a Big East also-ran, not a Top-25 team, and certainly not No. 12 in the country.

The changing talent pool has made the sport more unpredictable than ever.

Think about the season UCLA has had.

The Bruins (11-7, 2-3/Pac-12) own wins over No. 5 North Carolina, No. 13 Kentucky and No. 16 Arizona. They’ve also lost to Monmouth, Wake Forest, Washington State, and USC.

How about Ohio State? The Buckeyes (12-7, 4-2/Big Ten) have lost to Texas-Arlington, Louisiana Tech and Memphis. They got blasted by Indiana, 85-60. On Saturday, they were run by Maryland, 100-65. This is the same team that beat Kentucky.

Five of the top 10 teams in the AP poll lost this week. Were those teams worthy of top-10 rankings? This year, who knows.

But after watching the first two and a half months of the college basketball season unfold, I’m not sure anybody is worthy of a top-10 ranking. I’m not sure any of these teams are even that good.

And I’ve got no idea who I’d play with if they brought back Fox College Hoops ’16.

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